Unifor Banner




Your Health

Contact Us









Twitter RestorePcola



Made In Canada Matters

Contact Us

East Court Ford Lincoln East Court Ford Lincoln East Court Ford Lincoln

East Court Ford

January 1 to December 31, 2020


FCA to invest in Poland
for new electric Jeeps, Fiats
and Alfa Romeos

Breana Noble
The Detroit News
Dec 31, 2020

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV on Tuesday confirmed plans to refurbish a plant in Poland for three new models for the Jeep, Fiat and Alfa Romeo brands, including hybrid and all-electric versions.

It is not yet clear if those vehicles will be sold outside Europe when they start rolling off the line in the second half of 2022, according to an FCA spokesperson. The plan aligns with the Italian American automaker's ambitions to catch up to its competition on electric vehicle options as regulators push for a greener future. The company has said it will offer electrified options across its Jeep portfolio and invest $10.5 billion into electrification by 2022.

Polish Deputy Prime Minister Jarosław Gowin on Twitter announced the investment into the Tychy plant in southern Poland. He said the almost $203 million (755 million złotys) commitment "with the prospect of multiple increases in expenditure is the crowning proof of market confidence in Poland" during the automaker's 100th year of doing business there.

The almost 29 million-square-foot plant employs around 2,500 people. It currently produces the Fiat 500 subcompact car and Lancia Ypsilon supermini. In 2019, the Tychy plant produced around 263,000 vehicles, almost all of which were exported to 58 markets worldwide.


Top stories of 2020

Shantell Bridgeman assembles a ventilator at Ford’s
Rawsonville plant in Michigan. With vehicle production
down, the industry pivoted to making medical devices

Automotive News
December 29, 2020

A month into 2020, Ford Motor Co. teased the new Mustang Mach-E with a video of exuberant millennials devouring chicken wings and cocktail shrimp directly out of its front trunk, in the space where an engine otherwise would have been. At the time, who would have guessed that the most unrealistic part of the scenario would be people from multiple households socializing indoors?

The coronavirus pandemic put the kibosh on partying with frunk shrimp and shut down North American auto production for two months. Despite the chaos, the Mach-E and a number of other electric vehicle launches still managed to happen. And automakers that initially scrambled to conserve cash to weather the crisis have deepened their commitment to EVs, even as consumers' eagerness to buy and chill seafood in them remains uncertain.

The shrimp industry took another hit from the cancellation of every major auto show since March. But dealers, after some difficult months navigating the digital revolution that was suddenly thrust upon them, have plenty of reasons for socially distanced, well-ventilated celebrations after sales rebounded much quicker than feared and profits soared.

Those are some of the stories chosen by the Automotive News staff as the biggest of 2020. It was a year most would rather not relive — once was more than enough, thank you very much — but if Carlos Ghosn can contort himself into an instrument case, we can make the effort to uphold a 68-year tradition. Choosing No. 1 was easy. The tough part was remembering nine other things that happened since the devil-may-care days of enjoying underhood hors d'oeuvres.

1. COVID crisis

The rapid spread of the novel coronavirus forced auto factories across North America to shut from March into May. Thousands of dealers and other small businesses received emergency federal aid. Office workers began working remotely — and many are expected to continue doing so well into 2021. With vehicle production down, automakers and suppliers pivoted to making much-needed ventilators, masks and face shields. When factories reopened, strict new worker health and safety protocols prevented any more big, disruptive outbreaks from occurring. Dealerships, some of which temporarily had to close all or parts of their operations under government order, reinvented themselves with new sales and service processes that minimize face-to-face interactions.

2. Resilient auto sales

U.S. light-vehicle sales were hit hard by the pandemic before showing surprising resilience. After starting the year strong, they plunged to an annualized rate of just 8.8 million in April amid state- and local-government ordered dealership shutdowns. But sales shot higher again as homebound consumers flocked to generously discounted pickups and SUVs, and commuters wary of public transit opted for a privately owned vehicle instead.

The annualized selling rate returned to more than 16 million by September and has stayed in that range since, despite lingering vehicle shortages caused by the spring factory closings and a fall surge in coronavirus cases around the country.

3. Digital revolution

After years of talking about the possibilities of online sales (and fast growth from new players such as Carvana), dealers hastily ramped up digital retailing efforts to keep selling vehicles even when showrooms were closed or consumers wanted to avoid visiting them. Public dealership groups launched online brands such as Driveway (Lithia) and Clicklane (Asbury). Auctions also pivoted to digital formats; KAR sees the change as a permanent safety and efficiency improvement, while Manheim has resumed limited in-person auctions.

4. EV investments

While many products faced tough scrutiny, automakers leaned in to development and production of EVs. GM boosted its planned spending on electric and autonomous vehicles by 35 percent to $27 billion through 2025. Volkswagen committed $41.5 billion through 2025 just for battery-powered vehicles. Ford is spending $11.5 billion on EVs and hybrids through 2022. Hyundai and Kia are planning to spend a combined $43 billion through 2025 on EVs, purpose-built vehicles and other new technology. Upcoming models are focused on the most popular segments: crossovers, SUVs and pickups.

5. COVID cancellations

It started with the Geneva auto show's last-minute cancellation and snowballed from there. New York, Los Angeles and Detroit were all showless in 2020. The Toyota-heavy Tokyo Olympics were pushed to 2021.

Automakers had to find new, digital ways to create excitement and awareness for new vehicles, while other events, including the Automotive News World Congress and 100 Leading Women celebration, became online happenings. The trend will continue at least into early next year, as CES and the NADA Show shift to digital formats.

6. Booming profits

Tight supplies in the face of surging demand for personal vehicles led to a run on new and used models, driving record profits across the dealer body and strong third quarters for most automakers, allowing them to restore their balance sheets after a bruising second quarter. Consumers who want a particular vehicle in a certain color or configuration have had to pay closer to sticker to get it.

7. UAW scandal

Two former presidents of the union are now among the 15 people who have been charged and convicted of various forms of corruption. But the UAW managed to avoid the worst-case scenario of a federal takeover. Instead, the Justice Department will spend six years monitoring the union's activities to ensure everything's on the up and up, and rank-and-file members will decide whether to give themselves the authority to directly elect future leadership for the first time. Meanwhile, General Motors kept brewing up drama in court as it attempted to hold Fiat Chrysler Automobiles responsible for bribing UAW officials, without success.

8. Tesla soars

The EV company run by Elon Musk — now the world's second-richest person — became the most valuable automaker by far, eclipsing longtime No. 1 Toyota by 150 percent at the start of December, on the back of five straight quarters of modest profits powered by selling emissions credits. The California company opened its first plant in China and started construction in Germany and Texas, and Tesla remains the fastest growing auto brand, in the U.S. as well as worldwide.

9. Black Lives Matter

Several dealerships sustained damage during protests across the country after the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, by Minneapolis police. The civil rights movement also sparked statements on social responsibility from GM, Ford, Waymo and other companies as well as new or renewed efforts to improve diversity in automotive leadership by the NADA board and Women of Color Action Network.

10. Ghosn the fugitive

Ghosn's made-for-Hollywood caper happened too late in 2019 to make last year's list, but he just slipped in under the wire at No. 10 this time. While he's been in Lebanon telling his story, launching a management course and possibly selling a screenplay, his former human resources chief was put on trial and his rescuers have been in jail fighting extradition to Japan.


2020 brought more stress than ever,
but people found ways to adapt

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
Dec 27, 2020

People around the world are feeling overwhelmed, lonely and more stressed than they used to be — but they've also found ways to adapt to and cope with the effects of the global pandemic.

Those are a few of the takeaways from Ford Motor Co.'s latest trends report, released Monday. The report is an annual look at the microeconomic factors shaping consumers' behaviors and views.

"2020 was a hailstorm of uncertainty and chaos, and we're trying to explore what it means for 2021 and the years beyond," Sheryl Connelly, Ford's chief futurist, told The Detroit News. "We didn't set out to make this a story about COVID, but as the year went on, there was no denying that we had lost a sense of what was normal and people were wondering if we would ever return to normal — and, once we did, what it would look like."

The 2021 report homes in on seven focus areas, about which Ford surveyed people from 14 countries around the world. Topics included the "pressure points" consumers felt this year; the role of escapism in helping deal with stress; loneliness; persistent inequalities and inequities; consumers' experiences with shopping; their evolving uses and need for personal transportation; and environmental sustainability.

Globally, 69% of respondents reported feeling overwhelmed by changes in the world. Even so, 47% said adapting to the pandemic has been easier than they imagined it would be.

Numerous data points from the survey indicate young people are struggling more than anyone else; 63% of Gen Z respondents (ages 18-23 years old), for example, said it's been harder than expected to adapt.

Up 17 percentage points from three years ago, 67% of respondents said it stresses them out to follow the daily news. Many also said they feel they are spending too much time on the internet, and about half said they feel lonely on a regular basis.

Meanwhile, the pandemic appears to have reshaped how some people view their transportation options. A majority of vehicle owners said they couldn't imagine life without a personal vehicle, but of those who said the pandemic has caused them to rethink how many vehicles they need, 60% said they could use fewer vehicles.

The survey also gave some insight into how people are using their personal vehicles: Globally, more than 1 in 4 vehicle owners said they use it to relax, and about one in five use it to find privacy.

On more positive notes, the survey found that most people appreciate the steps companies have taken in recent months to improve the shopping experience for customers, more people said they felt workplaces were taking steps to accommodate the needs of working parents, and there was greater recognition among respondents that they should take better care of their mental health. Many respondents also reported feeling less rushed and like they have more free time.

While the trends are not directly related to the automotive industry, they are still important insights into consumers' behaviors and values, Connelly said. And given the industry's years-long product-planning process, it's especially important to think ahead, she noted.

"The reason we do this is to help promote new thinking, to challenge the status quo within the company," she said. "Each of these insights are meant to be a springboard for a conversation, or a platform for subject matter experts — the designers, the engineers, the marketers — to start a dialogue around these topics and see how we will respond."


Some Mexican automakers
want more time to meet
USMCA rules, official says

Canada Automotive

Dec 26, 2020

MEXICO CITY -- Some Mexican automakers are asking for more time to meet stringent content rules set out in a new North American trade agreement, and Mexico is making progress on changes in labor standards under the deal, a top official said.

The United States Mexico Canada Agreement, which took effect in July, replacing the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, includes tougher content rules for autos.

For vehicles, USMCA requires 75 percent North American content compared with a 62.5 percent threshold under NAFTA, as well as 40-45 percent content from so-called "high wage" areas.

USMCA includes a provision to give flexibility to carmakers in order to be able to comply with the deal according to their production and investment plans in North America, Mexican Deputy Economy Minister Luz Maria de la Mora said in an interview with Reuters on Monday evening.

"Some companies in the automotive sector are requesting these alternative transition regimes in order to have this flexibility," de la Mora said.

As an NCM 20 Group moderator and trainer, I’ve grown accustomed to being on the go. My typical week involves heading from one dealership or meeting location to another, all across North America.

"We are working with the United States and Canada to define those flexibilities, and among the three countries we have decided that perhaps some companies do require it in order to comply with the new rules of origin," she added.

The implementation of new labor standards in Mexico under USMCA has been a thorny issue.

An independent labor panel on Dec. 15 submitted a report to the U.S. Congress saying that while Mexico has made significant progress implementing a 2019 labor reform, "many of the changes promised ... in terms of union democracy, freedom of association and collective bargaining, remain to be implemented."

De la Mora said the coronavirus pandemic had made things tougher, but that Mexico was putting into force its labor reform as well as meeting the terms of USMCA "so that the implementation takes place according to the schedule."

Mexico has complied "with almost everything" it has needed to in terms of labor, she said.


Ford gets boost from Chevy
Chase in Mach-E holiday ad

The actor re-enacts classic ‘Christmas Vacation’ lights scene as part of tie-in with NBC’s 'SNL'

Automotive News
Dec 22, 2020

It’s been 31 years since Chevy Chase starred in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” But Ford is banking that the slapstick holiday flick carries enough relevance today to give its new electric Mustang a jolt.

In a new ad released this weekend, Chase, now 77, reprises his role as the bumbling Clark Griswold. Along with Beverly D'Angelo, who plays Ellen Griswold, Chase re-enacts the famous scene in which he plugs in 250 strands of Christmas lights. In the movie it causes a neighborhood power outage, but in the ad, Ellen Griswold simultaneously plugs in the Mustang Mach-E, which steals the show.

The spot is part of an integration with “Saturday Night Live’s” Christmas special set to air on Dec. 22. It was created by Lorne Michaels’ studio, Broadway Video, along with WPP’s Ford agency GTB and production company O Positive.

Chase in a statement said: “It’s great to be back for another Christmas with my on-screen family and its rotating assortment of kids --and I have Ford and Mustang Mach-E to thank for paying me to do it. I suppose you’re expecting some sort of riff on electric cars, but I can say with 85 percent certainty that this thing probably won’t cause any blackouts in your neighborhood when you plug it in.”

It’s not the first time an advertiser has used the scene. Old Navy recreated it with Chase as part of a 2012 holiday campaign. And Ford is not the only automaker that has leveraged the “Vacation” film franchise. Nissan-owned Infiniti partnered with Warner Bros on this ad starring Christie Brinkley that came as part of a tie-in with the remake of the original "National Lampoon's Vacation" movie.

Ford’s ad comes as the automaker pours significant marketing muscle behind the Mach-E, which hit dealerships this month with a starting price of $43,995. The model -- the first crossover and EV in Mustang’s 56-year history -- began hyping online reservations for the vehicle 13 months ago with an ad campaign from BBDO starring Idris Elba.


Ford, Fiat Chrysler lead NACTOY
Vehicle of the Year finalists

Henry Payne
The Detroit News
Dec 21, 2020

Finalists for 2021 North American Car, Truck and Utility Vehicle of the Year Awards were announced Thursday, with Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles scoring two contenders each.

Ford’s all-new Ford F-150 pickup is a finalist for Truck of the Year, with Ford's first all-electric crossover – the Mach-E – picked as a finalist SUV of the Year. FCA’s Jeep Gladiator Mojave and Hellcat-Ram 1500 TRX are in the running for Truck of the Year. General Motors products were shut out.

Reflecting trends in the industry, Asian makers dominated the car category, Detroit automakers swept all three truck finalists, and the three SUV finalists were all premium-priced vehicles at a time when the average price of a new vehicle is pushing $40,000.

The F-150, perennially the best-selling pickup in the US, will be the odds-on favorite to win best truck with a comprehensive 2021 redesign that includes the truck’s first hybrid model. Its competitors are the off-road capable Jeep Gladiator Mojave midsize truck, and the first 700-plus horsepower pickup, the ferocious Ram 1500 TRX (pronounced T. rex).

Ford is also the front-runner to win Utility of the Year with its Tesla Model Y-fighting Mustang Mach-E. The $44,000 electric SUV is the first time that Ford has expanded Mustang into a sub-brand offering models beyond its core muscle cars. The elegant $50,000 Genesis GV80 will be a close contender as Hyundai’s value luxury brand makes its first foray into SUVs. The iconic $47,000 Land Rover Defender is the Jeep Wrangler of the luxury set. The first Defender to hit US shores in 40 years, it stars in the forthcoming James Bond flick, “No Time to Die.”

The finalists emerged from an intensely competitive field including GM’s lineup of popular SUVs — the Cadillac Escalade, Chevrolet Tahoe/Suburban and Chevrolet Trailblazer. Other wannabes included the Nissan Rogue, Ford Bronco Sport, Hyundai Santa Fe and Mazda CX-30.

Detroit automakers have put all their chips on SUVs and trucks, leaving the sedan field to Japanese carmakers.

The affordable Nissan Sentra and Hyundai Elantra will the favorites against the luxurious Genesis G80, the sister sedan to its GV80 ute. The affordable Sentra is a prime example of the democratization of autos with the $25,000 compact offering standard features like adaptive cruise-control, leather interior, sunroof and Apple CarPlay connectivity not found on luxury vehicles twice its price.  Yet, the Elantra may have the upper hand in the voting race as it offers a vast lineup including a hybrid and N-line sport nodel.

The trio beat out a field of formidable group 2021 contenders, including the Polestar 2 – the car from Volvo’s EV brand – the Kia K5  and industry heavies like the Acura TLX and Cadillac CT4.

“In this very challenging year, these nine vehicles emerged as our Finalists out of an unusually strong field of 27 Semifinalists,” said NACTOY president Gary Witzenburg. “Each one of them – especially the 15 in the ultra-competitive utility vehicle category – is excellent in nearly every way.”

NACTOY is the most prestigious independent prize awarded in North America with a jury of over 50 auto journalists. Final voting is early next year, and the winners will be announced in Detroit on Jan. 11.

2021 NACTOY finalists

Car of the Year

Genesis G80

Hyundai Elantra

Nissan Sentra

Truck of the Year

Ford F-150

Jeep Gladiator Mojave

Ram 1500 TRX

Utility Vehicle of the Year

Ford Mustang Mach-E

Genesis GV80

Land Rover Defender


2021 F-150 hybrid fuel rating
tops gas-powered pickups

Automotive News
Dec 17, 2020

DETROIT — Ford Motor Co.'s 2021 F-150 hybrid won't claim the overall pickup mileage crown, but it will beat out all gas-powered rivals, according to EPA estimates.

The redesigned truck's 3.5-litre V-6 PowerBoost hybrid variant with two-wheel drive will get 25 mpg combined, 25 mpg city and 26 mpg highway — that's 9.4 L/100 km combined, 9.4 L/100 km city and 9.0 L/100 km, Ford said Friday, best in class among light-duty pickups with gasoline engines.

It still trails diesel variants such as the Chevrolet Silverado (27 mpg combined or 8.7 L/100 km) and Ram 1500 (26 mpg combined or 9.0 L/100 km), according to estimates.

The four-wheel-drive hybrid F-150 will get 24 mpg combined, as well as 24 mpg city and highway. That's 9.8 L/100 km each).

The redesigned F-150, including the hybrid model, is on sale now.

The 2wd hybrid delivers 430 hp and 570 pound-feet of torque, Ford says. It is rated at a maximum 12,700 pounds (5,760 kilograms) of conventional towing — with a trailer tow package — and a maximum payload of 2,120 pounds (553 kilograms).

"Our team spent months living with and observing truck customers at their homes, on job sites and on the weekends," Hau Thai-Tang, Ford's chief product platform and operations officer, said in a statement. "Using electrification, we realized we could now give customers something they had long wanted but didn't think was possible — tremendous power, great fuel economy and all-new capabilities to make their F-150 even more productive."

The vehicle's next most fuel-efficient engine, the 3.0-litre Power Stroke V-6 diesel, 4wd variant, will get an estimated 23 mpg, or 10.2 L/100 km)combined, Ford said, including 20 mpg city and 27 mpg highway, or 11.7 L/100 km and 8.7 L/100 km, respectively. The 2.7-litre V-6 2wd variant gets an estimated 22 mpg (10.7 L/100 km)combined, including 20 mpg (11.7 L/100 km) city and 26 mpg (9.0 L/100 km)highway, unchanged from last year's model


Canadian auto industry
slow to hire back in Q3
as manufacturing lagged

The Canadian Press
December 16, 2020

TORONTO — The Canadian auto sector has been slowly recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, though employment was still down nearly 13 per cent in the third quarter from a year ago, according to a report by DesRosiers Automotive Consultants Inc.

The auto sector gained back nearly 15,000 jobs in the third quarter, the report found, after layoffs in the first half of this year when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down dealerships and assembly plants.

But jobs in many parts of the auto industry were still down by double digits in the summer compared with 2019, with an 18.3 per cent drop in manufacturing jobs, a 16.6 per cent fall in dealership jobs, and 12.6 per cent fewer maintenance jobs.

Employment was also down nearly 12 per cent for makers of auto parts and accessories, and 10.1 per cent at parts and accessory stores, while gigs in road construction and gas stations bounced back a bit quicker.

On top of the COVID-19 pandemic, the closure of General Motors' plant in Oshawa, Ont. at the end of last year has also taken a toll on the industry's workforce, the consultancy said Wednesday.

The report covers the third quarter — before the second wave of COVID-19 arrived and worsened. Last week, Scotiabank economist Rebekah Young wrote that as coronavirus cases have risen over the past few months, consumer confidence has fallen and sales of cars and trucks have dropped in Canada, even in areas where dealerships are open.

But DesRosiers managing partner Andrew King wrote that news of a potential COVID-19 vaccine has brightened the outlook for the industry. So, too, have recent labour deals to revive plants in Oshawa and elsewhere, King said.

"The recovery process in employment has been slow for the automotive sector ? but signs of recovery are present nonetheless," King said in the report.

This fall, Unifor's union workers at Ford, Fiat Chrysler and GM agreed to deals that would bring new products to Canadian assembly lines over the next few years.

General Motors Canada president Scott Bell has said that growing demand for pickup trucks, as well as need for tech workers to program advanced cars and trucks, has meant the company needed to scale its production quickly.

Plus, Young noted that there are now shortages of car and truck inventory. FCA plants in Canada were closed from March 18 to May 4 this year, and GM plants were down between March 16 and May 25.

In early November, Canadian auto parts maker Linamar Corp. predicted that the auto industry was past the trough from the COVID-19 pandemic. In the third quarter, Linamar reported that 94 per cent of workers were back on the assembly lines.

Fellow Canadian auto parts maker Magna International Inc. also expressed optimism in its earnings report last month, raising sales expectations for the full year.

But Magna also said that assembly line slowdowns, attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, pushed Magna's sales down two per cent in the three months ended Sept. 30. Magna estimated that auto manufacturing was down four per cent worldwide during the quarter, flat in North America and down five per cent in Europe.

"Auto sales have bounced back nicely from [second quarter] lows, although there is still a drag from the pandemic," Linamar chief executive Linda Hasenfratz said last month, reflecting on the third quarter.

"Inventory levels dropped quite low after two months of shutdown."



Feds reach settlement deal in
move to eliminate UAW corruption

Robert Snell
The Detroit News
Dec 15, 2020

Detroit — Federal prosecutors announced a proposed settlement with the United Auto Workers aimed at eliminating fraud and corruption within one of the nation's most influential unions following a years-long crackdown on labor leaders.

The proposed deal includes oversight of the UAW for six years and would let rank-and-file workers decide whether to alter the union's constitution to allow for direct election of future leaders. Such a constitutional change would be ground breaking and give members the right to hold elections and directly vote for new UAW leaders for the first time in more than 70 years.

The deal — which awaits approval by a federal judge — also includes the appointment of an independent monitor to combat fraud within the UAW and decide whether to discipline or remove high-ranking labor leaders. At least two members of the UAW’s governing board have been linked to the ongoing investigation, including union President Rory Gamble and Vice President Cindy Estrada.

In announcing the deal Monday, after spending approximately one year investigating ties between Gamble and one of the UAW's highest-paid contractors, U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said Gamble is not a target of the ongoing investigation.

"Today is about justice," Gamble told reporters during a news conference in Detroit. “While this process has been difficult for us as a union, the UAW going forward is clean and we are a better union because of it.”

 The criminal investigation of individuals continues but the deal concludes the federal government’s investigation of the UAW, Schneider said.

The union also is expected to pay costs related to the reform efforts — an expense that likely will total tens of millions of dollars.

The deal is being announced in the waning weeks of the President Donald Trump administration and with the near-certainty that Schneider will leave office as the region's top prosecutor and be replaced by someone nominated by President-elect Joe Biden. There was speculation UAW officials would delay reaching a deal with prosecutors in hopes of reaching more favorable terms from a Biden administration.

The settlement comes amid an ongoing investigation of corruption that has pushed the UAW to the edge of federal oversight and led to more than a dozen convictions of auto industry figures, including former UAW presidents Gary Jones and Dennis Williams. Prosecutors and UAW President Rory Gamble have been engaged in talks that have involved prolonged federal oversight to root out corruption within one of the nation's most influential unions.

The ongoing investigation has uncovered a wide range of illegal conduct by auto industry figures, some scheming together, others acting on their own The crimes uncovered include breaking federal labor laws, stealing union funds, receiving bribes and illegal benefits, and trying to cover up the crimes.

This summer, Justice Department officials proposed subjecting the UAW to 10 years of federal oversight, one of the longest periods of federal supervision in recent history.

The appointment of an independent monitor overseeing UAW reforms is expected to be the linchpin of the agreement with the government. An agreement would settle criminal allegations that the UAW schemed with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and others in a conspiracy to break federal labor laws and exchange bribes.

 The election aspect of the deal follows support from a faction of UAW workers who have pursued holding a special convention to amend the constitution for the direct election of union leaders.

As the list of UAW leaders convicted of crimes has grown, members have called for international executive board members to be selected by "direct referendum elections" of the UAW membership — a sharp break with tradition. Currently, the rank-and-file elect delegates to represent them at a constitutional convention who vote for the leaders of the 13-member executive board.

For more than 70 years, a majority of those delegates have voted for the leaders recommended by the Reuther caucus, also known as the administrative caucus. The Reuther caucus has hundreds of members and currently includes all members of the UAW's executive board.


Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
Dec 14, 2020

People around the world are feeling overwhelmed, lonely and more stressed than they used to be — but they've also found ways to adapt to and cope with the effects of the global pandemic.

Those are a few of the takeaways from Ford Motor Co.'s latest trends report, released Monday. The report is an annual look at the microeconomic factors shaping consumers' behaviors and views.

"2020 was a hailstorm of uncertainty and chaos, and we're trying to explore what it means for 2021 and the years beyond," Sheryl Connelly, Ford's chief futurist, told The Detroit News. "We didn't set out to make this a story about COVID, but as the year went on, there was no denying that we had lost a sense of what was normal and people were wondering if we would ever return to normal — and, once we did, what it would look like."

The 2021 report homes in on seven focus areas, about which Ford surveyed people from 14 countries around the world. Topics included the "pressure points" consumers felt this year; the role of escapism in helping deal with stress; loneliness; persistent inequalities and inequities; consumers' experiences with shopping; their evolving uses and need for personal transportation; and environmental sustainability.

Globally, 69% of respondents reported feeling overwhelmed by changes in the world. Even so, 47% said adapting to the pandemic has been easier than they imagined it would be.

Numerous data points from the survey indicate young people are struggling more than anyone else; 63% of Gen Z respondents (ages 18-23 years old), for example, said it's been harder than expected to adapt.

Up 17 percentage points from three years ago, 67% of respondents said it stresses them out to follow the daily news. Many also said they feel they are spending too much time on the internet, and about half said they feel lonely on a regular basis.

Meanwhile, the pandemic appears to have reshaped how some people view their transportation options. A majority of vehicle owners said they couldn't imagine life without a personal vehicle, but of those who said the pandemic has caused them to rethink how many vehicles they need, 60% said they could use fewer vehicles.

The survey also gave some insight into how people are using their personal vehicles: Globally, more than 1 in 4 vehicle owners said they use it to relax, and about one in five use it to find privacy.

On more positive notes, the survey found that most people appreciate the steps companies have taken in recent months to improve the shopping experience for customers, more people said they felt workplaces were taking steps to accommodate the needs of working parents, and there was greater recognition among respondents that they should take better care of their mental health. Many respondents also reported feeling less rushed and like they have more free time.

While the trends are not directly related to the automotive industry, they are still important insights into consumers' behaviors and values, Connelly said. And given the industry's years-long product-planning process, it's especially important to think ahead, she noted.

"The reason we do this is to help promote new thinking, to challenge the status quo within the company," she said. "Each of these insights are meant to be a springboard for a conversation, or a platform for subject matter experts — the designers, the engineers, the marketers — to start a dialogue around these topics and see how we will respond."


Retiree Ross Evans
Passes Away
December 7, 2020

It is with deep sadness that we inform you of the passing of Retiree Ross Evans

In loving Memory
June 2, 1926 – December 7, 2020
Age: 94

Retired: July 1, 1991 - 25.9 years of Service

Our sincerest condolences go out to the entire Evans family on the passing of Retiree Ross Evans. He will be sadly missed by all.

The Evans family was very prominent at the Ford Bramalea warehouse as his son’s Brian and Ray worked there along with his brother Bob.

It is with great sadness the Evans family announces the passing of their dear father Ross Evans beloved husband of Elizabeth, father to Grant (Gail) of Cambridge, Ray (Alison) of Brampton, Brian (Diane) of Oakville and Lynn (Peter) of Georgetown.

Grandfather to Jeff, Kristina, Melanie, Brendan, Lyndsay and Scott as well a proud Great Grandfather to 8 and Great Great Grandfather to 1.

Dad left us peacefully at the age of 94, passing at his daughters’ home early Monday morning. His last day was spent watching birds in the yard, and whiling away the day enjoying Sunday afternoon football on TV. He lived a long and fruitful life, enjoying every moment often remarking how blessed he was.

Ross is predeceased by his brother Bob of Orangeville and sister Doris Porter of Bolton.

He will be missed by all who knew him, his current and former neighbors, workmates from Ford, fellow nature enthusiasts, church friends and brothers in law and sister in law.

Many thanks to all his friends at the Heritage whose company he so enjoyed.

We love you Dad.




Retiree Brian Bignell Passes away

It is with great sadness that we inform you of
the passing of Retiree Brian Bignell.

Brian passed away on November 25, 2020 at age 75.

Retired July 1, 2005 – 33.2 Years

Our sincerest condolences go out to his
wife Dorothy and his entire family.

He will be sadly missed by all.

75 Years, passed away November 25, 2020, at Juravinski Hospital in Hamilton, Ontario after a brief but fiercely fought battle with cancer. Born to the late Hope and Phyllis Bignell (Caldwell) in Brampton, Ontario, Brian was a kind and loving partner to Dorothy (Sanderson), his wife and best friend of 54 years.
He was also an amazing father to his daughters Angela Kelly (John) and Dianne Vaz (Franklin) and a devoted Papa to his five grandsons, Brendan, Ryan, Alexander, Aiden, and Oliver. He is survived by his siblings, June Chaisson and Norm Bignell and many nieces and nephews.

As a proud Ford employee, an enduring Toronto Maple Leafs fan, a frustrated golfer and an avid traveller, Brian lived a full and fulfilling life. He loved to sing and was a member of the Ontario Liberation Choir. In 1995, he was thrilled to travel to the Netherlands with the choir to participate in the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of VE Day.

More recently, Brian performed with his community choir at Twenty Place, singing his favourite songs in several fun performances. Brian will be remembered for his bright smile, positive demeanour and engaging personality. He made friends wherever he went. An excellent listener who was genuinely interested in people, Brian loved nothing more than having a great chat with a friend, old or new.

Never the first to leave a party, his reluctant goodbyes often stretched on as he wished his friends well and thanked them for their company. Brian, we now wish you peace and thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your love, care and enduring friendship.

We would like to extend our thanks to the doctors, nurses and staff at the Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre for their care during Brian's final weeks.

Donations in memory of Brian may be sent to the Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre Foundation or the Canadian Cancer Society. A celebration of Brian's life will be scheduled in 2021.





Raptor Lite: New Ford F-150
Tremor boasts off-road cred

Henry Payne
The Detroit News
Dec 10, 2020

The Ford F-150 is expanding its menu of pickup trucks with a meaty, off-road offering in its Tremor lineup. Call it Raptor Lite.

Taking inspiration from Ford’s tree-chewing Raptor supertruck, the 2021 F-150 Tremor is dressed in an aggressive new hood and grille, and boasts off-road goodies like 33-inch tires, skid plate, front and rear locking-differentials, and increased suspension travel. It will compete with off-road offerings like the Ram Rebel, Chevy Silverado Trail Boss and GMC Sierra AT4.

It is the third Tremor offering in the Blue Oval’s pickup lineup following the mid-size Ranger Tremor and heavy-duty Ford F-250 and F-350 Tremors. While pricing for the new F-150 package has not been announced, expect it to cost around $4,000. It goes on sale in the summer of 2021.

“Like Super Duty Tremor and Ranger Tremor, introducing the all-new F-150 Tremor is a response to seeing how customers use our trucks to enable their outdoor lifestyles,” said Ford truck marketing boss Todd Eckert.

You’ll know it by the orange highlights.

Bisecting the front grille below the swollen hood is an “Active Orange” bar that stands out next to the blacked-out Ford logo. Dual orange tow-hooks peek out of the truck’s raised chin. Tremor logos tattooed on the box, tailgate and side panel also feature splashes of orange. Inside, Active Orange punctuates more Tremor detailing, including seat stitching and dash and door finishes.

Wardrobe aside, Tremor is distinguished by rugged, off-road hardware. Under the skin of the aluminum, SuperCrew cab is standard four-wheel drive and an upgraded suspension with added ground clearance. Also standard are locking rear and front differentials (torque-on-demand transfer case similar to the F-150 Raptor is on offer) married to meaty 33-inch tires. The tires make for a more aggressive, wider stance, while a Raptor-like bash plate protects the front chin when drivers explore the big truck’s 27.6-degree approach angle.

Pushing the big beast is a 400-horse turbocharged 3.5-liter V-6 – just shy of the Raptor’s 450. Off-road hardware extends to the cabin, with a six-position auxiliary power switch  on the overhead console so owners can easily add off-road winches and air compressors. The new, 2021 F-150 architecture enables a 2-watt on-board generator to power tools or football tailgate accessories like TVs and grills.

The Tremor can tow 10,900 pounds. With a payload rating of 1,885 pounds, the standard 5½-foot box can handle dirt bikes and ATVs when the trail ends.

In addition to its standard features, the Tremor offers goodies like a 360-degree camera and Trail Control – a sort of low-speed cruise-control. Familiar to Raptor owners, it allows pedal-free driving to make extreme off-road driving like rock-crawling easier. Determined to go anywhere, anytime, Tremor offers a Rock Crawl mode to go with standard drive modes including Tow/Haul and Mud/Rut.

The Tremor builds on the off-road capability of F-150’s familiar FX4 off-road package. The F-series broad lineup of pickups is the best-selling truck in the US with nearly 900,000 units in 2019.  First models of the 14th-generation 2021 F-150 began shipments to dealers this week.


Canadian families to pay hundreds
more a year for groceries in 2021

By Brett Bundale
 The Canadian Press
Dec 9, 2020

The average Canadian family will pay up to an extra $695 for food next year, as the pandemic, wildfires and changing consumer habits drive-up grocery bills to the highest increase ever predicted by an annual food price report.

Rising bread, meat and vegetable prices are expected to lead the overall food price increase of three to five per cent, according to Canada’s Food Price Report 2021 released Tuesday.

For an average family of four, that means a $13,907 grocery bill.

“We don’t expect a break at the grocery store any time soon,” said Sylvain Charlebois, lead author and Dalhousie University professor of food distribution and policy.

“This is the highest increase that we’ve ever expected.”

The 11th edition of the food price report, published annually by Dalhousie University and the University of Guelph, has expanded this year to include the University of Saskatchewan and the University of British Columbia, making it more national in scope.

Researchers said in the study that COVID-19 will continue impacting food prices next year, with the meat industry particularly vulnerable to potential labour shortages, logistics disruptions, food plant and distribution centre slowdowns and shifts in consumer demand.

While meat prices could increase as much as 6.5 per cent overall, the biggest price hike could be for poultry, a supply managed industry in Canada.

Poultry prices are up seven per cent since July, Charlebois said, adding that as production costs continue to rise, so will retail prices.

“We are expecting poultry prices to be a bit of an issue,” he said. “If farmers are asked to spend more on equipment and COVID-19 cleaning protocols, consumers will eventually have to pay more.”

Meanwhile, climate change, including heat waves, ice loss, wildfires, floods and droughts, will also influence how much we pay for groceries next year.

Vegetables could be particularly hard hit, with prices expected to jump as much as 6.5 per cent, according to the report.

Much of the produce Canadians consume comes from California, a state that has been ravaged by one of the worst wildfire seasons on record.

With California’s crops heavily compromised by smoke and ongoing challenges with COVID-19, Stuart Smyth with the University of Saskatchewan said prices will be pushed up.

“Vegetables are where people are going to notice the greatest impact,” said Smyth, associate professor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.

While the price of root crops like potatoes and carrots should remain stable, he said leafy greens and more perishable produce like tomatoes and cucumbers will be more expensive.

Yet some of the biggest price increases could be for vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower and asparagus, said Smyth, the chair of Agri-Food Innovation and Sustainability Enhancement.

Meanwhile, the study warned consumers to expect bakery prices to increase as much as 5.5 per cent.

The cost of a bushel of wheat hit about $6 in November, Smyth said, up from about $4 roughly 18 months ago — a 50 per cent increase.

The issue is about supply and demand, he said, noting that while “wheat acres” or the amount produced has remained relatively stable in Canada, demand has steadily risen.

“If we hold supply constant but the demand goes up, essentially we’re falling a little bit behind,” Smyth said.

Meanwhile, the latest report has broken down average food costs for individuals based on age and gender, allowing consumers to estimate their potential food expenditures based on their own situation.

While it continues to provide the estimated cost of feeding a family of four, the report also shows that a man aged 31 to 50 can expect to pay $169 more for food next year, while a woman of the same age can expect to pay $152 more.

© 2020 The Canadian Press


Ford's self-driving vehicles
deliver food, school supplies
to families in need

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
Dec 8, 2020

As Ford Motor Co. prepares to launch a commercial fleet of self-driving vehicles, it's learning from recent experiences using autonomous vehicles to deliver food and school supplies to families in need amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The deliveries, via a partnership with the nonprofit Education Fund in Florida's Miami-Dade County, mark the first time the Dearborn automaker's autonomous-vehicle division and technology partner Argo AI have deployed fully self-driving vehicles for deliveries to customers — a milestone in the quest to build out a goods delivery business powered by autonomous vehicles.

The eight-week pilot program brings together the Education Fund, Ford Autonomous Vehicles LLC (a subsidiary of Ford), Argo AI, and the automaker's philanthropic arm, the Ford Motor Co. Fund. Ford's Fusion Hybrid self-driving test vehicles — manned by two test specialists, but driven without human engagement — have been conducting contactless drop-offs of fresh produce and supplies such as notebooks and pens to the families of 50 students who attend Feinberg Fisher K-8 in Miami Beach and Riverside Elementary School in Little Havana.

The program aims to fill in some of the gaps created by remote learning during the pandemic. The Education Fund previously distributed fresh produce from its Food Forest program at 26 schools in Miami-Dade County and gave out free classroom materials on a weekly basis. 

"Ford saw an opportunity to broaden a critical supply pipeline to students," Linda Lecht, president of the Education Fund, said in a statement. "The deliveries ensure low-income students have nutritious food and the learning materials they need even at home."

Here's how it works: The Education Fund packs up bags of organic greens and school supplies. Then, the Ford/Argo team picks the packages up from the schools. The self-driving vehicles, using software that tells them the optimal delivery routes, make the deliveries each week.

As helpful as the program is for the community, it's also beneficial for Ford and Argo as the partners work to refine their self-driving technologies and prepare to launch self-driving commercial services in three cities — including Miami — in 2022.

The program is one of numerous autonomous-driving pilots Ford has conducted, but it's the first where deliveries to customers have been made without humans operating the vehicles. The two people that participate in each delivery are there simply to ensure safety; the vehicles operate on their own.

"For us, that's really material because we're doing this for a partner. We're making deliveries to families. We have to meet delivery-time windows. We're setting up multi-stop routes," Navin Kumar, director of Ford's AV business, told The Detroit News. "So a lot of what we've put in place with this activity with the Education Fund represents material aspects of what we would have in a commercial operation, and builds on the progress we've had in market with our operations over the last one to two years."

Like other automakers, Ford is investing heavily in electric and self-driving vehicles, which are widely seen as the future of the automotive industry. The Blue Oval has committed to investing more than $4 billion in AV development by 2023.

Cruise LLC, a majority-owned subsidiary of General Motors Co., started a similar program earlier this year to use its all-electric self-driving fleet to deliver meals to people in need in San Francisco. As of July, the self-driving vehicle company totaled more than 50,000 contactless deliveries of groceries and meals.

Right now, Ford and Argo are conducting test drives in Detroit, Palo Alto, Pittsburgh, Austin, Miami and Washington, D.C. The latter three cities are slated to be included in the launch of Ford's self-driving commercial services.

Those test drives, as well as programs such as this one in Miami, allow the self-driving vehicles to learn at a hyper-local level the different driving environments in each community where they operate. In Miami Beach and Little Havana for example, the vehicles have stopped at 90 different locations, allowing them to glean knowledge about parking, wait times and specific street conditions.

"We're getting a lot of inputs and data points that are important for refining the system for location- and regional-specific factors," said Kumar. "Those are very important inputs that feed into our system and how we engineer the system, and it's really key for providing an optimal service."

It also helps Ford from a business perspective, allowing the company to gather feedback and lessons, for example, about what goes into coordinating a delivery fleet. How long does it take to load the vehicle? Who benefits from this type of service? The answers to these types of questions can help the automaker prepare for a full-fledged delivery business, which it envisions rolling out with partners in retail and e-commerce.

Ford and Argo plan to expand their pilot programs next year.

"We plan to have much more activity in 2021 in all the cities we operate in," said Kumar.



Ford Bronco launch delayed
until summer 2021 due to
COVID-related supply woes

Jordyn Grzelewski
Breana Noble
The Detroit News
Dec 5, 2020

Ford Motor Co. is delaying the launch of the Bronco SUV — one of its most hotly anticipated releases in recent memory — to summer 2021 because of coronavirus-related supplier issues.

"The all-new Bronco two-door and four-door customer deliveries will begin in the summer rather than the spring due to COVID-related challenges our suppliers are experiencing," spokesman Jiyan Cadiz said Friday. "We are committed to building Broncos with the quality our customers expect and deserve."

While not ideal, some industry experts and Ford dealers say it's better to delay the launch now than potentially deal with nagging quality issues later, especially on the heels of Ford's botched Explorer launch last year.

Jim Seavitt, owner of the Village Ford dealership in Dearborn, said that while he's not necessarily happy about the launch being pushed back and is concerned it might cause some customers to forego their reservations, he'd rather see the Bronco delayed than have a problematic launch: "Make sure it's right when it comes out. We do not want another Explorer."

Ford declined to share further detail about what the supply issues were or which suppliers were affected. The Mexico-built Bronco Sport already is in production; the Blue Oval sold 22 of them in November, sales figures show.

Ordering for reservation holders will begin in mid-January rather than on Dec. 7 as initially planned, the Dearborn automaker said. And those who have placed orders now have until March 19 to finalize dealer selection, place their order, and agree to a selling price.

Additionally, the Sasquatch package with manual transmission will now move to model year 2022.

News of the supplier issue comes as the coronavirus pandemic surges in the U.S., with cases, hospitalizations and deaths reaching new records. Other vehicles have experienced production issues or delays due to the pandemic.

General Motors Co., for example, has had to briefly halt production of its Chevrolet Corvette at least twice since October due to supply issues. A two-month North American auto production shutdown in the spring, induced by the pandemic, resulted in three-month delays for three major upcoming Jeep launches planned by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV.

An as-of-yet unnamed new three-row, full-size SUV is expected to begin production in the first quarter of 2021 at a new assembly plant on Detroit’s east side. Manufacturing of the Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer SUVs will follow in the second quarter at Warren Truck. And in the third quarter, the fifth-generation Grand Cherokee is supposed to begin production.

“There's enough industry wide impact from coronavirus and delays that this doesn't reflect on (Ford CEO Jim) Farley or Ford, it reflects a larger industry issue," said Karl Brauer, executive analyst at iseecars.com. "Or at least it can be presented that way and there's no solid reason to dispute it.”

AutoForecast Solutions LLC was expecting production of the Bronco to begin in late March, but the push until June or July isn't "too much of a delay," said Sam Fiorani, vice president of global vehicle forecasting. The vehicle will be built at Ford's Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, where it was previously in production for 30 years before the nameplate was retired.

“This is an important product for Ford," said Fiorani. "Whether the quality is there, whether the volume is there is going to be a key to make it a success in what is an extremely competitive market with one other major player.”

The Bronco is Ford's answer to the Jeep Wrangler, which is a best-seller in the U.S. market with over 225,000 vehicles sold in 2019.

The vehicle is an important one for the “built Ford tough” image as well as for profits, Fiorani said, so it's likely a better move to delay the launch now rather than risk quality issues and a recall.

Ford encountered problems with the launch of the redesigned Explorer in 2019 with vehicles coming off the line in Chicago with lose wire harnesses, faulty seating and buggy software. Thousands were shipped to Flat Rock to be repaired.

The Bronco comes with a whole new set of challenges, Fiorani said: “This has removable doors and roof. The parts come off and go on, making sure they don’t rattle. The new technology is going to have to work. It’s a lot to handle."

"When you look at quality ratings, the highest quality vehicles have been on the market for years, because their issues have been ironed out over the years," he said. "When you have a new model, you want to make sure they have all those issues wrapped up before it hits the dealership to make buyers happy.”

Anticipation for the new Bronco has been building for years, ever since Ford discontinued it in 1996. For years, fans and Ford employees alike pushed to get the automaker to resurrect the nameplate. In 2017, Ford confirmed the Bronco would make a return at long last.

The Blue Oval has reported that early demand for the full-size Bronco is strong, with about 190,000 reservations placed so far.

“It became an incredibly powerful brand awareness tool over the last six months since it kind of fully unveiled and all the specifics were released," said Brauer. "There's been a lot of energy and excitement around it.”

The Bronco is a key piece in one of the much significant refreshes of the automaker's portfolio ever. The all-electric Mustang Mach-E SUV is in production now, as is the redesigned 2021 F-150 pickup truck.


Ford, Ram pickup trucks the
most common stolen vehicle in
Alberta, according to Insurance
Bureau top 10 list

Jeff Labine
Edmonton Journal
Dec 4, 2020

Edmonton Journal logoFord, Ram pickup trucks the most common stolen vehicle in Alberta, according to Insurance Bureau top 10 list

More than 330 F-350 SD four-wheel-drive trucks were stolen in 2019 with 95 of those being vehicles manufactured in 2006, according to the list released on Wednesday. More than 150 Ram 1500 vehicles were also stolen as well as 89 F-150s. More than half of the 577 vehicles stolen were manufactured before 2008.

Bryan Gast, national director of investigative services for IBC, said vehicles made after 2008 are required to have some kind of anti-theft system installed. He said there are a few reasons why Ford and Ram pickup trucks dominate the list including there being a lot in Alberta.

Gast said thieves are able to use stolen vehicles in a variety of ways.

“Sometimes vehicles are stripped down for parts to be able to fix other vehicles,” he said. “A concerning one, when it comes to public safety, is sometimes, not just these vehicles but all vehicles, can be stolen and used in other crimes, sometimes violent crimes where (thieves) don’t want to use their own vehicle.”

The list was compiled using insurance claims from 2019. Gast said he hopes the list brings more awareness for people to be careful with their vehicles. He said IBC is working with its partners including law enforcement to collect more data to better combat theft including figuring out the method thieves use.

Gast said they don’t have data yet on how many vehicles are stolen while sitting idle compared to more sophisticated auto theft methods. He said with newer vehicles making the list including some from 2017 and 2018, drivers need to be cautious.

Gast said the problem is all across Alberta and isn’t specific to urban centres or rural areas.

“Just because Alberta’s list shows the top 10 as being pickup trucks doesn’t mean that other vehicles aren’t targeted, such as higher-end SUVs,” he said. “There’s a lot of them in Alberta (so) that doesn’t mean they’re not being stolen, it’s just that their numbers aren’t in the top 10.”

Gast said there are several ways drivers can prevent theft including placing their key fobs in protective boxes so the radio frequency can’t be copied, purchasing a brake lock or other security device and not leaving vehicles unattended.

The most stolen vehicles in Canada include the Honda CR-V, Lexus RX350/RX350L/RX450h/RX450hL and Toyota Highlander. While Ford and Ram were the most popular to steal in Alberta, Lexus and Honda dominated Ontario’s list while the Chevrolet Silverado was the most stolen in Atlantic Canada.



Ford's November sales down
20.9% amid industrywide decline

Jordyn Grzelewski
Dec 3, 2020
The Detroit News

Ford Motor Co.'s U.S. sales fell 20.9% year-over-year in November amid an industrywide decline due in part to a calendar quirk that meant three fewer selling days for the month.

The Dearborn automaker on Wednesday reported sales for last month of 149,931, down from 189,562 last November. Retail sales, meanwhile, were down 16.7%.

Another factor in the weak sales month was the ongoing sell-down of old F-150 models to make way for the new 2021 F-150 that began shipping to dealers at the end of the month. The automaker said sales of its flagship F-Series truck franchise were dragged down by low inventories caused by a spring coronavirus-related production shutdown, as well as the transition to the new model year. Overall, F-Series sales were down 27.2% year-over-year.

"Dealers are looking forward to the 2021 F-150, which is now in transit, as well as Bronco Sport and the all-new Mustang Mach-E," Mark LaNeve, Ford's vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service, said in a statement.

Industrywide, sales were down by nearly 15% when not accounting for the fewer number of selling days, according to a J.D. Power projection. But the decline was only projected to be 3.5% when adjusted for selling days. J.D. Power is projecting a seasonally adjusted annualized rate for new-vehicle sales of 15.8 million units, down by 1.3 million from 2019. 

Other automakers, including Toyota, Honda and Hyundai also saw U.S. sales drop in November.

Thomas King, president of J.D. Power's data and analytics division, noted in a statement that retail sales for the month are almost on pace with retail sales from November 2019 when adjusted for selling days.

"While the sales results illustrate the continued strength of consumer demand, that strength is further reinforced by transaction prices hitting another record high, even as manufacturers and retailers continue to remain disciplined on new-vehicle incentives and discounts," he said.

There were a few bright spots for the Blue Oval, including a 7.5% gain for its Super Duty truck; commercial and government fleet sales were up 7% and 14%, respectively; and the Transit commercial van posted a 13.9% increase, bolstering Ford's van sales to a 5.2% gain.

Though the automaker reported recovery of sales to government fleets, daily rental fleet sales were down 87% as that segment continues to suffer amid the pandemic.

The Explorer SUV, the botched launch of which dragged down sales in 2019, saw a 21.9% sales gain in November.

Ranger pickup sales were down 19.8% year-over-year. Ford's luxury Lincoln division posted a 22.9% sales decline in November.

It was the first month Ford recorded sales of the new Bronco Sport, with 22 sales reported. The automaker is at the cusp of a major refresh of its lineup, with the new F-150, the Bronco Sport, and the electric Mustang Mach-E arriving at dealerships, and the full-size Bronco coming next year.

Ford continued to sell down remaining inventory of Fusions and Fiestas as it completes its exit of the sedan market in North America.

For the year, Ford's sales are down 16.8%. Results from the second quarter reflected a two-month North American production shutdown, but U.S. sales industrywide have recovered stronger than expected.

This is the second month since Ford has returned to reporting sales on a monthly basis after switching to quarterly sales reports in 2018. Crosstown rivals General Motors Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV are slated to report fourth-quarter sales in January.


Ford urges other automakers to
back California framework
on vehicle emissions

Jordyn Grzelewski
Riley Beggin

The Detroit News
Dec 2, 2020

Ford Motor Co. is urging other automakers to support the state of California's regulatory framework for reducing vehicle emissions, an issue that cleaved the industry into rival camps during President Donald Trump's administration.

The Dearborn automaker sent a letter to other members of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, an industry trade group, ahead of a meeting scheduled for Tuesday. The Detroit News obtained a copy of the letter, which was first reported by Reuters.

In 2019, several automakers, including General Motors Co., Toyota Motor Corp., and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, opted to side with the Trump administration in an ongoing legal attempt to stop California from setting its own greenhouse gas emissions and fuel economy standards. In an abrupt about-face last week, GM abandoned the lawsuit, saying its own electric vehicle goals align with California and President-elect Joe Biden.

Ford, Honda Motor Co. and Volkswagen AG had sided with California on an agreement to voluntarily reduce vehicle emissions. Both camps argued their move was more likely to bring about a unified standard for greenhouse gas emissions and fuel economy — a largely agreed-upon goal that would make it easier for automakers to produce vehicles that can be sold in any market across the country. 

The letter, signed by Kumar Galhotra, president of Ford's Americas and international markets group, noted common goals shared by the automakers: "We all favor progressive year-over-year increases, compliance flexibilities and standards that apply uniformly across the industry." He noted, too, the recent division "into two camps" over how best to achieve those goals.

"The Biden Administration will not let the Trump standards stand, and either by way of litigation and/or a regulatory reboot, the new team will move in a different, more stringent direction. And they will do so with California integrated in the effort, whether that is formal or informal," Galhotra wrote. 

"Understanding that we all bring our own perspectives to the table, we would like to urge companies to actively consider embracing the California framework," the letter states. "Given the outcome of the election, and the pressing issues that extend beyond fuel economy and the scope of these standards, it would be an enormous value for the industry to be able to pivot quickly and move forward with a single standard." 

"From the beginning we've said that our agreement with California is the best path forward for the environment, our customers and the short and long-term health of the auto industry," Ford spokeswoman Rachel McCleery said in a statement. She declined to comment directly on the letter, but said the automaker's agreement with California "should be the foundation for new regulations as the Biden administration considers stronger fuel economy standards in 2021."

Ford CEO Jim Farley, speaking Nov. 13 during a Reuters automotive summit, said: "We have to have a single standard. We've lived in the past with multiple standards, and it's a nightmare for the customers, for the companies."

The News reached out to GM and FCA for comment Monday but did not immediately hear back. Toyota declined to comment.

The industrywide discussion around uniform standards comes as automakers invest heavily in electrification. Ford has committed to investing $11.5 billion in electric-vehicle development by 2022.

GM has laid out an ambitious EV agenda: the automaker recently announced it will spend $27 billion through 2025 on autonomous and electric vehicle technology, up from the previously-announced $20 billion. It will offer 30 all-electric models globally by mid-decade, and has said its entire lineup will one day be electric as part of its bid to achieve zero emissions.

In announcing its reversal on siding with Trump, CEO Mary Barra said in a statement: "We are confident that the Biden Administration, California, and the U.S. auto industry, which supports 10.3 million jobs, can collaboratively find the pathway that will deliver an all-electric future. To better foster the necessary dialogue, we are immediately withdrawing from the preemption litigation and inviting other automakers to join us."

While Ford's letter may on its face be a bid for unity, it may also be "a case of reality," said Brett Smith, technology director at the Center for Automotive Research. Soon, California regulators and federal regulators will be much more aligned, and "it makes sense to realize the game has changed a little bit and it's probably worth offering carrots instead of sticks."

"There are some pretty big challenges ahead in terms of policy," Smith said. "Being proactive and positive will probably be more effective than being reactive and negative."

It's still unclear whether other automakers will follow Ford and other automakers in working with California or GM in dropping out of alignment with the Trump administration. But Smith says Bill Ford Jr., executive chairman of Ford, may be emerging as a leading voice for an industry that has been fractured in recent years.

"It makes sense," Smith said. "Who is the person in this industry that can make a stand?"

The Sacramento Bee, for one, published an editorial last week making the case that GM is not that voice. The paper lampooned the Detroit automaker for siding with Trump only to abandon him when it was clear a change in administration was ahead, comparing it to one of those jumping from the fading Trump presidency "like rats from a doomed ship."



Bill Ford named Automotive News’
Industry Leader of the Year

Automotive News
Dec 1, 2020

"I've always believed we should be looking long term. I feel like I'm working for my chlidren and grandchildren. Because of that, you have to ask yourself, what kind of world are they going to come into and inherit?"
Bill Ford

DETROIT — Over the course of a few frantic days in mid-March, as the coronavirus was spreading across the U.S., the Detroit 3 and UAW made the bold decision to collectively shutter North American manufacturing operations.

The wholesale shutdown was unprecedented. So too was the way it happened: three rivals, with icy relationships even in the best of circumstances, hopping on conference calls to make a collective decision against a dire threat.

That those talks went smoothly, or even happened at all, can be credited to Bill Ford, executive chairman of Ford Motor Co., and it's among the reasons he was selected as Automotive News' 2020 Industry Leader of the Year.

Ford is the scion of Michigan's most famous automotive family; his Rolodex runs deep. He's forged relationships with government leaders and industry officials throughout his four decades working for the company. By his own estimation, he's lived through six major crises.

"You just realize you're never dealing with perfect information, so the more communication you have, the better," the 63-year-old Ford said in an interview last month. "Everybody had questions and nobody had answers. I felt in that environment it was important we come to some common understanding so that particularly the UAW wasn't hearing one thing from Ford, one thing from GM and one thing from Fiat Chrysler. I felt I was in a good position to help."

Ford grabbed his phone and placed individual calls to General Motors CEO Mary Barra, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Chairman John Elkann and UAW President Rory Gamble. He also had discussions with Congresswoman Debbie Dingell and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Eventually, all parties agreed to a conference call.

"When you're trying to pull three companies together, you have to be careful what you even talk about because you can step on land mines without realizing it," Ford said. "But I've been through that so many times I felt I was pretty well prepared to help lead those discussions. GM and FCA weren't exactly on the same page on a lot of items. And so, I felt I was kind of Switzerland and could help pull it together."

Pandemic response

Helping coordinate the Detroit 3's coronavirus response might be Ford's greatest accomplishment in a turbulent year that's seen him appoint a new CEO, launch a slew of key products, break from the Trump administration over regulatory policy and oversee the automaker's implementation of a global effort to manufacture medical equipment to fight the virus.

After shutting plants and sending salaried employees home indefinitely, Ford remained engaged, hosting weekly town halls over video from his home in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“I felt I was in a good position to help,” Ford said of coordinating the Detroit 3’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The virtual gatherings quickly morphed into a way for workers to get to know their executive chairman in a new way. Many ended with casual Q&A sessions in which employees would ask about books or other trinkets in the background. Ford and other top executives have continued to host the town halls on a regular basis as employees continue to work remotely.

"I love doing that, although I don't love the circumstances that spawned that," Ford said. "I get so energized when I'm with our people. To me, the weekly town halls were a highlight during a really tough period."

Another highlight? Witnessing employees step up to manufacture masks, gowns, ventilators and respirators as part of a pivot to personal protective equipment known internally as "Project Apollo."

Ford personally toured the plants making the medical equipment.

"I remember one person saying to me he had always regretted he hadn't served in the military and this was his opportunity to give back," he said.

"There was another lady whose mom was a Rosie the Riveter and this was her way to give back. Another lady was telling me her daughter was a front-line nurse and she felt by doing this she was just basically trying to keep up with her daughter in terms of doing her part. It was really heartwarming."

The company's work culminated in a May visit from President Donald Trump to its Rawsonville Components Plant in Ypsilanti, Mich. While most of the headlines centered around whether the president would wear a mask — he briefly donned one during a private tour before taking it off during the public portion — Ford said it was a proud moment he'll remember fondly.

"One thing I reminded all our employees about on that day — look, regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, it's an honor to have the president of the United States come thank you for everything you've done for the country," he said. "I felt really great about Ford that day."

California fight

The president may have hailed the automaker as a "national treasure" that day, but his relationship with Ford behind the scenes wasn't as complimentary.

Ford, along with other automakers, in 2019 broke with the Trump administration in standing with California for stricter emissions regulations. Trump and Ford have spoken a number of times in the past, but the president's visit served as a chance to voice his displeasure in person.

"He wasn't very happy," Ford said of Trump. "Yes, he did [mention it]. I explained to him that it's the right business decision and that frankly, if we have to engineer things twice — Product A for certain states, Product B for the rest of the states — it's not a great position to be in. We want to do it once, we want to do it well and if we do it the way we're proposing, it will satisfy all 50 states. He disagrees, and that's fine."

Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford, seen at the 2019 Detroit auto show, hosts video town halls with employees working remotely. “I get so energized when I’m with our people.”

New CEO, products

Ford says the decision makes business sense, especially as it ramps up its electric vehicle offerings. He also felt it was the right decision ethically, despite the political implications.

"I've always believed we should be looking long term," he said. "I feel like I'm working for my children and grandchildren. Because of that, you have to ask yourself, what kind of world are they going to come into and inherit?"

One of the vehicles that will help Ford meet those stricter standards will be arriving on dealer lots within weeks: the Mustang Mach-E.

Ford was reluctant to allow the team to use the Mustang name on a crossover, but he quickly came around after testing it, and the first production GT model is bound for his garage.

“I thought the prototype of the Mach-E was the best prototype I’ve ever driven in my entire career,” he said. He recently spent time driving a preproduction model, noting how “pleasantly surprised” he was by how fun it was.

Other drivers noticed, too.

“I got a lot of thumbs-up, including from two Mustang GTs,” he said. “I thought, ‘OK, that’s good.’ ”

One of the key architects of the vehicle who helped convince him it was worthy of the name was Jim Farley, who became CEO on Oct. 1. Farley is the fifth CEO to work under Ford since he became executive chairman in 1999 (Ford himself was CEO from 2001 to 2006). Ford praised his intellect, passion for the industry and ability to think ahead about future challenges.

“I’m very confident he’s going to do a really good job,” he said of Farley. “I’m really excited to work with him. At age 63, I have to put my track shoes on to keep up with him. But that’s good, I like that challenge.”



Toronto, Peel auto dealers open
during 28-day lockdowns there

Automotive News Canada
November 28, 2020

Auto dealerships in the COVID-19 hotspots of Toronto and Peel regions in Ontario will remain open as the two municipalities enter a province-mandated partial lockdown, beginning today.

Toronto and neighbouring Peel have been slapped with restrictions as the Ontario government tries to bring soaring COVID-19 infections in the two regions under control.

It means, among other things, no indoor organized public events or social gatherings except with members of the same household, and a recommendation to only leave the house for essential reasons.

Under the restrictions, dealerships are permitted to be open for in-person shopping by appointment only and other safety restrictions.

“We are very pleased the Ontario Government has permitted auto dealers in Toronto and Peel Region to remain open in the latest lockdown move,” Trillium Automobile Dealers Association spokesman Frank Notte wrote in an email to Automotive News Canada. “New-car dealers have spent a significant amount of money retrofitting their stores to implement Public Health measures to protect customers and staff. They have gone above and beyond to ensure dealerships are safe places to do business.

“During the last lockdown, the TADA created safety protocols in anticipation of dealerships re-opening. Our members are extremely knowledgeable in running a safe business in the COVID era.”

The lockdown will limit most other non-essential retailers to curbside pickup, ban indoor dining at restaurants and bars, close personal care services, and shutter indoor sports facilities.

Schools and childcare services will remain open.

Grocery stores, pharmacies and big box retailers will be deemed essential and stay open, with capacity limits.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said on Friday that the measure was urgently needed to prevent more people dying from the virus.

“This virus, it spreads like wildfire, and in certain parts of the province it's spreading at alarming rates in the community,” he said. “Last week, modelling showed that if nothing was done we could face 6,000 daily cases ? overwhelming our ICUs shortly after that. More deaths. More losses. But we can avoid this if we take further action now.”

The lockdown will last a minimum of 28 days and the province said it will fine people $750 for violating public health rules.

The Canadian Press and Greg Layson of Automotive News Canada contributed to this report.



General Motors Returns to
Oshawa—But Offers Only
Second-Tier Jobs in a
‘Pop-Up’ Plant

November 27, 2020
Tony Leah and
Rebecca Keetchenlarge

Unifor President Jerry Dias called it “a home run.” The media headlines were all about “reopening the Oshawa plant.”

Unifor, the union that represents workers at the Detroit Three auto companies in Canada, announced a tentative agreement with General Motors Canada on November 5 that included a $1.3 billion investment to “restart” the Oshawa Assembly Plant.

GM had ended vehicle assembly there last year, eliminating the jobs of 5,000 assembly and supplier workers. The prospect of jobs returning is very welcome.

What’s missing from the news coverage, though, is the reality that GM is not really reopening the old plant. Instead the new operation will be a “pop-up” assembly plant—designed to meet the short-term need for additional production of hugely profitable pickup trucks.

The company is making no long-term commitments to the workers it will hire, nor to the community where its pickups and profits will be made. In effect, GM will open a brand new plant inside the shell of the old plant—with an almost entirely new workforce, an inferior wage scale, fewer benefits, and no job security.


By March 2022, GM estimates, there will be 1,400 to 1,700 workers building pickup trucks in Oshawa Assembly. Ninety percent of them will be new hires.

Unlike Tier 1 workers, who earn $37.03 Canadian ($28.18 US) per hour, these new hires will start at $23.67 ($18.01 US). That means GM will save $33 million to $42 million Canadian per year just in regular wages—not including overtime or other benefits such as the defined-benefit pension, permanently lost to new hires in 2016.

In addition, 15 percent of the workforce will be a third tier: precarious, non-seniority “full-time TPTs”—that is, “full-time temporary part-time” workers. The TPTs can be kept in that status indefinitely.

The contract also expands the work that will be done by employees of third-party companies inside the plant, undoubtedly for far less than the GM starting rate.

In the event of a permanent reduction in force, Unifor has agreed that new workers will simply be laid off; they won’t have flow rights to other jobs in GM’s Oshawa stamping and parts operations. Unifor has also agreed that no retirement incentive packages will be offered in Oshawa during the current three-year contract.

So GM can maintain operations for as long as it needs the pickup trucks—and then shut down production at minimal cost.

Workers in Oshawa remember that GM ended truck production in 2009, despite having promised to maintain it in the 2008 contract. The 2016 contract brought back pickup truck assembly to Oshawa—until GM ended it again in December 2019.


What set the stage for the current contract? When GM announced the closure in November 2018, Unifor began a media campaign to save the plant. In May 2019, the union agreed to call off its campaign in exchange for GM maintaining after-market parts production that secured 300 jobs.

When vehicle production stopped last December, there were around 2,200 GM workers on the seniority list, including 400 second-tier workers. There were also 500 TPTs with no seniority rights at all.

After decades of outsourcing, there were another 1,000 workers inside the GM plant working for contractors such as CEVA Logistics, Syncreon, Oakley, Robinson, and Auto Warehousing. They were doing jobs such as driving lift trucks, cleaning, or preparing parts for assembly and delivering them to the line.

Another 1,500 workers were at supplier companies located close to the plant, such as Lear Seating, Inteva, and Woodbridge Foam, doing jobs that at one time had been done inside.

The deal that Unifor negotiated with GM in 2019 provided substantial retirement incentives for seniority employees with 30 years and buyouts for lower-seniority workers who chose to sever ties with GM. Buyouts were substantially better for Tier 1 than Tier 2 workers.

Of course, the result of GM’s outsourcing strategy was that the supplier workers got nothing from GM. Unifor represented almost all of these workers, but did not negotiate deals for them until after reaching agreement with GM. Most ended up with minimal severance enhancements; most had no pensions in their contracts.

In the end, only about 500 GM workers opted to stay on the seniority list. Currently about 325 are working and 175 are on layoff.

That is the magic by which GM can now start pickup production with a workforce that will be 90 percent low-wage second-tier and third-tier (TPT) workers—with no defined-benefit pensions, inferior benefits, and no job security. GM will also benefit from massive savings through the local supply chain, since almost all the supplier workers were terminated and their union collective agreements are gone. If they are even rehired, they will start over as new hires.


At the November 5 press conference, Dias said that he believed the GM agreement “will solidify the footprint here in Canada for years and years to come.” But there are good reasons to be skeptical of GM’s commitment. Workers in Oshawa remember hearing these same promises in 2016 when the previous contract was negotiated.

Dias used eerily similar words in the Bargaining Highlights handed out to GM workers in 2016: “Heading into these negotiations we faced the closure of Oshawa, and an uncertain future in St. Catharines and Woodstock. I am so proud to announce that we have reversed that direction, and solidified the footprint of the industry in Canada far into the future.” [emphasis added]

The Canadian Press reported on September 20, 2016:

There had been fears the Oshawa facility might shut down in 2019, but Dias said the contract ensures a commitment by the company worth hundreds of millions of dollars. “Our fear of a closure in 2019 is now over,” he said. “The facilities clearly have a bright future.”

However, as we know now, vehicle assembly in Oshawa did end in 2019, despite the 2016 hype.

Yes, GM had invested hundreds of millions in 2016 so that pickup trucks could be assembled in Oshawa. It wasn’t charity. Corporate investments are made for one reason only—profits.

Starting in January 2018, 150,000 pickup trucks were assembled in Oshawa in 23 months. Those pickups made an estimated profit for GM of $22,000 Canadian ($17,000 US) apiece.

The math will tell you that GM earned at least $3.3 billion from the “hundreds of millions” it invested. The investment did not mean the company was committed to production in Oshawa “far into the future.”

This 2020 commitment is no more secure. It can be ended whenever GM management considers it best for profits.


GM’s strategy has been clear for years: outsource work, drive down wages, and use second-tier, third-tier (TPTs), and fourth-tier (supplier) workers to divide the workforce and reduce costs. The latest agreement takes this strategy to the next level—and may set a dangerous precedent for other auto negotiations in Canada.

Will GM try to impose some or all of this new model in negotiations with Unifor around its CAMI Assembly plant next year? CAMI is not part of the GM Master Agreement, but has its own contract that is up in 2021.

Will Ford and Fiat Chrysler use the Oshawa agreement to demand similar conditions when they bargain with Unifor in 2023? The promised electric vehicle investments in Oakville (Ford) and Windsor (FCA) are not scheduled to be introduced until 2024 or later. How can workers stop the whipsawing?

This contract raises many questions. It leaves the power to make future decisions in the hands of corporations driven by profit. It doesn’t address the fact that there is no long-term future for gas-powered pickup trucks in a time of climate crisis. GM itself has said it plans to use the profits from the pickup production to “help GM fund our transition to the electric, autonomous and highly connected future we see ahead.

That is why we still need to fight for alternative visions like the one put forward by Green Jobs Oshawa in the wake of the closure announcement. Our call for public ownership, production for social needs, and a transition to a sustainable future has resonated with many. The climate crisis and inequality are serious problems that won’t be solved as long as corporations are calling the shots.

Rebecca Keetch is a laid-off GM Oshawa worker and a member of the Unifor Local 222 Education Committee. Tony Leah is a retired GM Oshawa worker and chair of the Local 222 Political Action Committee. Both are active supporters of Green Jobs Oshawa.



Ford tackles warranty costs
in bid to boost profit

Ben Klayman
Nov 26, 2020

DETROIT -- New Ford CEO Jim Farley wants to rein in rising warranty repair costs that are a key reason why the automaker's financial performance in North America has lagged behind rival General Motors.

As part of its new effort to cut warranty costs, Ford has told suppliers it will charge them upfront for half the cost of a warranty problem. Suppliers might get some of the money back if they resolve problems more quickly.

"What we are striving for is to fix the issues as fast as possible so that those adjustments are as small as possible," Kumar Galhotra, president of the automaker's Americas and International Markets group, told Reuters. "They're more incentivized to work with us."

Ford North America's COO Lisa Drake, who is responsible for quality and vehicle launches, said in the same interview supplier contracts have always allowed such debits.

"We were never doing it and frankly, it was probably one of the reasons that we became a bit more uncompetitive," she said.

The move to charge parts makers upfront has some supplier executives worried.

"They push their suppliers so, so hard that it causes the supply base to be weak in the knees," said one executive, who asked not to be identified.

But for Ford investors, action to shrink the U.S. automaker's outlays for vehicle defects is overdue. Ford's warranty costs for the first nine months of 2020 were more than $2 billion (all figures in USD) higher than those of GM.

Industry officials blame the automaker's higher costs on the introduction of several major vehicle platforms and powertrains, as well as the fallout from the Takata airbag recall that has now also hit GM.

Bad parts from suppliers account for about one-third of Ford's warranty costs, Drake said. The rest stem from design and manufacturing issues, Galhotra said.

"Warranty recovery is increasingly seen as a revenue source" by the automakers, said Ann Marie Uetz, a Foley & Lardner attorney who works with auto suppliers. "Often times, it can feel like a bit of a grab."

To attack internal quality problems, Ford has reconstituted teams that track the quality of inbound parts at its plants. These teams were previously disbanded as cost-cutting moves. Farley is pushing executives to resolve quality issues that linger beyond 30 days.


Ford's quality gap compared with GM has worsened during the past three years. Warranty claims have ballooned almost $2 billion since 2017, Credit Suisse analyst Daniel Levy said.

In 2012 and 2013, Ford's warranty claims as a share of sales were below two per cent every quarter, according to industry publication Warranty Week. But at the end of 2018, warranty costs topped three per cent and hit 4.3 per cent in the second quarter of this year as overall sales slid due to the coronavirus shutdown.

For the first nine months of 2020, Ford's warranty costs totalled $3.87 billion, while GM's were $1.68 billion, according to regulatory filings.

"It can be fixed," Warranty Week editor Eric Arnum said of Ford. "They just have to make the effort."

Ford investors are focused on the launches of the redesigned and lucrative F-150 pickup truck, and the new and highly anticipated Bronco SUV, but reducing what it spends on repairing vehicles at dealers could provide a big boost to the bottom line.

"We're targeting a fully competitive level of warranty spend on coverages and that's got lots of zeroes next to it," Farley said on an Oct. 28 earnings conference call, citing a need to be "punitive" with suppliers who ship faulty parts.


Galhotra said Ford is applying lessons it learned from the mistakes made in last year's costly introduction of the redesigned Ford Explorer SUV to keep its current launches on track.

Part of the quality push involves reducing the complexity of the automaker's vehicles, Farley said.

For example, the proximity key for the F-150 truck unlocks all four doors, but Farley said consumers only use it for the front doors, meaning Ford can eliminate two sensors -- a manufacturing cost savings and a potential reduction in warranty risk.

Ford also plans to use data gathered from vehicles to catch problems faster -- in minutes rather than months in some cases -- and fix them with over-the-air software updates, Farley has said.

Credit Suisse analyst Levy said investors are hopeful Farley can change things, but he will have to prove it.

"There was a track record already of Ford underperforming and I think this is a frustration for investors," he said.



Ford orders 12 ultra-cold freezers
to distribute COVID-19 vaccines

Nov 25, 2020

DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. said on Tuesday it has ordered a dozen ultra-cold freezers that can safely store Pfizer Inc.'s COVID-19 vaccine, a move aimed at ensuring the U.S. automaker's workers have access to vaccines when they are rolled out nationally.

Ford's purchase mirrors efforts by U.S. states and cities to buy equipment to store millions of doses of Pfizer's vaccine at temperatures of minus 70 degrees Celsius (minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit), significantly below the standard for vaccines of 2-8 degrees C (36-46 degrees F).

Health care providers and states are preparing for a new type of vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna Inc. that require lower temperatures for storage.

"We're doing this so that we can make the vaccine available to our employees on a voluntary basis," Ford spokeswoman Kelli Felker said.

Details of how Ford will use the freezers, which are expected to be delivered by year end, are still being worked out, she said.

Assembly workers are considered essential in most states, but not at the top of the list for vaccines, which are expected to be distributed first to health care workers and nursing home residents.

Automakers have been largely able to avoid spread of the virus among hourly workers in their assembly plants after a two-month shutdown earlier in the year, but COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are spiking in the U.S., especially in the Midwest.

Felker did not know which company is supplying Ford with the freezers. Some specialty freezer makers have warned of months-long waits for units.

Ford, which made the decision to buy the freezers on its own and is not working with other companies or states, did not disclose how much it spent, but the specialized freezers required by Pfizer's vaccine can cost $5,000 to $15,000 apiece, according to industry officials.


New business ventures help
Canadian snowbirds circumvent
a closed U.S. land border

Sophia Harris
CBC News
Nov 24, 2020

Despite the Canada-U.S. land border closure to non-essential traffic, Canadian snowbirds Bernard Loiselle and Sylvie Charbonneau are on their way to Florida — in their RV.

"Finally, we're going," said Loiselle, 57, from a road stop near Albany, N.Y. "The weather in Quebec was getting cold."

The couple from Marieville, Que., southeast of Montreal, live in their RV year-round and spend the winter in Florida. This year, however, they faced a problem because they can't drive their mobile home across the United States border during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

But that problem was solved when they learned of a new service offered by KMC Transport.

The Quebec company flies snowbirds on a chartered plane from an airport just outside Montreal to nearby Plattsburgh, N.Y. KMC employees also drive the snowbirds' vehicles to the Plattsburgh airport so, after landing, the passengers can continue their journey down south. 

"It was great to — from the plane — see our RV down there, just waiting for us," said Loiselle. 

Despite soaring COVID-19 infection rates in the U.S. and Canada's advisory not to travel abroad, many snowbirds are determined to head south this winter. 

Although Canadians can't drive to the U.S. due to the land border closure, they can fly to the country. But that still creates a problem for snowbirds who want to take their vehicles down south. 

In response, several transport companies have come up with new ways to help snowbirds — and their cars — cross the border. 

KMC ships vehicles to the U.S. sunbelt for snowbirds. But the fee can be prohibitive to transport an RV — around $4,300.

So owner and president Michael Couturier devised a cheaper option: starting in late October, he arranged charter flights for snowbirds to Plattsburgh, plus transport service for their vehicles.

Customers pay $500 per seat on the plane and $1,000 for the vehicle transport. As a commercial transport company, KMC can bring vehicles into the U.S., despite the border restrictions, Couturier said.

"Every commercial transaction at the border is considered essential," he said. "We've got to have all the paperwork, and then we are allowed to do it."

U.S. Customs and Border Protection confirmed to CBC News that there are no restrictions on Canadians importing vehicles to the United States during the land border closure.

Warning to snowbirds

KMC flies to Plattsburgh twice each weekday. Couturier said the nine-seater plane is always full. 

The added business has been a big boost for the company, which normally focuses on transporting RVs to dealers.

That side of the business has slowed during the pandemic, said Couturier, but catering to snowbirds has allowed him to keep all his 35 workers employed.

"If it wasn't for snowbirds, the company would be in trouble this year," he said. "It's a good opportunity for us."

Meanwhile, the federal government continues to warn Canadians to avoid international travel during the pandemic. 

"People are safest when they stay at home," said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a news conference on Tuesday. 

However, the message hasn't deterred eager snowbirds. Some argue they will be safe, because they have COVID-19 medical insurance and plan to stick to their gated community at their destination. 

"[You] just do your groceries, you go back to your RV and you have your supper there and that's it," said Loiselle.

Helicopter rides for snowbirds

Jeremy Rood's parents were still keen to go to Florida this winter, but wanted to take both their car and their Labrador, Abby. So the helicopter pilot came up with a solution that his employer, Great Lakes Helicopter in Cambridge, Ont., has turned into a business. 

The company picks up snowbirds at the Hamilton, Ont. airport and helicopters them just across the border to Buffalo, N.Y. Then, Rood's friend — who runs a transport company — transports the passengers' vehicles, typically on a flatbed truck, to the Buffalo airport. 

"My parents wanted to get to Florida for the winter and I said, 'No problem, I'll make sure you guys get down there,'" said Rood. "We put our heads together and ended up with this little thing that we're doing here."

Since starting the service in late October, Great Lakes Helicopter has flown 30 passengers and has hundreds more bookings. The cost for a couple to fly in their own private helicopter and transport their car is $1,900. Pets are welcome onboard. 

Rood said he's not surprised by the brisk business, despite the pandemic. 

"We have long, cold winters here," he said. "You're not able to get outside, stay fit, stay active."

Serving snowbirds due to popular demand

On the West Coast, the winters may not be as cold, but many snowbirds there still want to head south — and take their cars. 

That created an opportunity for Bidbuy Importers based in Blaine, Wash. The company traditionally imports vehicles to private buyers and dealers.

But this year it has branched out to also transport snowbirds' vehicles from the Vancouver area to U.S. sunbelt states or to closer destinations, such as the Seattle airport. 

Jayde McElroy, Bidbuy's vice-president of marketing and sales, said the company took on snowbird clients due to popular demand.

"When the border shut down, we received so many inquiries from snowbirds that were wondering if we could help them out," he said. "At first, we didn't know because it is not something we've done."

So far, Bidbuy has transported 40 cars. The company has about 100 more booked over the next couple of months. Costs range from around $500 to upwards of $3,000, depending on the type of vehicle and the distance it's travelling. 

When asked about helping snowbirds go south during the pandemic, McElroy said he's happy to help them escape winter. 

"You never know how long this is gonna go on for. You got to enjoy your life." 



Ford Explorer ranks among lowest
scoring models in reliability survey

Kalea HallJordyn
The Detroit News
Nov 23, 2020

Detroit — Ford Motor Co. was hit with more bad news Thursday, thanks to the problematic launch of its Ford Explorer.

Ford's namesake Blue Oval brand placed 22nd in the latest Annual Auto Reliability Survey from Consumer Reports, down six spots from last year. The luxury Lincoln brand placed last at 26th, down 11 spots.

The 2020 Auto Reliability Surveys are based on data collected from Consumer Reports members about their experiences with more than 300,000 vehicles. The survey findings were announced at an online news conference before the Detroit-based Automotive Press Association.

Among new or redesigned vehicles, 44% have much-worse-than-average reliability. But as issues are worked out, reliability improves over time.

The Explorer was one of the lowest scoring models from any manufacturer — foreign or domestic. Owners reported to Consumer Reports the need for transmission replacements, along with drive system, in-car electronics, power equipment and engine and body hardware issues. 

In a statement to The Detroit News, Ford spokesman Mike Levine said: "Each vehicle launch is unique. In this case, the transformation at Chicago Assembly to build Explorer was one of the most complex in the company’s history.

"Since launching Explorer, we have been relentless on improving its quality and our quality processes at the plant. Our most recent internal surveys show that we have improved Explorer quality to where our customers expect."

Ford has been battling the ramifications of the botched Explorer launch since last year. The Dearborn automaker's profits dipped 99% in 2019 because of the troubled launch. A rushed production caused long delays and SUVs with faulty seats, loose wiring harnesses and digital displays with buggy software.

Meanwhile, Ford's F-250 and F-350 pickups, Expedition, Fusion, and Mustang were all ranked average. The Edge was Ford’s only model to score above average. 

Lincoln ranked low because its brand-new SUVs share platforms with their problematic Ford peers, Consumer Reports said. The luxury brand was also hurt by its decision to discontinue the Continental and MKZ, which had been reliable sedans.

"A car might be great to drive and have all the features you want, but all that won't matter to you much if you have to keep going back to the dealer for repairs,” said Jake Fisher, senior director of auto testing at Consumer Reports in a statement. “We use extensive feedback from owners to help you avoid hassles by choosing a reliable car."

General Motors Co.'s Buick brand was the most reliable domestic vehicle brand this year. Buick ranked fourth overall in this year's survey, up 14 spots from last year, the largest jump any brand saw in the survey. It still fell behind Japanese brands Mazda, Toyota and Lexus. 

GM's other brands, Chevrolet, GMC and Cadillac, ranked 16th, 17th and 21st, respectively. 

The GMC Acadia, Terrain, and Sierra 2500 HD had average or better reliability, but the Sierra 1500 pickup truck remained well-below average. Owners told Consumer Reports that the display screen required hardware replacement, and the truck had transmission problems.

Chevrolet remains in the bottom half of the rankings, but did move up eight positions from last year. Consumers said the all-electric Bolt is a bright spot as Chevy’s most reliable vehicle. The Silverado, GM's profit maker, had problems similar to the GMC Sierra’s. 

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV's Ram truck brand ranked seventh overall. But its two models, both redesigned for 2019, have differing reports. The 1500 pickup was below average for issues with electronics — screen replacements, headlights, body control modules, gauges and engine computers. The 2500 heavy duty truck's reliability was well-above-average.

The Dodge brand came in 10th place. Jeep ranked 19th overall, the lowest of the FCA brands. But the Gladiator had a high reliability score, outpacing competitors such as the Honda Ridgeline in compact pickups. 

Mazda ranked at the top of Consumer Reports reliability list for the first time ever this year. Historically, Toyota and Lexus held the top spot. Mazda has redesigned models conservatively, avoiding the introduction of risky new powertrains and infotainment systems.

Tesla Inc. is now second from the bottom among all 26 ranked brands. It was pulled lower by the newly-introduced Model Y SUV, which has a below average reliability ranking.



Niagara GM retirees feel
forgotten in new contract

By Gord Howard
St Catharines
Standard Reporter
Nov 20, 2020

The contract Unifor and General Motors ratified this month brought improved wages for workers plus a $109-million company investment in its St. Catharines plant and $1.3 billion for Oshawa.

What it didn’t have, said Fred Dougan, was something for the more than 6,000 Niagara GM retirees who have seen their retirement benefits downgraded over the past decade.

“A lot of retirees are mad about this,” said Dougan, who chairs Unifor Local 199’s retired workers chapter. “Don’t think they’re not, just because their voice is not being heard and it’s not being addressed.

“General Motors is always crying legacy costs, legacy costs. If you look at the corporation, it has made a big comeback since 2010. And there’s nothing ever given back to the retirees that was taken away from them, in any form or kind.”

Dougan said chairs of other local retiree chapters from GM as well as Ford and Fiat Chrysler are also unhappy and will discuss possible action at a meeting in December.

Under the three-year deal Unifor signed with General Motors, GM retirees who left prior to 1994 receive a $500 payment.

But that’s a small benefit for a few retirees and does nothing for the rest, said Dougan, who lives in Welland and worked at GM for 40 years before retiring in 2004.

In the 2008 recession, GM and Chrysler required massive government bailouts to survive. Dougan said during negotiations two years later, GM’s Canadian retirees lost the cost of living allowance on their pensions. Their benefits were also reduced.

He’s frustrated they’ve never recovered their losses in subsequent negotiations. He blames the national union, which he said sets the direction and leads contract talks.

“They kept saying they’re going to try. And they didn’t promise anything, don’t get me wrong,” said Dougan, who held various positions as a union representative over 32 years.

“But we’ve been through this every set of negotiations since the big reduction. And since the company’s comeback, at each negotiation retirees have stressed that they’ve got to do something and it keeps being unheard.”

The auto industry was a leader in getting COLA for its retirees in the mid-1980s, he said, and the practice was widely adopted by other industries.

By not restoring it, the company and union are turning their backs on the workers who built Canada’s automotive industry.

“One friend of mine, he’s been out since 1994,” he said. “When he retired, from 1994 until it got cut off he gained about $250 a month on his pension just by the cost of living increases.

“He has gone from 2008 until now with nothing. So guess where his pension has gone?”

Dougan credited local union leaders for at least keeping him informed during contract talks, saying “the national union is the one that should have delivered.”

Unifor’s GM national bargaining chair, Tim McKinnon, said the union pushed for better retiree benefits but it doesn’t have the negotiating power it once did.

Since the mid-1980s, union membership at GM facilities in Canada has gone from close to 40,000 down to about 1,600, including roughly 1,100 in St. Catharines.

“Did we try to get something for our retirees? Absolutely we did. We had 1,600 people left in our bargaining unit, and we’ve got 33,000 retirees,” said McKinnon, who is also the St. Catharines unit chair. “It’s tough, because it’s a lot of money.”

Because the Big 3 are global corporations, “getting investment from GM, Ford or Fiat Chrysler Automobiles or anybody is getting more difficult because they have so many places they can put the money.”

As it was, he said, getting nearly $5 billion in new investment from those companies at their Ontario plants — including restarting the nearly closed GM facility in Oshawa — “was a big deal.”

Never miss the latest news from the St. Catharines Standard, including up-to-date coronavirus coverage, with our email newsletters.

Dougan acknowledged retirees’ options are limited, with the contract in place for three years.

“We show up to things the membership doesn’t have time to show up to” to represent union causes, he said.

“We go to picket lines … and we go to protests at MPPs’ offices. When you see protesters at your MPs’ offices, a lot of those are retirees … I can assure you, we’re going to do something.”


The 2021 Ford F-150 PowerBoost
hybrid lives up to its name

By Gary Gastelu
Fox News
Nov 19, 2020

Fox News Autos test drive: 2021 Ford F-150 Powerboost hybrid

The 2021 Ford F-150 PowerBoost hybrid is the most powerful model in the lineup. Fox News Autos Editor takes it for a spin and uses it to grab some Zs.

When Ford redesigned the F-150 for 2021 it stuffed in pretty much everything but the kitchen sink.

But you can use it to run an outdoor kitchen, or a construction business, a landscaping outfit, a campsite … I’ll get to that in a minute, but first the basics on the truck.

The 2021 F-150 is an evolution of the radical aluminum-bodied pickup that was introduced in 2015 and features an updated body that’s both familiar and fresh.

The interior has received a similar overhaul with improved materials, an available full-digital instrument cluster, widescreen infotainment display and optional massaging Max Recline front seats that can lie nearly flat to turn the F-150 into a short-stay hotel. A retractable gear lever even allows the armrest to flip forward and create a desk that lets you “work from home” just about anywhere.

The F-150 is launching with a Russian roulette of six powertrains to choose from that includes the latest versions of its 3.3-liter V6; 2.7-liter and 3.5-liter EcoBoost turbocharged V6s; 5.0-liter V8; and 3.0-liter turbodiesel, but it’s the last one that packs the most punch.

It’s the F-150’s first hybrid drivetrain, which combines a turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 with a 10-speed transmission that has an electric motor integrated into it. Ford calls it the PowerBoost, and with good reason. Its total output is 430 hp and 570 lb-ft of torque, making it the most potent choice on the options list.

The most efficient, too. The PowerBoost has an EPA rating of 24 mpg combined in 4WD models, with identical 24 city and 24 highway numbers. Ford is still waiting on the test results for 2WD applications, along with the diesel’s, which delivered 24 mpg combined on the strength of a 28 mpg 4WD highway rating last year.

I tested the PowerBoost in a fully loaded F-150 Platinum SuperCrew 4x4 and it felt as strong as its name implies, delivering tremendous thrust as the electric motor chips in to fill in any gaps left by the V6. Not that there are many. It’s mostly unobtrusive on the move, but there is a small shudder when the engine turns off and on as you come to a full stop and pull away from one.

The PowerBoost is available across the F-150 lineup, but only in four-door SuperCrew trucks. Starting prices range from $43,815 for a base XL to $74,420 for a top-of-the-line Limited. That represents a $1,900 premium over the 400 hp/500 lb-ft 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6, which has a max tow rating of 14,000 pounds that beats the PowerBoost’s 12,700 pounds. But the hybrid comes with another bonus.

The PowerBoost is equipped with a 2.4-kilowatt inverter that turns the drivetrain into a generator, and it can be upgraded to a 7.2-kilowatt version for $750. There’s a panel in the bed full of outlets that you can plug literally anything into, from tools and lawnmowers to an electric range and a refrigerator for alfresco dining.

Ford calls it Pro Power Onboard and says the 2.4-kilowatt system can provide power for up to 85 hours per tank and the 7.2-kilowatt system 32 hours. There’s also a 2.0-kilowatt version that’s optional with the 2.7-liter EcoBoost and V8.

It is a unique and compelling offering that can eliminate the need to devote space and effort to lugging around a portable generator, and it works while the truck is in motion, so you can save time by charging batteries in transit.

The F-150 Platinum is bank vault-silent when you are on the road and its ride quality a step up from the outgoing model’s. It’s still a smidge behind the smoothness of the class-leading Ram 1500, but probably not enough to make a difference to Ford fans. The cabin trim is top-notch all around, but that trick gear lever does have a little play in it that makes it feel flimsy. Old-schoolers can still get a stripped XL with a column shifter, bench seat and roll-up windows if they don’t have time for modernity.

The F-150 has plenty more of that. Ford’s Co-Pilot360 driver aid package with automatic emergency brakes is standard on all trims above the XL and it can be upgraded with adaptive cruise control and a robust lane-centering system that requires you to keep your hands on the wheel to function. Starting next year, you won’t have to.

The 2021 F-150 also offers an optional Pro Trailer Backup Assist that steers the vehicle in reverse as the driver uses a knob on the dashboard to point it where it wants it to go.

The F-150 Lariat, King Ranch, Platinum and Limited can be ordered with a prep kit for Ford’s upcoming Active Drive Assist feature, which will allow for hands-off driving on over 100,000 miles of highway, relying on hyper-accurate maps and GPS. It uses a driver-monitoring camera and infrared sensors in the dashboard that will make sure you’re ready to take back control when needed. The software that will enable it will be sent to the trucks via an over-the-air update in late 2021, and additional functionality will be added in the future.

Cadillac currently offers a similar feature called Super Cruise, which Consumer Reports rated the best of its kind, ahead of Tesla’s Autopilot. Ford will be taking on Tesla in a couple of years with an all-electric F-150 that will be the most powerful model when it arrives, but the PowerBoost is electrifying in its own ways.


2021 Ford F-150 PowerBoost Platinum 4X4

Base price: $64,395

As tested (approx.): $74,000

Type: 5-passenger, 4-door 4-wheel-drive pickup

Engine: Turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 with electric motor assist

Power: 430 hp, 570 lb-ft torque

Transmission: 10-speed automatic

MPG: 24 city, 24 hwy


Judge sends former UAW VP
and GM board member Ashton
to prison for 2 1/2 years

Robert Snell
The Detroit News
Nov 18, 2020

Detroit — Former United Auto Workers Vice President Joe Ashton was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in federal prison Tuesday for taking $250,000 in kickbacks from a union vendor, the second-longest sentence issued during a years-long crackdown on auto industry corruption.

The sentencing ends the legal odyssey of the highest-ranking person charged during a scandal that has pushed the UAW to the edge of federal oversight and led to 15 convictions of auto industry figures, including former UAW presidents Gary Jones and Dennis Williams. The conviction and sentence provide additional evidence that could be used by federal prosecutors as they mull seizing control of the UAW for as long as a decade to root out corruption within one of the nation's most influential unions.

The ongoing investigation has uncovered a wide range of illegal conduct by auto industry figures, some scheming together, some acting on their own. The crimes uncovered include breaking federal labor laws, stealing union funds, receiving bribes and illegal benefits and trying to cover up the crimes.

Ashton, 72, of Ocean View, New Jersey, also served on the board of General Motors Co. until abruptly resigning in 2017. He was sentenced almost one year after pleading guilty to receiving kickbacks from his chiropractor who received a rigged $4 million contract to produce commemorative union wristwatches.

Ashton, who participated in the Zoom hearing from an undisclosed location, leaned forward and appeared shocked by the sentence after requesting leniency and expressing regret.

“I betrayed the trust my union members had in me for over 50 years and for that I am genuinely sorry,” Ashton said, reading from a prepared statement. “No apology will ever change the damage that I have done.”

Ashton's crimes were motivated by "pure greed" despite a six-figure salary, lavish entertainment and travel provided by the union, Assistant U.S. Attorney Frances Carlson said: "He didn’t need the money, but he wanted it.”

The case involved "some very large victims,” U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman said. “So we have to do something. We have to send a message and let people know the criminal justice system is not a system only for people on the streets selling drugs.”

Ashton is the third UAW leader sentenced for pocketing kickbacks and bribes from entrepreneurs in the so-called "trinkets and trash" industry, a collection of promotion companies that sell everything from rain ponchos to commemorative made-in-China pens honoring UAW President Rory Gamble. Ashton's top aide, Jeff Pietrzyk, is awaiting a likely prison sentence and Mike Grimes, who worked for UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada, is serving a 28-month sentence in federal prison.

One year ago, Gamble announced the UAW would ban spending training money on promotional items, and the union had previously implemented a contracting policy requiring three bids — though a union spokesman declined to document whether the new rules were followed. Since then, the UAW and its political action committee continued buying trinkets and trash from companies linked to the federal investigation while retired labor leaders paraded into court to plead guilty to federal crimes.

Until Jan. 10.

That is one day after a front-page story in The Detroit News revealed federal agents were probing financial ties among Gamble, retired Vice President Jimmy Settles and one of the union's highest-paid vendors.

The agents were investigating whether UAW leaders received cash kickbacks or bribes at a Detroit strip club in exchange for awarding lucrative contracts to Huntington Woods businessman Jason Gordon.

Gordon is president of several companies, including Custom Promotions, Idea Consultants, and Organization Services of Michigan. His companies have been paid approximately $3 million by the UAW, its political action committee and CAP councils since 2013

Federal filings show the last payment to a Gordon company from the UAW or its political action committee was $7,351 on Jan. 10, the day after the front-page story revealing the existence of the investigation involving Gamble.

Gamble has denied wrongdoing and has not been charged.  U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider has repeatedly declined to talk about the investigation. 

The lucrative trinkets-and-trash industry led to Ashton's downfall, sending him from the GM boardroom to a federal prison cell. He resigned from the GM board in December 2017, one month after The News reported investigators probing corruption within the U.S. auto industry were interested in him and Estrada, who has not been charged with wrongdoing.

Ashton deserved 34 months in prison because he betrayed union workers, violated the public's trust and conspired with his chiropractor to rig a $4 million contract for UAW-branded watches that were never distributed to workers, prosecutors said. Ashton received at least $250,000 in kickbacks from the chiropractor and left the 58,000 watches to rot on pallets as the batteries died in a UAW warehouse.

Ashton pushed for home confinement so he could care for his wife, Denise Ashton, who suffers from multiple sclerosis. She spoke Tuesday and asked the judge for leniency: "Please your honor, show mercy on my husband. I truly cannot imagine my life without him.”

Son Daniel Ashton begged the judge to consider the impact a prison sentence would have on his mother, saying Joe Ashton is genuinely remorseful.

“He is in a constant state of anguish and regret,” Daniel Ashton said. “He fought for the union his entire life and now he let them down.”

In a statement from spokesman Brian Rothenberg, the UAW called the sentence “appropriate” and noted ongoing efforts to review and improve the union’s financial controls and accounting oversight designed to restore trust among members.

“Mr. Ashton’s crimes defy everything we stand for as a union and demonstrate his lack of respect for the oath of office he took and the rank-and-file members he represented,” the statement read.

The sentence comes against the backdrop of private negotiations between UAW officials and federal prosecutors that are expected to end in prolonged federal oversight of the union. Otherwise, the government has the option of seizing control of one of the nation's most powerful unions in order to implement real reforms, Schneider has said.


Ashton pleaded guilty in December to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. The crimes carry a maximum penalty of up to 20 years and 10 years, and $250,000 fines.

“I am surprised by the little amount of time he got,” said Daniel Rider, 47, of Westland, Local 163 shop committeeman at General Motors Co.’s Romulus Powertrain Plant. “Anyone who screws over the membership that way deserves to go to jail. I just feel like he got what he deserved, though I’m sad for his family.”

Rider says he feels there have been greater efforts to increase transparency between the international union and its members, but he says there is still a lot of work to do. He would like to see a direct election of the UAW president for more accountability.

“If you ask me, it makes the membership more involved,” Rider said. “That’s how they were able to get away. So many people weren’t paying attention. I think that’s changed. The spotlight has been turned onto the union. I understand we make up the union, not the people at the top.”

One part of the alleged conspiracy stems from a failed business deal in 2010. At the time, Ashton was a regular client at Oxford Rehabilitation Center, a clinic in Philadelphia co-operated by chiropractor Marc Cohen.

Cohen is not identified by name in federal court records. But sources familiar with the investigation confirmed Cohen is the unnamed chiropractor.

In 2010, prosecutors say Ashton convinced Cohen to loan $250,000 to a construction company owned by one of Ashton’s associates, according to federal court records. By 2012, the construction company had stopped repaying the loan. By September 2012, the debt had ballooned to $283,000 and led to a lawsuit, according to court records.

Ashton pitched a plan to repay the construction loan — and help himself. In 2012, the UAW was planning to buy more than 50,000 watches. Ashton contacted Cohen, telling him to create a company that could win the contract and supply the watches, according to the government.

Ashton drafted the deal, helped award it to his chiropractor and demanded a $250,000 kickback in spring 2013, according to court records. Cohen's watch contract described by prosecutors included steep profits. The watches cost less than $2.3 million to produce, but the contract was for $3.97 million.

Cohen, 60, from Cherry Hill, New Jersey, has not been charged with wrongdoing.

"My client is not facing any criminal charges," his lawyer Paul Hetznecker wrote in an email to The News. He would not elaborate or answer whether Cohen cooperated with investigators or forfeited any money from the $4 million watch deal.

Ashton's corruption had devastating impact. The watches were awarded by the jointly operated training facility, the UAW-GM Center for Human Resources.

"Ashton's criminal conduct directly resulted in the closing of the CHR building, the termination of those individuals who were employed or assigned to the CHR, and the lost training opportunities for UAW-represented GM workers," the prosecutor wrote. 

The sentence renewed a demand among workers for more transparency from UAW officers, including reform that would end the use of internal caucuses to select labor leaders in favor of them being directly elected by rank-and-file members.

“These reforms are the only thing that can prevent more corruption,” Scott Houldieson, chairman of the reform group Unite All Workers for Democracy. “Until real checks and balances are put in place, there cannot be accountability. It is the membership  that suffers from all of this corruption.”


CPP Investments grow five per
cent in second quarter with
widespread positive returns

The Canadian Press
November 17, 2020

TORONTO — CPP Investments has a cautious outlook for the months ahead despite strong returns through the July-to-September period, with net assets up $22.3 billion or five per cent from the previous quarter.

The independent investment manager for the Canada Pension Plan said Monday it had $456.7 billion in assets as of Sept. 30, up from $434.4 billion at the end of June. 

Most of the growth came from $21.6 billion in net income from investments. In addition, there was $700 million in net contributions from the Canada Pension Plan.

The Toronto-based fund attributed growth during the second quarter to a continued recovery of public equity markets in July and August, which affected both its publicly traded and private equity holdings. Those gains were partly offset by a retreat of public markets in September amid concerns about further COVID-19 lockdowns.

Chief executive Mark Machin said all the fund manager's investment departments generated positive returns during the quarter but the organization remains cautious given the uncertain economic fallout of COVID-19.

"Our investment professionals continue to pursue opportunities that will bring value to the Fund over the long term,” Machin said Monday in a statement.

On a longer-term basis, after adjusting for inflation, the second quarter of fiscal 2021 had a 10-year annualized net real return of 8.8 per cent and a five-year annualized net real return of 8.0 per cent.

Canada's chief actuary has estimated CPP Investments needs an average real rate of return of 3.95 per cent over 75 years to meet its financial obligations.

Compared with Sept. 30, 2019, the fund's total value increased by $47.2 billion or 10.3 per cent from $409.5 billion in last year's second quarter. 

Publicly traded equities owned by CPP Investments were worth a total of $143.6 billion, representing nearly one-third of the total portfolio. Compared with CPP Investments' second-quarter report last year, that was up about $13 billion or nine per cent.

Private equities, which aren't traded on stock exchanges, were worth $112.2 billion, or about one-quarter of the total portfolio as of Sept. 30. That was up $13.3 billion or nearly 12 per cent year-over year.

Real assets, including real estate, infrastructure, energy and resources, and power and renewable energy, were worth a total of $98.3 billion, up $800 million or eight per cent.

Government bonds were worth $97.4 million (up $6.7 million or nearly seven per cent) from last year's fiscal second quarter.



Many snowbirds flocking south
despite Canadian government's
plea to seniors to stay home

November 14, 2020

Many snowbirds flocking south despite Canadian government's plea to seniors to stay home

In anticipation of the winter travel season, the federal government has issued an online alert to seniors, advising them to stay home during the COVID-19 pandemic. But the message may have little impact on snowbirds who are determined to escape the Canadian winter.

"I don't like winter. I hate it. I hate it with a passion," said Steve MacDonald, 77, of Oakville, Ont. He has already booked a Dec. 3 flight to Florida for himself and his wife, so they can spend the winter at their rented condo in Key Largo.

"Down there, [I'll] be swimming outside and taking in some sun, getting some vitamin D and cheap rum."

He'll be in good company. The Canadian Snowbird Association estimates that around 30 per cent of its more than 110,000 members will head to the United States Sunbelt this winter — despite soaring COVID-19 cases in the country and the Canada-U.S. land border closure to non-essential traffic.

Snowbirds can still fly to the U.S. and ship their cars. But the Canadian government is asking seniors to think twice before leaving the country, because their age makes them more susceptible to falling seriously ill from COVID-19.

Government of Canada

"If you are an older traveller, you may be immunocompromised or have chronic medical conditions, such as obesity, that put you at risk," states the government in its online alert targeting seniors.

"By choosing to stay home in Canada, you can help protect yourself, your family and those at risk … in our communities."

Global Affairs Canada posted the alert on its web page for "older travellers" on Oct. 1 — one day after CBC News published a story about Canadian snowbirds heading south despite the pandemic.

Since the start of the pandemic in March, Global Affairs has advised all Canadians to avoid non-essential travel abroad. It says that the government may have limited capacity to help people who choose to leave Canada and then encounter problems.

Snowbird MacDonald never saw the government's alert for travelling seniors, and when he learned about it from CBC News this week, he wasn't swayed.

He said that he and his wife are healthy and plan to take all necessary precautions while in Florida, including sticking to their gated community.

"We're just gonna keep doing the same thing that we do here, like you don't go out with a bunch of people and party and have people over for dinner," said MacDonald. "I feel as safe going down there as I am here."

He also said that he has the added protection of COVID-19 medical insurance, in case something does go wrong. Insurance providers recently reinstated the coverage after suspending it for several months during the pandemic.

'Bucking the odds'

In September, travel insurance broker Martin Firestone told CBC News that less than 10 per cent of his 1,000 snowbird clients were heading south. But now, he said, close to one third are packing their bags.

"They're bucking the odds. They're basically saying, 'I'm going to go down there, and I'm going to be fine.'"

Firestone said that travelling abroad right now does carry risks, such as hospitals at a U.S. destination becoming overloaded with COVID-19 patients.

He believes the government should make seniors aware of the risks but says that an online post won't have much impact.

"It's on that website that very few seniors, I'm sure, check," said Firestone with Travel Secure in Toronto. "It should have been a campaign that appeared in newsprint and media and magazines."

CBC News asked Global Affairs if it was planning an ad campaign; it didn't respond.

Can't be swayed?

Even snowbirds who learn of the government's advice may still choose to ignore it, convinced that the benefits of going south this winter outweigh the risks.

Although CBC News informed snowbird Sandy Munro of the posted alert for travelling seniors, he's still bent on going to his condo in Naples, Fla., in February. He said he'd go sooner but has family commitments keeping in him in Canada for the next couple of months.

"I can only take so much of winter," said Munro, 69, of Aurora, Ont.

He argues he'll actually be safer in Florida, because he suffers from a lung disorder, which worsens in cold weather.

"As long as I'm in my little gated community — being COVID-aware — then I think my life expectancy would be longer by spending the winter down there," he said.

However, Munro admits that if he did contract COVID-19, he'd probably wind up with a severe case — due to his lung condition.

But that still doesn't deter the snowbird who said he'll take his chances so that he can enjoy a warm and active winter.

"I'm 69. I still can do things like golf, tennis, pickleball," Munro said. "I don't know how long I'm gonna be able to do that for, so I'm gonna grab it."


Ford E-Transit to start around
$46,000, offer 126-mile range

Automotive News
Nov 13, 2020

DETROIT — The 2022 E-Transit represents Ford Motor Co.'s first battery-electric vehicle designed for commercial buyers as the automaker looks to increase its dominance of the van market and fend off new rivals angling for fleet customers.

The E-Transit, revealed Thursday and scheduled to go into production late next year, will start around $46,000 in the U.S., including shipping. The low-roof cargo van variant will get up to 126 miles on a charge, company officials said, although they declined to discuss other range estimates or elaborate on how range could be affected when the van is loaded with cargo.

The E-Transit, built at Ford's Kansas City Assembly Plant in Missouri, will be offered in three configurations, with three roof heights and three body lengths, in an effort to give business owners a variety of options to match specific needs. It also will come with an optional Pro Power Onboard mobile generator debuting on the 2021 F-150 pickup.

Ford said the electric motor will produce a targeted 266 hp and 317 pound-feet of torque across all configurations. It's targeting a maximum payload of 3,800 pounds, or up to 4,290 pounds on cutaway versions.

The automaker detailed multiple charging options, including software to coordinate payment when a vehicle uses public or home chargers.

In addition to the van, Ford on Thursday unveiled a host of telematics and software features meant to help fleet owners track and analyze vehicle data to reduce operation costs. It's part of a renewed focus on commercial vehicles under CEO Jim Farley.

"More construction, emergency vehicles and utility services choose Ford commercial trucks and vans over any other manufacturer — and we're committed to helping customers make the transition to zero-emission technology," Hau Thai-Tang, Ford chief product platform operations officer, said in a statement. "E-Transit is a data-rich, connected platform that will help our fleet customers unlock greater productivity."

Ford owns a dominant 45 percent share of the U.S. commercial vehicle space with its gasoline-powered vans and pickups, according to company-provided data, and it has a network of 645 commercial vehicle centers in the U.S. Through October, sales of the gas-powered Transit van, freshened last year, were down nearly 21 percent to 106,073.


GM's decision to build trucks in
Ontario concerns UAW workers

Breana Noble
Kalea Hall

The Detroit News
Nov 11, 2020

In a rare reversal, General Motors Co.'s plans to return truck production to Canada under a three-year tentative agreement reached with labor union Unifor is causing a stir among United Auto Workers members at the Detroit automaker's truck plants.

The $1.1 billion investment mostly into Oshawa Assembly in Ontario is part of the $3.6 billion total commitments Unifor obtained from Detroit's three automakers during contract talks. The plant's transition to a stamping and sub-assembly operation in December 2019 was a devastating blow to the Canadian auto industry.

Now, with the two-month novel coronavirus pandemic shut down striking a swift blow to GM's inventory, it plans to shell out $1 billion for a new Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra assembly line and updated paint and body shops to start manufacturing in January 2022.

"The Canadian auto industry has been shrinking," said Kristin Dziczek, vice president of industry, labor and economics for the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor. "And they’ve not been getting their proportional share of investment even over the last decade or so. This is a firm reversal. Bringing a plant back is a reversal and getting this much investment is a reversal of those trends."

That change in plans has made some American auto workers nervous: "It's not a concern today or tomorrow, but in the next year and a half," said Rich LeTourneau, UAW Local 2209 plant chairman in Fort Wayne, Indiana. "It’s when the market is not peaking anymore. ... I know how this works when you have too many plants budgeted the same. There has to be a volume reduction somewhere. Where does that hit?"

With Fort Wayne plant management, the local submitted in recent weeks a proposal to the automaker for what LeTourneau calls an "expensive Band-Aid" of $15 million into the paint shop to help increase production from 64½ trucks per hour to closer to 70. That still, however, would remain below the 74 trucks per hour it produced before 2015 when GM announced a $1.2 billion investment into the plant.

"We couldn’t keep up with supply and demand based on us losing 14 trucks per hour," LeTourneau said. "And they don't want to shut down the plant (to upgrade it)."

Eric Welter, UAW Local 598 plant chairman for Flint Truck, shared a similar sentiment: "People work very hard, a lot of weekends to make all of this product. To have it sourced somewhere else, we don’t know what that means for the future. It's not doom and gloom, there's solid production, but it's a little disappointing they didn’t give us a chance at increasing our line speed vs. retooling another plant."

GM struck a deal with Unifor around 3 a.m. Thursday after it extended its contract past the 11:59 p.m. Wednesday deadline, averting a strike. The agreement is similar to those ratified with Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and covers 1,700 employees at GM Canada’s St. Catharines Propulsion Plant, Oshawa Stamped Products and Service Operations and a parts distribution center in Ontario. Ratification votes begin Sunday.

"The pandemic threw a curve into everything," Unifor President Jerry Dias said during a news conference. "Showrooms are sitting at less than 50% of what they would like to be. The pandemic has thrown a curve into the auto industry, so they are looking for opportunities to maximize the capacity."

GM spokesman Dan Flores said all of the company's production decisions are based on market demand: "We're behind the eightball when it comes to inventory, and we're looking at all opportunities to maximize full-size production.

"We are building everything we sell, and we need more. Certainly, our U.S. full-size Fort Wayne, Flint and our all-new SUVs we are building in (Arlington, Texas,) are very important plants that are basically running at maximum capacity right now. We see that demand continuing into the future."

GM's investment in Oshawa would create up to 2,500 jobs. Hiring would begin in August 2021 with heavy-duty pickups rolling off the line the following January. A second shift is expected to start in March 2022 followed by the launch of light-duty trucks that May. GM could introduce a third shift by July 2022.

Oshawa previously had built light-duty GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado double cab trucks as a part of a program with Fort Wayne where panels from the body shop there were stamped and then sent to Oshawa for paint and full assembly. The move to a stamping operation in Oshawa saved just 300 of 2,600 jobs. There are 175 auto workers still on layoff who weren't severed, Dias said.

In September, GMC said inventory levels were tight with less than 30 days supply for both light-duty and heavy-duty trucks. A healthy supply of trucks is typically 90 days. U.S. sales in the third quarter of the Chevrolet Silverado heavy-duty were up 9% compared to a year ago, while they rose 11% for the GMC Sierra heavy-duty. Overall, the Sierra had its best third quarter ever with more than 67,800 sold. Days-to-turn for GM's full-size trucks was the fastest of its rivals, according to auto information website Edmunds.com Inc., that the lack of inventory was hurting its sales.

"We will move very quickly," GM CEO Mary Barra said Thursday on an earnings call. "We expect construction to begin on the new body shop and flexible assembly module at Oshawa immediately upon ratification. When the plant comes back online in early 2022, we will see a significant increase in our full-size pickup production capacity."

The automaker will invest almost $84 million into St. Catharines to build transmissions for those trucks as well as more Chevrolet Equinox SUVs. Unifor negotiated for a new propulsion program for the Corvette sports car, too.

"There was a genuine concern and a legitimate concern that up to half of our members may be laid off during the life this agreement," Dias said. "There is no question what we've negotiated has stabilized the plant."

GM also is likely to invest around $383,000 to keep up its parts distribution center in Woodstock, where it employs 74 Unifor members, Dias said.

In September, Canadian employees at Ford ratified a three-year contract with 81% support. The deal included $1.5 billion in investment to build electric vehicles in Canada, two 2.5% wage increases, ratification bonuses, premiums for afternoon and midnight shifts and a reduced eight-year grow-in period to reach top wages, down from 11 years. Unifor members working for Fiat Chrysler in October ratified by 78% a similar agreement that included $1.2 billion in investment.

Like with Ford and FCA, the federal and provincial governments likely will provide incentives to support the investments, Dias said. The federal government told Ford it would provide up to $376 million to bring electric vehicles to its Oakville assembly plant near Toronto.

"We have demonstrated that we are prepared to support the future of our auto sector," John Power, representative for Navdeep Bains, Canada's minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, said in a statement, noting support for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement and the build-out of an electric-vehicle supply chain.

Dias added: "The auto industry in Canada is certainly on its way up. The demise of the auto industry is absolutely incorrect. We’re a sunrise industry, not a set sunset industry."


Unifor members approve GM deal,
trucks to be built in Canada again

Kalea Hall
The Detroit News
Nov 10, 2020

Detroit — General Motors Co.'s Oshawa plant in Ontario will build trucks again after Canadian auto workers represented by Unifor ratified an agreement with the automaker, the union and GM said Monday.

Eighty-five percent of the 1,600 Unifor members at GM's St. Catharines, Oshawa and Woodstock plants voted in favor of a new three-year collective agreement "that includes significant investments, job security and economic gains," the union said.

“This contract solidifies and boldly builds on GM’s Canadian footprint, with a $1.3 billion dollar investment that brings 1,700 jobs to Oshawa plus more than $109 million to in-source new transmission work for the Corvette and support continued V-8 engine production in St. Catharines,” Unifor National President Jerry Dias said in a statement. “Jobs at all three Canadian sites are secure for the life of this agreement, including at the Woodstock Parts Distribution Centre, which will also see upgrades."

Unifor's largest feat going into negotiations was to get more investments at its GM plants after GM stopped manufacturing at its Oshawa plant last year.

Oshawa will go back online in 2022 to produce both light- and heavy-duty trucks, and St. Catharines will produce engines for those pickups. GM turned Oshawa's production back on after seeing unexpected high demand for its trucks during the pandemic, but the investment at Oshawa didn't sit well with United Auto Workers leaders at U.S. truck plants.

"We are pleased our 1,600 Unifor represented employees ratified a new collective agreement for our St. Catharines Propulsion Plant, Oshawa OEM Stamped Products and Service Operations and the Woodstock Parts Distribution Centre," GM Canada President and Managing Director, Scott Bell said in a statement. "This agreement provides new product investment for our highest volume products which are the number one segment in Canada. This investment will create jobs and further the growth of our Canadian operations."

The new three-year agreement followed pattern bargaining set first with Ford Motor Co. followed by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and then GM. The deal includes 5%  increases to hourly rates, a $7,250 productivity and quality bonus, a total of $4,000 in inflation protection bonuses, improved benefits, shift premiums and restoration of the 20%  wage differential for skilled trades, the union said.

Under the agreement, Unifor and GM will create an anti-racism action plan, establish a new Racial Justice Advocate in the workplace and GM plans to provide up to 10 paid days of domestic violence leave.


GM Bargaining Update #14


Unifor members,

National President Jerry Dias, alongside the Unifor-GM Master Bargaining Committee, publicly announced that the Union reached a tentative settlement with General Motors. The agreement was struck early in the morning, following a late-hour strike deadline extension as noted in a Bargaining Update posted to this website last night.

This was, by all accounts, a difficult round of negotiations for the Union. Despite its historic outcome, the path to an agreement with General Motors was a challenging one.

We entered GM talks with twin goals. Secure product for the St. Catharines powertrain facility to ensure long-term stability, and make good on a promise to restart vehicle production at Oshawa. All this while maintaining a strong economic pattern that delivers significant gains to our members. We knew these to be ambitious goals, but still believed them achievable despite industry analysts, commentators and officials suggesting it was an impossible task.

It is always hard to predict, in advance, how negotiations will end. Anyone who has been to the bargaining table will know this. There is rarely a straight line between what we want and what we can bargain. That is why it is critical for negotiators to focus on the big picture, at all times. The measuring stick for success is whether, through bargaining, we achieved our priorities and advanced our interests in a meaningful way.

In 2020 GM negotiations, the Master Committee believes we have done that.

At ratification votes this Sunday November 8, members will receive a comprehensive presentation of the specific changes to both Master and Local agreements, including on wages, benefits and other provisions. Suffice it to say, this agreement meets the strong pattern settlement terms secured at both Ford and FCA.

As well, members will receive further details on the investment and product commitments released in brief earlier today.

The Union understands that these investment and product commitments for St. Catharines powertrain do not resolve questions regarding the future of the plant.  Nevertheless, the Company signaled to the Union that these investments are a major vote of confidence in a plant that is unrivalled in terms of product quality.

Upgrades and higher volumes scheduled for lucrative V8 small block work is a very good thing, and there is no end in sight for production. The newly committed Corvette transmission work, commitments to current products for at least the life of the agreement and sole-source language for all engines used in light-duty pick-up trucks in Oshawa are all positive developments that help build stability.

As for Oshawa, it is hard to imagine a more fitting end to these talks. This is a facility facing permanent closure less than two years ago, kept open by the will and determination of our Union. With the announcement that vehicle assembly will return in 2022, the Oshawa Assembly Complex has a new lease on life. When full production resumes, it will be the only GM facility in North America to produce both light duty and heavy duty trucks. A remarkable feat. Even greater, is that all gas engines on the light duty will be sourced straight from St. Catharines, as noted above.

Did the Master Bargaining Committee want to conclude talks boasting two massive investments, for both St. Catharines and Oshawa? The answer is yes, unequivocally.

Yet, despite these modest investments at St. Catharines, did we manage to bolster commitments enough to sustain work, create stability and position GM’s best powertrain facility for the future? The Union believes it has done that, and looks forward to discussing this in more detail over the weekend.

Specific details on these investments may seem sparse at this time, but members will have the full ability to ask any – and as many – questions they wish during the weekend ratification meeting.


Unifor and General Motors
reach tentative labour deal
after extending negotiations

The Canadian Press
Nov 5, 2020

TORONTO — The union representing Canadian workers at General Motors says it has reached a tentative agreement after extending negotiations with the automaker.

Unifor had set a deadline of 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday to reach a new, three-year labour deal and encouraged members to be prepared to strike if needed.

But the union said just before the deadline that its master bargaining committee was ready to negotiate all night to avoid a work stoppage.

The announcement of the deal, which still needs to be approved by GM's union members, came about four and a half hours after Unifor said it would extend the deadline for the labour talks.

The vote is scheduled to take place Sunday.

Unifor said the deal is being unanimously recommended for 1,700 members working at GM plants in the southern Ontario cities of St. Catharines, Oshawa and Woodstock.

The Detroit automaker did not immediately provide a statement on the agreement.

Jerry Dias, Unifor's national president, is expected to give more information at a news conference at 10 a.m. ET.

The union said on Wednesday afternoon that executives from GM came to Canada this week for face-to-face discussions as bargaining heated up.

Ahead of the deadline, the union said the company had not offered concrete commitments on future product plans, and was falling short of earlier agreements struck by Ford Motor and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

Those deals, which were announced and voted on last month, will phase in about 2,000 new jobs over the next few years, helping the company bounce back from staffing cuts over recent months.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has said $14.4 million will be invested in its Toronto plant, $50 million will be invested in its Brampton, Ont., plant, and $1.35 billion to $1.5 billion will be invested in reinventing its Windsor, Ont., plant to produce at least one electric vehicle.


Ford to debut hands-free driving
on new F-150, Mach-E

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
Nov 4, 2020

Ford Motor Co.'s new, hands-free driving technology will soon come standard on certain new F-150 and Mach-E models, the automaker said.

The Blue Oval earlier this year announced the addition of Active Drive Assist, an advancement of its driver-assistance technologies that allows for hands-free driving on more than 100,000 miles of divided highways in the U.S. and Canada.

John Gilchrist, Mustang Mach-E engineer, demonstrates Active Drive Assist, a new driver-assist feature that allows for hands-free driving on more than 100,000 miles of divided highways in all 50 states and Canada.

The automaker said Friday that the new technology will debut in the redesigned 2021 F-150 and the all-new electric Mustang Mach-E, both of which are in production and slated for release later this year.

Ford expects to launch Active Drive Assist in the third quarter of 2021; customers who purchase certain trim levels of the new F-150 or Mach-E before the new technology is ready will have the option to buy a package that will allow the vehicles to update once it's ready.

The technology is comparable to Cadillac Super Cruise, a hands-free driving assistance feature that was first introduced in the now-defunct Cadillac CT6 sedan and is set to be available in 22 vehicles, including on some GMC and Chevy vehicles, by 2025. The program recently topped Consumer Reports' list of driver-assistance systems.

Ford's Active Drive Assist allows drivers to operate their vehicles hands-free on prequalified highways, while they are monitored by a driver-facing camera that ensures they are keeping their eyes on the road. The camera will track the driver's eye gaze and head position when they are using either "hands-free mode" or the hands-on "lane centering mode."

Visual cues will alert the driver to return their eyes to the road or put their hands back on the wheel.

The new offering builds on Ford's existing Co-Pilot360 technology, which includes driver-assistance features such as adaptive cruise-control, parking assistance and a lane-keeping system, among others.

"As breakthroughs in new technology allow us to help reduce the stress of long highway drives, it's important to make sure these capabilities can be enjoyed by the largest spread of people possible," Hau Thai-Tang, Ford's chief product platform and operations officer, said in a statement.

Active Drive Assist will come standard on certain F-150 and Mach-E models. Customers will have the option to add the program onto other trim levels of the vehicles.

On F-150, the feature will be available for $1,595 as part of the Co-Pilot360 Active 2.0 package. That package is standard on F-150 Limited and is available as an option on the F-150 Lariat, King Ranch and Platinum models.

On Mach-E, Active Drive Assist will be standard on Premium, First Edition and CA Route 1 models. It will also be available on the Select trim level for $3,200 as part of a "comfort and technology" package.

Customers who purchase the F-150 or Mach-E before Active Drive Assist is available can opt to add a Co-Pilot360 package that will enable the software to be downloaded via a wireless update next year.

Early 2021 F-150 customers, for example, can purchase the prep package for $895, which includes a $100 discount. Once the new technology is ready for release, customers can purchase the software for $600. The feature is available for a three-year service period, after which customers must pay to re-up it.

In the second half of 2021, new F-150 and Mach-E buyers can purchase the hardware and software together. No wireless updates will be needed to activate Active Drive Assist at that point.

Ford says it expects to sell more than 100,000 F-150 and Mach-E models equipped with Active Drive Assist hardware in the new vehicles' first year. It expects 80% of Mustang Mach-E vehicles will be equipped with hands-free technology.


Ford to reveal all-new electric
Transit van Nov. 12

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
November 3, 2020

Ford Motor Co., marking another step forward in its goal of electrifying its most iconic nameplates, will reveal on Nov. 12 the all-new E-Transit, the fully battery-electric version of the best-selling Transit cargo van.

The Blue Oval, on the heels of a third-quarter earnings report that beat Wall Street expectations, on Thursday announced the name, reveal date and teasers for the new Transit. The new EV offering — which is scheduled to be released for model year 2022 — is a cornerstone of CEO Jim Farley's vision of delivering technologically advanced trucks and vans that promise reduced maintenance time, lower overall costs, and enhanced, data-driven services to business customers.

"We're developing all-new electric versions of the F-150 and the Transit, the two most important, highest volume commercial vehicles in our industry," Farley told Wall Street analysts Wednesday. "These leading vehicles really drive the commercial vehicle business at Ford, and we're electrifying them."

The E-Transit, as previously announced, will feature a variety of chassis options, including a cargo van, cutaway and chassis cab. It will be available in three roof heights and three body lengths.

The reveal of the electric Transit comes as auto industry experts and insiders report a surge in pandemic-driven deliveries. Ford, citing U.S. Department of Commerce data, noted that e-commerce sales grew 44% in the second quarter.

The Dearborn automaker, in a recent survey in partnership with Google of 1,000 U.S. respondents and 1,000 respondents in the United Kingdom and Germany, found that consumers are increasingly concerned about their environmental footprint.

More than 60% of U.S. respondents and 68% of British respondents reported caring about the environmental impact of having goods delivered to their home, according to the survey results. And in all three countries, more than half of respondents said they would choose a more green delivery service over a gas-powered one if prices and arrival times were the same. Nearly half of American and British respondents said they would even wait longer for a delivery from a zero-emission vehicle.

In making Thursday's Transit announcement, Ford noted its continued support of the Paris Agreement, which lays out a global framework for combating climate change, and for the state of California's policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  

Ford has committed to spending more than $11 billion on electric vehicle development by 2022. Its electrification strategy ties to its strategy in recent years of leveraging iconic nameplates. A hybrid F-150 is due out later this year, for example, and a fully battery-electric version of the best-selling truck is scheduled for release in 2022. Also due out this year is the all-electric Mustang Mach-E.

The automaker in March announced it would electrify the Transit, which, with more than 150,000 units sold, was America's best-selling van last year. It is a linchpin in Ford's robust, highly profitable global commercial vehicle business. And it's part of a growing fleet business that Ford expects will become even stronger due to e-commerce and "last mile" delivery demand.

"Even before COVID, that transition to e-commerce was beginning," Mark Kaufman, Ford's global director of electrification, told The Detroit News. "It's really just further accelerated that trend that was already happening."

Kaufman noted that cost is a top priority for fleet operators and other commercial customers: "We believe with Ford having the E-Transit launch, we're building on a reputation of having reliability and trust with our fleet operators, but at the same time you're getting an improved cost of ownership model over the life of the vehicle."

In making the announcement in March, Farley, then Ford's chief operating officer, called commercial vehicles a "critical component to our big bet on electrification."

"As leaders in this space, we are accelerating our plans to create solutions that help businesses run better, starting with our all-electric Transit and F-150," he said. "This Ford Transit isn’t just about creating an electric drivetrain, it’s about designing and developing a digital product that propels fleets forward.”

Experts say that electric vehicles, which currently make up between just 1% and 2% of new-vehicle sales in the U.S., are reaching a tipping point at which they will soon reach price parity with conventional vehicles, which is likely to bring about an acceleration in adoption of EVs. Ford expects that by mid-decade, EVs will make up 8% of the market.




Bargaining Update #9


Unifor members,

On October 19, members at Fiat Chrysler concluded their ratification process, voting 78 per cent in favour of a new three-year collective agreement. The economic terms of the new deal follow the pattern established earlier, in negotiations at Ford Motor Company. Like at Ford, the FCA deal includes strong investment commitments of up to $1.58 billion that not only secure work at Unifor facilities in Brampton and Etobicoke, but also lands future work with new electric vehicle investments at Windsor.

The FCA deal marks the second major investment in electric vehicle assembly for Canada in less than one month – a further boost of confidence in Canada as a site for future vehicle production.

FCA Bargaining Brochure Oct 2020

GM Talks Underway

With a short break following FCA ratification, members of the Unifor-GM bargaining committees arrived at the Sheraton Centre Hotel, to continue negotiations with General Motors. Talks resumed on Thursday, October 22 and a deadline has been set for Wednesday, November 4 at 11:59 p.m.

Over the past week, discussions have taken place at various GM subcommittees. Local and sub committee members are hard at work discussing important issues relevant to GM workers at St. Catharines, Oshawa and Woodstock. The union is also working diligently to ensure GM commits to follow the pattern agreement and commits to product programs and investment in our facilities. Talks are progressing, although there is much work to do prior to the deadline.

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


Ford delays launch of plug-in Escape
SUV after fires in European model

Keith Naughton
Oct 27, 2020

Ford Motor Co. is delaying the launch of its plug-in hybrid Escape sport-utility vehicle to 2021 after thousands of similar SUVs in Europe were recalled for problems involving fires while recharging.

The Escape plug-in hybrid originally was scheduled to go into production this past spring but Ford changed it to summer after the coronavirus pandemic shut factories for two months. Now Ford is pushing it into 2021 as it reviews issues with the European-market Kuga model, which shares parts with the Escape plug-in – including the battery and engine.

“We’re moving production to next year while we investigate what happened to the Kuga in Europe,” said Mike Levine, a company spokesman. “None have been sold in the U.S.”

The 2020 Ford Escape Plug-in Hybrid is based on the same chassis as the standard, $26k Escape.

Ford’s Louisville, Kentucky, plant began building a redesigned version late last year. The factory has been turning out conventional gasoline-powered models as well as hybrids that don’t plug in.

The delay in the plug-in Escape’s debut comes amid soft U.S. demand for the small SUV. U.S. sales plunged almost 23% in the third quarter and are down 32% this year.

“We have some availability problems” with low inventory on certain models, Mark LaNeve, Ford’s U.S. marketing chief, said in an interview. “We’re managing those vehicles for long-term health from a residual-value standpoint and not highly discounting them compared to the previous generation.”

Ford of Europe is working to fix a problem with its Kuga plug-in related to venting heat from the batteries, Jay Ward, another company spokesman, said Tuesday. There have been seven vehicle fires in Europe, triggering the recall of 20,500 Kuga models sold there, spotlighting an issue that could take months to resolve, Ward said.

Plug-in hybrids are a key part of Ford’s strategy to spend $11.5 billion to electrify its lineup as it transitions to battery-powered vehicles. The automaker is scheduled begin building its electric Mustang Mach-E in Mexico later this year.

Ford is allowing European customers to continue driving their plug-in Kugas but has instructed them not to plug their cars into a charger, Ward said. The vehicles can operate in conventional hybrid mode without charging. The company extended vehicle warranties and issued 500-euro gasoline cards to reimburse customers for a loss in fuel economy, Ward said.

The recall could cause Ford to fall short of European emission regulations limiting carbon-dioxide output from its vehicles, Matthias Schmidt, an automotive analyst and publisher of the European Electric Car Report, wrote in a tweet Tuesday.

“We are committed to meeting our C02 obligations this year and in future years, as we always have,” Ward said.


Ford chooses hybrid Escape for
self-driving service, begins testing

Breana Noble
The Detroit News
Oct 26, 2020

Ford Motor Co. on Tuesday said its Escape Hybrid crossover will serve as the architecture and platform to launch its autonomous vehicle service in the coming years.

The Dearborn automaker and its self-driving partner, Pittsburgh-based Argo AI, this month will begin testing the fourth-generation technology on the vehicles in several cities, including Detroit. The systems are "launch-intent," which means they have all of the components the company believes is needed to support commercial use.

"What this means is that with a well-defined architecture and platform in the Escape Hybrid, our team can continuously test and refine performance over the coming years to better prepare us for launch," John Davis, chief engineer for Ford Autonomous Vehicles LLC, said in a statement. "Everything we learn while using them can be channeled directly into our self-driving service as soon as it starts serving customers."

Ford earlier this year said it was delaying the launch of its commercial self-driving services to 2022 from next year because of the novel coronavirus pandemic's impact on changing customer behaviors. Although people may be more cautious when it comes to ride-sharing and ride-hailing, demand for delivery of food and other products has increased, which Ford has said could affect how it launches its service. The automaker expects to invest more than $4 billion through 2023 on its self-driving business.

Robotaxis have been hitting U.S. roads. Earlier this month, Google-parent Alphabet Inc.'s self-driving company, Waymo LLC, began expanding its Waymo One driverless service in Phoenix to the general public after testing the technology with a select group since late 2018.

Ford and Argo's fourth-generation autonomous vehicles feature a new long-range light detection and ranging 128-beam system that provides a 360-degree field of view. Near-field cameras and short-range LiDAR also are added on the sides and back of the vehicle to help avoid blind spots and identify cyclists in bike lanes. Ford also added more battery cells to the vehicle to power the self-driving system and sensors, which also included an updated cleaning system.

The testing won't be the first time Ford has demonstrated self-driving technology on the Escape. In September, it wrapped up a month-long automated valet parking demonstration in the garage of Bedrock LLC's The Assembly mixed-use development in Corktown. The exhibition utilized Bosch infrastructure.

Ford and Argo will test their five-seater Escapes in Austin, Detroit, Miami, Palo Alto, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., alongside Fusion Hybrid sedans that have been on the roads.

David added: "We’re confident that we’re on the path to launching a safe, reliable and affordable service."



Ford Bronco customers can now
choose color, get pricing

Breana Noble
The Detroit News
Oct 25, 2020

Ford Motor Co.'s Bronco customers now can choose the color and trim of their new off-road SUV.

The build-and-price configurator launched Friday for the 190,000 people who have reserved the Bronco with a $100 deposit. The revived nameplate with a cult-like following seeks to take on the Jeep Wrangler that currently dominates the segment.

The response "is probably even beyond what Ford would have hoped under the best circumstances," said Karl Brauer, executive analyst at automotive search iSeeCars.com. "You've got a classic nameplate coming back and, in my opinion, a very good execution of the model with the ability to hold true to its original vibe and mantra."

The vehicle is available with two or four doors with the base model starting at $28,500, according to the online configurator. The Bronco is being built in Wayne's Michigan Assembly and will hit dealers next spring.

"The pandemic situation has further helped with there being even more interest in trucks and SUVs, that go-anywhere off-road vehicle is only more appealing," Brauer said. "There's an increased sense of vehicles as recreational. Bronco is the epitome of that."

So is the GMC Hummer, which debuted on Tuesday as an all-electric model featuring performance and off-road capabilities. With a $112,595 initial price tag, however, it is unlikely to do the same volume as the Bronco.

"It's kind of a halo, high-profile vehicle with lots of capability and technology that then can be filtered through the product line over time," Brauer said. "Bronco is a bill-paying model. The level of profit will help Ford just as a halo for brand positioning, but from a purely financial standpoint, too."

Exterior options for the Bronco include a mix of earthy grays, blue and blacks with names like the smoky teal Area 51 or Cactus Gray. Some reds and oranges trace their heritage to the hues of the first-generation Bronco that was produced 1966-77.

The Bronco has five interior themes from which to choose. Designers found inspiration from items collected while offroading alongside enthusiasts such as an old baseball mitt, backpacking gear and treads of a running shoe.

“There’s a real honesty to these items that’s subtle and still rugged like a Bronco interior should be,” Missy Coolsaet, Bronco color and materials designer, said in a statement. “Just like an old baseball glove, they’re meant to be used rough — getting better with age and emulating the customer’s adventure prowess as the vehicle ages.”

The Bronco offers six trims: Base, Big Bend, Black Diamond, Outer Banks, Wildtrak and Badlands. Shoppers can opt for more luxury with Outer Banks, or a more macho appearance with Badlands. If more options are required, some 200 factory-backed accessories are available. A Sasquatch performance package is available on all models and includes big 35-inch tires, twin-locking differentials and Bilstein shocks.

Configurations for the smaller Bronco Sport based on the Escape also are available. It has four trims and starts at $26,660. The Sport is built in Hermosillo, Mexico, and is expected to arrive in dealers soon this fall.

Bill Brown Ford in Livonia has received roughly 400 reservations for the Bronco. Last week, it had one on site for buyers to view.

"We had a big crowd around it," said Matt Garchow, general sales manager for the dealership. "It drew a lot of excitement."



Ford recalls Transit Connect
over increased fire risk;
Escape also recalled

Breana Noble
The Detroit News
Oct 22, 2020

Ford Motor Co. on Monday issued safety recalls for the Ford Transit Connect van over a software issue that could increase the risk of a fire and the Escape crossover over the tire pressure monitoring system.

The recall of the Transit Connect affects 2,903 2019-20 model years in the United States with the 2.5-liter engine. The software calibration for the engine failsafe cooling strategy contains temperature thresholds too high; a delay in its activation under severe cases could result in engine damage and increase the risk for a fire, though Ford is not aware of any reports of any accident, injury or fire related to the problem.

Affected vehicles were built at Valencia Assembly in Spain from Aug. 2, 2018, to July 30. Dealers will update the powertrain control module.

The recall comes after Ford said last week it was delaying the launch of the plug-in hybrid Escape until 2021 in North America after seven vehicles of the European version caught fire while recharging. Ford has recalled 20,500 of the Kuga SUVs and has informed customers to rely on the conventional hybrid features instead of recharging them.

As for the 2020 Escape, the tire pressure monitoring system may fail to warn a driver of low air pressure in the rear tires, which could increase the risk of a crash in 689 of the vehicles in the United States. Ford is unaware of any reported accidents or injuries related to the problem. Affected vehicles were built in Louisville, Kentucky, from June 26 to Aug. 14. Dealers will replace the body control module.


Ford wage, benefits fuel union
buzz at Honda, Toyota,
says Unifor leader

Phoebe Wall Howard
Detroit Free Press
Oct 21, 2020

Jerry Dias has his eye on Honda and Toyota now.

The president of Unifor, the union representing Detroit Three autoworkers in Canada, said contract talks with Ford Motor Co. went so well that nonunion workers have begun making inquiries, wondering if the time has come to join.

The Ford deal announced Sept. 28 included a $1.5 billion (U.S.) investment to bring battery-electric vehicle production to Oakville Assembly near Toronto and a new engine derivative to Windsor. The agreement was a massive negotiation among government, company and union officials. And the wages set a pattern for the other automaker contracts.

"It showed how things should work, with the federal government and Ford Motor Co. and the union all in the room — how you create jobs," Dias told the Free Press.

An attempt by the Free Press to contact Toyota workers on Saturday was unsuccessful. ​Unifor said, based on experience, workers involved in organizing do not speak to the media for fear of reprisals at work.

Unifor, which represents 315,000 members mostly in telecommunications and health care, publicly prides itself on developing a collaborative relationship among parties that have sparred in the past. Now they're working together to build on the business plan that creates job security for factory workers and a long-term automotive strategy for Canada."In Canada, government is saying to the automakers, 'Look, we're in. We understand where the future is heading and we're going to play a role,' " Dias said.

China and Europe are highly competitive in the area of battery-electric vehicles, widely considered to be the future of the industry, Dias noted. And Canada made clear it's planning to fight for market share.

"Auto companies have been disinvesting in Canada for quite a while during a time of incredible growth over the last decade. Our footprint has shrunk," Dias said. 

Now fortunes have reversed.

"With the deal we signed with Ford, our organizing has increased significantly at Honda and Toyota," Dias said. "The economics are significant. We get in signing bonuses, production bonuses, wage increases, benefit changes, and we're working with the government. ... Honda and Toyota workers are seeing we're not just in the middle of it, but we've led it."

Unifor has passed out leaflets and flyers to Toyota workers, sharing details of the Ford deal, in addition to e-blasting Toyota workers whose addresses have been provided to Unifor by union organizers inside Toyota. Unifor declined to provide details on the Honda campaign.

Detroit Three model

Until now, he said, the nonunion automakers have matched union wages to depress interest in collective bargaining. Efforts to organize foreign automakers in the U.S. have failed with the Detroit-based UAW, too.

But the paradigm has shifted, even during a pandemic, Dias said. 

"People were saying, 'Why would they even proceed into contract negotiations during a pandemic?' That was a question that was being asked," he said. "People were shocked at the outcome."

At Honda and Toyota, which employ approximately 4,200 and 8,500 workers, respectively, in Canada, certain conditions make them open to unionization, Dias said. He pointed to the use of long-term temporary workers, for example.

"There's no really clear path to full-time status if you're working full-time hours," he said. "Then there are the senior people who have chosen to stay nonunion. They're saying now, in essence, 'We've proven our loyalty to you, now it's time for you to reciprocate.' "

Neither Honda nor Toyota seem concerned about union activity.

"Apart from a handful of Unifor members handing out pamphlets outside our plants for a few hours last week, we've seen no increase in Unifor activity as it relates to our team members," Michael Bouliane, manager of corporate communications for Toyota in Canada, told the Free Press last Tuesday.

Honda has 'rejected' union

While Honda of Canada respects worker decisions, a union just isn't needed, said spokeswoman Alana Taylor.

Honda has "demonstrated an outstanding track record of success based on fundamental principles of teamwork, mutual respect and open communication," Taylor said. "This team-oriented approach has produced world-class products of the highest quality for our customers and unprecedented job security for our associates and their families."

The issue of union representation is "ultimately" one for workers to decide, she said, and for three decades they "have consistently rejected union outreach efforts. We agree with our associates that there is no need for outside involvement to help us continue the approach that has proved successful."  

But Dias challenges the premise that a union can't be helpful when it just showed the world that it played a key role in developing a public-private partnership. And he feels Unifor could help the other companies and their workers, too.

Toyota runs plants in Cambridge, Ontario, and Woodstock, Ontario, that build the Toyota RAV4, RAV4 Hybrid, Lexus RX and Lexus RX Hybrid. In 2022, Toyota will begin building the Lexus NX and Lexus NX Hybrid in Canada.

Honda builds the CR-V and Civic in Alliston, Ontario. Plus there's a plant that builds 2.0L engines for the Honda Civic.

Failed efforts to organize Toyota

Unifor organizers last tried to organize Toyota in 2015.

"There's no question that the calls coming in from Honda and Toyota (workers) have really stepped up. In recent weeks, they've heated up," Dias said Friday. "Workers are saying to their employer, 'Are you going to match the (contract) pattern?' They're waiting to see if they get the same signing bonus, wages. Their argument is, 'Why join a union if we'll pay you the same benefits they do.' We'll see if it happens this time."

In fairness to Honda and Toyota, Dias said, Unifor hasn't been successful after many years and many attempts. But times are changing, he said.

"They've always kind of played on fears, that if you joined a union, somehow you won't get the investment and it'll be a challenge for job security. I don't think people are buying that anymore," Dias said. "I think there's a different mindset. I don't think there's that fear anymore. If Chrysler, Ford and GM can afford the increase, why not Honda and Toyota?"

Unifor ratified with Ford in pattern collective bargaining these three-year contract elements: 

  • A 5% wage increase over the life of the agreement, along with a 4% lump sum.
  • A productivity and quality bonus of $5,418 (U.S).
  • Inflation protection bonuses and major changes to the New Hire Program, including an eight-year wage grid, and reinstatement of afternoon and midnight shift premiums.
  • A 20% wage differential (reinstated) for skilled trades workers.
  • Paid domestic violence leave.
  • Racial justice advocacy.

At Toyota and Honda, a key challenge is organizing a huge pool of temporary workers, Dias said. "But how many years do you want to be a temporary worker?"

Meanwhile, Unifor represents about 20,000 workers at the Detroit Three. Ford ratified its contract on Sept. 28. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles voted to approve its proposed contract on Thursday with ratification pending. General Motors will begin negotiations with the union next.

Kelli Felker, Ford global manufacturing and labor communications manager, told the Free Press on Friday: "We strongly believe in ongoing collaboration with our union and government partners, not just during negotiations. Having open, honest and sometimes difficult conversations allows us to create solutions that work for everyone involved."

Unions do help set the market wage for industrial production, which does affect union organizing, said Kristin Dziczek, vice president of industry, labor and economics at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor. “But there are a whole host of reasons that employees look to organize and wage is just one of them.”

Job security

If employees sense a lack of workplace fairness related to job safety or promotion or ability to secure full-time status after a long time, those are issues that often inspire union organization. It is also unions that negotiate industrial job relocation and relocation costs when plants close.

“There are a lot of industrial jobs that, when the plant is gone, you’re gone,” Dziczek said. “As opposed to, ‘Can we pay you $30,000 to get you and your family to move to Fort Wayne, Indiana?’ Job security is probably bigger than what the wage is.”



FCA workers approve Unifor
deal to retool Windsor plant
for making electric vehicles

The Canadian Press
OCTOBER 20, 2020

WINDSOR, Ont. — Unionized workers at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Canada have voted to approve a new three-year contract, Unifor said Monday.

About 78 per cent of votes were in favour of the deal, according to the union.

 The deal, which was announced last week and voted on over the weekend, will add about 2,000 new jobs by 2024, helping the company bounce back from staffing cuts over recent months.

At a news conference last week, Unifor national president Jerry Dias said a third shift was cut this summer, eliminating 1,500 positions and leaving 425 workers laid off after restructuring and retirement incentives.

"Workers who have feared plant closures and job losses in recent years can now look forward to a bright future with good jobs for years to come," Dias said in an update Monday.

Under the new agreement, $14.4 million will be invested in its Etobicoke, Ont. plant, $50 million will be invested in its Brampton, Ont., plant, and $1.35 billion to $1.5 billion will be invested in reinventing its Windsor, Ont., plant to produce at least one electric vehicle, FCA said.

Unifor said last week it had averted a strike to reach a deal with FCA on behalf of its 8,400 unionized workers, following difficult negotiations around a pattern agreement put in place last month by Ford Motor.

After Ford's agreement was announced, the federal and provincial governments said they would contribute millions to Ford's electric vehicle assembly.

The new deal follows the improved benefits and matches the wages laid out in the pattern agreement, including five per cent increases to hourly rates, a $7,250 signing bonus and $4,000 inflation bonuses.

FCA also said that it is working with both governments on its electric vehicle investments — although the company did not specify if any government funding announcement is forthcoming.

Unifor's new agreement with FCA also includes an anti-racism action plan, paid leave for domestic violence victims and acknowledgment of Pride month each June.

The union said it will enter its final round of negotiations with the last Detroit Three automaker, General Motors, this week.



Ford, BMW plug-in hybrid
fires are a 'black eye'
for electrified vehicles

Breana Noble
The Detroit News
Oct 18, 2020

Recalls over plug-in hybrid vehicles mostly in Europe from Ford Motor Co. and BMW are a bad look for the new technology, but are unlikely to affect the auto industry's moves to sell more electrified models, experts said.

Ford this week said it is delaying the launch of its plug-in hybrid Escape crossover to 2021 after 20,500 similar SUVs in Europe were recalled after seven caught fire while recharging. BMW has recalled 26,900 plug-in hybrids globally, including 4,700 in the U.S., after discovering a problem within the battery that could cause a fire.

"It gives a black eye to this group of vehicles," said Sam Fiorani, vice president of global vehicle forecasting for AutoForecast Solutions LLC. "As the technology gets better for batteries, they come packed together tighter. They are more reactive as they're closer together, so the fire risk is greater."

"It's one more negative in the column for people who do not want to like battery-electric cars," he continued. "In the grand scheme of things, it won't be slowing things down."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration this week also opened an investigation into reports of fires that occurred in the Chevrolet Bolt, currently General Motors Co.'s only all-electric car in the U.S. The probe covers more than 77,800 Bolts from the 2017-2020 model years. NHTSA in 2019 launched another investigation that remains open into Tesla Inc. electric cars that caught fire, as well.

A 2017 NHTSA report declared that the "propensity and severity of fires and explosions" in a battery vehicle are expected to be comparable or "perhaps slightly less than" those of a gas- or diesel-powered vehicle. The study also found that "as battery technology matures, the safety risks may increase as manufacturers attempt to obtain greater performance from existing chemistries and adopt new chemistries with less field experience."

There were an estimated 212,500 U.S. vehicle fires in 2018, according to the National Fire Protection Association. They resulted in 560 deaths, 1,500 injuries and $1.9 billion in direct property damage.

"The reality is if you have a car, whether it is a battery or it is filled with gasoline, there is the possibility of a fire," said Jessica Caldwell, executive director of insights at auto information website Edmunds.com Inc.. "Since this is emerging technology, there's a bit more of a magnifying glass on it."

Electrified vehicle sales made up less than 5% of U.S. sales in 2019, but the market is continuing to gain momentum, especially abroad. Government regulations on carbon-dioxide emissions in Europe and China and fuel-economy standards in the United States require automakers to sell enough electrified models or purchase credits from competitors who produce more than enough to avoid government fines.

Ford has stopped the sale of its plug-in hybrid Kuga, the European version of the Escape being recalled. It asked Kuga owners not to plug in their vehicles, instead relying on their conventional hybrid systems. As a result, Ford will join an open emissions pool with other manufacturers to meet carbon level requirements and avoid fines, Ford spokesman Jay Ward confirmed.

In the United States, Ford’s plant in Louisville, Kentucky, began building a redesigned version of the Escape late last year that includes gasoline-powered and non-plug-in hybrid models. The plug-in model was supposed to launch this past spring but Ford changed it to summer after the coronavirus pandemic shut factories for two months. Now, since many of the parts, including the battery and engine, are the same as the Kuga's, sales won't begin until next year.

It is a bump in the road for the Escape after Ford last year had new redesigned Explorers coming off the line in Chicago with major production issues. A plug-in hybrid variant of the Escape, however, would include far less volume, Caldwell said.

"Everybody is watching them after the launch of the Explorer didn't go quite right," Caldwell said. "Every company is watching every cent they are spending because of the intense pressure of having to change the way they do business in response to the global pandemic. This does not help them."

But there are other launches more significant for the Dearborn automaker such as the new F-150 pickup truck and its plug-in version as well as the all-electric Mustang Mach-E.

"There's not much shared across the platforms," said Sam Abuelsamid, e-mobility analyst for Guidehouse Insights. "They're different charing systems; the batteries are from different suppliers. You won't see much of any impact there."


Ontario plants get $1.19B
investment in Unifor tentative
agreement with FCA

Breana Noble
The Detroit News
October 16, 2020

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV on Thursday committed to investing up to $1.19 billion in its Canadian facilities as a part of a three-year tentative agreement reached with labor union Unifor, which said the deal would provide stability for jobs well into future.

Unifor secured new product allocations to Windsor Assembly and Etobicoke Casting that will create more than 2,100 jobs as well as new derivatives to enhance the existing Dodge and Chrysler sedans built at Brampton Assembly. Otherwise, the agreement follows the pattern established by the contract ratified with Ford Motor Co. last month with respect to wage increases and other benefits. FCA employs approximately 9,000 Unifor members, the largest Canadian workforce of Detroit's three automakers.

"I am so pleased to know that we have a strategy today with everyone understanding the importance of these critical jobs and what this means for stability for the long term," Unifor President Jerry Dias said in a news conference detailing the agreement. "This is an opportunity to say to young people this is an industry that is not stagnating. In fact, it is growing."

Voting is set to begin 10 a.m. Sunday and conclude within 24 hours, according to a Unifor news release. The union is planning a series of ratification virtual meetings over the weekend to educate members on the deal.

Up to $1.13 billion (1.5 billion Canadian dollars) of Fiat Chrysler's commitment will go to its minivan plant in Windsor. The company will allocate a new platform that will support plug-in hybrid and battery-electric vehicles by 2024, Dias said.

"We know that this platform will have the stability to build multiple, multiple vehicles, everything from pickup trucks to cars to crossovers," he said. "For us, this is global technology at its finest. This is about global platforms. This is about the ability to turn on a dime based on consumers’ demand. This investment, we know, will solidify the footprint in the community in Windsor and Essex County for many, many years."

The allocation will mark the return of the third shift at Windsor, which was cut with 1,500 jobs this summer after being instituted in 1993. After early retirements, 425 Windsor members remain laid off, Dias said. The 4,464-hourly person headcount is expected to grow by more than 2,000 starting in 2023 with a 38-week ramp-up of the new platform.

"We went in knowing that it is quite likely there will be more layoffs in Windsor," DIas said. "So it was critical for us to stabilize the footprint In Windsor, because we know a strong footprint in Windsor creates a strong footprint as well in Brampton."

Brampton Assembly produces the Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger and Dodge Challenger. The company has committed to three new derivatives of those vehicles, one for each year of the agreement's tenure. The assembly plant and satellite stamping plant employ 2,985 hourly workers.

Toronto's Etobicoke Casting is in the process of launching a new product and will receive two other products, Dias added. After employment fell from around 500 people to 164 hourly, the additions will return more than 100 workers who took transfers to Brampton in 2021 and 2022. The plant produces aluminum die castings for a variety of Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge and Ram vehicles.

Fiat Chrysler's investments are estimated to be between $1.07 billion and $1.19 billion (1.42 billion to 1.57 billion in Canadian dollars), and talks continue with federal and provincial governments concerning public incentives, Dias said. Each level of government committed $223 million (295 Canadian dollars) to Ford's nearly $1.4 billion (1.8 billion Canadian dollars) investment in its Oakville Assembly plant for electric vehicles.

Fiat Chrysler declined to comment on possible incentives. The auto sector remains an important contribution to Canadian jobs and the economy, John Power, representative for Navdeep Bains, Canada's minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, said in a statement.

"We are at the table and prepared to support the future of our auto sector, particularly with regards to the development of electric vehicle and battery production here in Canada," Power said.

All parties understand the importance of the transformation to electric vehicles, Dias said, adding on whether those negotiations should affect FCA's commitments to Windsor, "the answer is absolutely no."

The union announced the deal Wednesday minutes before an 11:59 p.m. deadline. In an update posted 48 hours ahead, Unifor had said it "continues to wait for firm commitments on facility investments and product allocations."

Canadian employees at Ford Motor Co. last month ratified a shorter, three-year contract with 81% support. The deal included $1.5 billion in investment to build electric vehicles in Canada, two 2.5% wage increases, ratification bonuses, premiums for afternoon and midnight shifts and a reduced eight-year grow-in period to reach top wages, down from 11 years.

"I will argue it’s the best economic agreement we put together in 20-25 years," Dias said.

After workers ratify a contract with Fiat Chrysler, Unifor as early as next week will pivot to General Motors Co., its final automaker in the negotiations. The contracts cover roughly 17,000 of the more than 19,000 autoworkers at Detroit's three companies represented by the union.

"We have an aggressive agenda in front of us," Dias said of talks with GM. "We've had ongoing conversations about bargaining in 2020, and we'll see where we end up."


Unifor makes tentative agreement
with FCA, averts strike

Breana Noble
The Detroit News
Oct 15, 2020

Canadian labor union Unifor, representing 9,000 employees at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, reached a tentative contract agreement late Wednesday, avoiding a strike at the Italian American automaker.

Details of the deal were not provided immediately as Unifor announced a deal had been struck minutes before an 11:59 p.m. deadline, and the company confirmed the agreement. More information is expected to be provided during a 10 a.m. news conference Thursday.

Canadian autoworker union Unifor secured a tentative agreement with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV late Thursday, avoiding a strike.

Voting is set to begin 10 a.m. Sunday and conclude within 24 hours, according to a Unifor news release. The union is planning a series of ratification virtual meetings over the weekend to educate members on the deal.

The biggest concern for the union is job security and product allocation after FCA cut the third shift this summer at the Windsor Assembly minivan plant. The automaker employs the most Canadian autoworkers of the Detroit Three.

In an update posted 48 hours ahead of the deadline, Unifor had said it "continues to wait for firm commitments on facility investments and product allocations."

Canadian employees at Ford Motor Co. last month ratified a shorter, three-year contract with 81% support. The deal included $1.5 billion in investment to build electric vehicles in Canada, two 2.5% wage increases, ratification bonuses and a reduced eight-year grow-in period to reach top wages, down from 11 years.

After workers ratify a contract with Fiat Chrysler, Unifor will pivot to General Motors Co., its final automaker negotiations. The contracts cover roughly 17,000 of the more than 19,000 autoworkers at Detroit's three companies represented by the union.


FCA Bargaining Update #8


Unifor members,

Bargaining took place throughout this past Thanksgiving Day weekend. Master and Local Committees stayed in the hotel and worked diligently toward resolving many of the outstanding issues at the table. The Committees remain determined to reach a strong settlement that secures the FCA manufacturing footprint and meets the economic pattern established by Ford.

In the last Bargaining Update, the union reported slow but steady progress toward a tentative settlement. Unfortunately, with less than 48 hours before the strike deadline, little has changed.

In fact, FCA continues to challenge the union on key elements of the pattern agreement, including on items relating to wages and lump sums, health care benefits and other matters. The Union continues to wait for firm commitments on facility investments and product allocations, and National President Jerry Dias is in regular discussion with FCA executives in Auburn Hills on this. 

As talks enter the final phase, the Committees remain hopeful that we will reach a tentative settlement by the deadline. However, if FCA continues to push back on the pattern and refuses to deliver concrete investment commitments, the likelihood of job action as of midnight on October 15 grows.

Next steps

The Union is encouraging members to be prepared if strike action becomes necessary.

If a tentative settlement is reached, information will be posted at www.unifor.org/AutoTalks2020 Please continue to check that web page regularly for updates.

Plans remain in place for online ratification/information meetings to take place on Sunday October 18, 2020. Further information will be sent directly to members with respect to registration and online voting, so please stay tuned.

The union will continue to report on progress of talks with members over next 36 hours, and will relay as much information on the status of talks as possible. Our objective is to be as open and transparent with members as possible, without undermining the integrity of the bargaining process. Please stay tuned for further updates.


FCA Bargaining Update #7


Unifor members,

The union is now less than three days from the bargaining deadline with FCA. Talks continue to progress, although at a slower pace than the Master and Local Bargaining Committees had hoped. Company officials continue to review the details of the Ford pattern settlement along with various other FCA-specific proposals tabled by the Union, on behalf of the members. The union, in turn, continues to review numerous proposals submitted by the Company – all with the view that Unifor will not deviate from the pattern.

Investment in FCA facilities

One of the slowest moving issues at the bargaining table is on investment. FCA has so far expressed a general commitment to its operations in Canada, including manufacturing vehicles and casting parts. However, the Union is looking for specific investment and product allocation commitments to secure FCA’s Canadian footprint.  Over the weekend, FCA officials from Auburn Hills will be joining talks and the committees expect much deeper discussions on these matters at that time.

New COVID-19 restrictions

Over the past number of days, the province of Ontario has set record highs for new cases of COVID-19, including 939 reported cases on October 9, 2020 alone. Yesterday, Premier Doug Ford announced temporary measures to address the rapid spike in virus transmissions, resulting in new restrictions imposed in certain regions. This includes the City of Toronto, where contract talks are taking place.

It is important for members to know there will be no significant change to the bargaining process resulting from the new public safety measures. Talks will continue as planned.  

When designing safety protocols for 2020 Auto Talks, Unifor took all necessary precautions in anticipation of a second wave. In-person meetings will be strictly limited to no more than 10 people (union and company combined). Sanitization of all workspaces in the hotel, along with social distancing measures and the strict use of personal protective equipment, will continue. The only notable change is that early morning internal caucus meetings will now occur online, to accommodate the dozens of Unifor participants.

All Unifor committee members and staff will remain vigilant in adhering to health and safety protocols as negotiations progress. These safety protocols are under constant review by expert union staff, in consultation with health officials and the Sheraton Centre Hotel.

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


Ontario court quashes decision
that would have closed
Nemak's Windsor plant

CBC News
Oct 9, 2020

In 2019, Nemak announced it was closing its Windsor Plant and moving the work to Mexico, but Unifor fought back saying that the company had to abide by its collective agreement with workers. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

A divisional court has denied an arbitrator's decision to close Nemak's Windsor aluminum auto-parts plant, which Unifor says moves the union one step closer to sparing nearly 200 local jobs.

On Tuesday, a panel of Ontario Divisional Court judges quashed a November 2019 arbitrator's decision that had permitted the future closure of Nemak's Windsor plant and the relocation of that work to Mexico.

Nemak announces Windsor plant closure by 'mid-2020'

The court accepted Unifor's argument that the arbitrator evidence when making his decision.

"Today is a great day for our members at Nemak who spent months waiting patiently for the court to rule on the future of their jobs at the Windsor Aluminum Plant," Unifor National President Jerry Dias said in a news release Wednesday.

"This is precisely the outcome our union and our members were fighting for and the ruling could not be any more clear — when you have a collective agreement with workers you have to live up to its terms."

CBC News contacted Nemak for comment but the company has not yet responded.

Unifor Local 200 president John D'Agnolo says he looks forward to bringing the case back before the arbitrator. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

How we got here

Unifor says the union and Nemak agreed in 2015 that any new work for General Motors would be brought to Nemak's Windsor plant, which would be the "sole source" for this work.

In 2016 workers agreed to a wage freeze if the company held work there until 2022, according to Unifor local 200 president John D'Agnolo.

Then, in 2019, the company announced it would close the plant by mid-2020 and move the work to Mexico, citing economic reasons.

News of the closure led to rallys, striking workers, a blockade outside the plant, an order from the Ontario Labour Relations Board for employees to go back to work, upheld by a local judge who also ordered an end to what he called an "unlawful strike."

'What do I do next?': Nemak employee unsure of next steps

'Fight back': Hundreds turn out to Unifor rally at Nemak plant

When the union and workers continued their job action, a contempt hearing was called. That hearing was adjourned, with the judge reserving his decision, and directing both parties to try again to work out their differences.

When Unifor and Nemak couldn't come to an agreement on their own, the two sides agreed to arbitration, and arbitrator Norm Jesin was assigned to the case in November 2019.

Jesin ruled against Unifor and in his decision said that Nemak could proceed with its plant closure, despite the terms set aside in the worker's collective agreement.

The union launched a judicial review of the arbitrator's decision, which was heard in February before the Divisional Court in Toronto.

The court has now found that the arbitrator misused evidence from the 2015 negotiation of the workers' collective agreement. The ruling means that the union's grievance will be sent back to the same arbitrator for a new decision.

D'Agnolo said he's optimistic and "can't wait" to be in front of the arbitrator again.

"When we look at the arguments, I thought they were common sense arguments," he said. "You always worry, but at the end of the day i was very hopeful and the energy those workers had and the support they got within our community was absolutely amazing. For this to happen — it's joyous, to be quite frank with you."

A crowd of hundreds descended upon Nemak's west Windsor auto parts assembly plant in 2019 to protest the company's decision to shutter the facility in 2020. (Stacey Janzer/CBC)

Nemak's Windsor plant had made aluminum engine blocks for some GM vehicles including the i6 for pickup trucks and the Thelma and Louise bed plate for the Corvette.

As it stands, the plant is only producing the i6 and D'Agnolo said the company is in the process of moving that to Mexico.

He said the plant will stop running Oct. 18.


Feds, Ontario ante up millions
to produce electric vehicles
at Ford's Oakville plant

The Canadian Press
October 8, 2020

OTTAWA — The federal and Ontario governments are each chipping in more than $250 million to mass produce electric vehicles — and the batteries that power them — at Ford Motor Co.'s plant in Oakville, Ont.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford are to announce the joint investment today.

It is part of a three-year agreement worth nearly $2 billion that was announced last month between the automaker and Unifor, the union that represents autoworkers in Canada.

The premier is to be at the Oakville plant with representatives of the motor company for the announcement.

Trudeau and Unifor president Jerry Dias are to hook up with them virtually from the company's connectivity and innovation centre in the Ottawa suburb of Kanata.

The Oakville plant employs 3,400 Ford workers and Dias has said retooling the plant to produce electric vehicles will save 3,000 of those jobs.

From the Liberal government's perspective, the investment will not only help secure good-paying jobs in the struggling auto sector. It hopes it will give Canada an edge in the global competition to meet what's expected to be explosive demand for electric vehicles in the near future.

The investment is also part of the government's commitment to invest in the transition to a clean, renewable-energy economy, with the goal of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

It has already committed more than $300 million to create a network of fast-charging stations for electric vehicles across the country. And it is providing incentives of up to $5,000 off the price of purchasing or leasing electric and hybrid vehicles.

The federal government also hopes the new investment will help boost home-grown mining companies that produce the nickel and other metals used to make the batteries for electric vehicles. 


Jim Farley's plan for Ford:
improve quality, reduce
costs, speed change

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
Oct 6, 2020

On his first day as Ford Motor Co.'s new president and CEO, Jim Farley came armed with a plan to reshape the Blue Oval's operations and leadership around areas he believes will drive growth, including commercial, electric and more-affordable vehicles.

Employees were briefed on the plan during a virtual town hall meeting Thursday, when Farley succeeded outgoing president and CEO Jim Hackett. Ford also announced a management shakeup, including the replacement of Chief Financial Officer Tim Stone by company executive John Lawler.

"During the past three years, under Jim Hackett's leadership, we have made meaningful progress and opened the door to become a vibrant, profitably growing company," Farley said in a statement. "Now it's time to charge through that door."

Under Farley, Ford will work with "urgency" on turning around its automotive operations, he said, by improving quality, reducing costs, and accelerating the restructuring of underperforming businesses.

Farley says the automaker will grow by:

Allocating more capital, resources and talent to its strongest businesses and vehicle franchises.

Expanding its robust commercial vehicle business with a "suite" of software services "that drive loyalty and recurring revenue streams."

Offering "compelling, uniquely Ford" electric vehicles "at scale around the world," including the Transit commercial van, the flagship F-Series truck franchise, Mustang, SUVs and the Lincoln brand.

Adding more affordable vehicles to the global lineup, including in North America.

And establishing new "customer-facing" businesses based on the self-driving vehicle platform of Argo AI, in which Ford has invested.

We are going to compete like a challenger — allocate capital to higher growth and return opportunities to create value — and earn customers for life through great products and a rewarding ownership experience," Farley said.

Farley has telegraphed his belief in the potential of several of these areas for some time. He has repeatedly emphasized, for example, the growth opportunities he sees in commercial vehicles, and made staffing changes earlier this year aimed at making commercial vehicles their own business in North America.

"Jim's been signaling how to proceed for quite some time, and even under Hackett has been key to developing the strategic plan going forward," said Michelle Krebs, executive analyst for Autotrader. "So none of this should come as a surprise to anyone."

Ford is investing heavily in electric-vehicle development, committing to spend $11 billion on it through 2022. It is launching an electrified Mustang SUV later this year, and in the coming years will release electrified Transits and F-150s.

"I think the interesting one is adding more affordable vehicles to the global lineup, including North America, because that is a serious challenge to the industry," said Krebs. "There are not many affordable vehicles and in that part of the market, unfortunately buyers are particularly challenged to buy new vehicles and they're going to the used market."

Adding affordable vehicles to the lineup is important because it allows automakers to introduce their product lines to consumers early on in their car-buying lifetime, Krebs said.

New CFO Lawler, 54, most recently was CEO of Ford's autonomous vehicle division and vice president of mobility partnerships. The successor for his current position has yet to be named. Lawler previously worked in finance and general management over his 30-year career with Ford.

Stone is departing effective Oct. 15, to become chief operating officer and CFO of ASAPP, Inc., an artificial-intelligence software start-up.

Jeff Lemmer, Ford's chief information officer, will retire Jan. 1. His replacement, who will take on the added role of leading a technology and software platform, will be announced soon, the automaker said.

And, in a move the automaker says is aimed at "strengthen(ing) its commitment" to the Lincoln Motor Co. brand, it will break out into separate roles the jobs of leading Lincoln and serving as Ford's chief marketing officer. Those roles are currently filled by Joy Falotico, who will now focus on growing Lincoln and will report to Kumar Galhotra, president of the Americas and International Markets.

"This change will allow Joy to focus on accelerating Lincoln's global growth through great vehicles and services and a truly differentiated customer experience," said Galhotra. "Lincoln's completely refreshed lineup is resonating with customers in the U.S. as well as in China, where we are now producing the Lincoln Aviator and Corsair locally, for Chinese customers — and that's just the beginning."

A new chief marketing officer will be appointed soon.

"The interesting thing will be, Jim Farley is a marketer at heart," said Krebs. The chief marketing job "will be an important role, and an intense role, because that is a topic that's near and dear to Jim Farley."

Kieran Cahill, previously director of manufacturing and strategic projects for Ford of Europe, will step up as vice president of manufacturing in Europe, replacing Dale Wishnousky, who is retiring at year's end.

Additionally, the automaker is making changes to its operating model by:

Focusing decision-making and accountability around product and customer groups in three regional business units: The Americas and International Markets; Europe; and China.

Accelerating innovation, to lead the way on new businesses such as mobility and autonomous vehicles.

Developing "world-class" connected vehicles by "harnessing expertise in industrial platforms."

Using technology and software "in ways that set Ford apart" from its competition.

And "embracing and increasing" diversity across the company.


Disgraced ex-UAW
President Williams pleads
guilty in corruption saga

Robert Snell
The Detroit News
Oct 5, 2020

Detroit — Former United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams pleaded guilty Wednesday to embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from the union, giving federal prosecutors a second landmark conviction in a years-long crackdown on auto industry corruption.

Williams, 67, of Corona, California, pleaded guilty nearly four months after Gary Jones, his successor, admitted to helping steal more than $1 million from rank-and-file workers. They are the highest-ranking union leaders convicted in a corruption scandal that has pushed one of the nation's most powerful unions to the brink of federal takeover.

Williams, who resigned his membership Sept. 18, is the 15th person convicted of a crime following an investigation that has revealed labor leaders and auto executives broke federal labor laws, stole union funds and received bribes and illegal benefits from union contractors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV executives.

Williams, who pleaded guilty Wednesday while appearing in a videoconference from an undisclosed location, portrayed himself as willfully ignorant about how Jones paid for regional conferences in Palm Springs, California, during a conspiracy that lasted from 2010-19.

A stone-faced Williams, dressed in a black suit, black tie and white shirt, participated in the videoconference from an undisclosed location due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has temporarily closed federal court.

“Do you want to plead guilty today?” U.S. District Judge Paul Borman asked Williams.

“Yes, your honor,” Williams responded.

He was released on a $10,000 unsecured bond, and sentencing was set for Jan. 25.

“It was a little less contrite than I would have expected with him pointing the finger at others,” said Scott Houldieson, a Ford Motor Co. electrician at Chicago assembly plant. “It’s a betrayal of the membership that’s been covered up for quite some time now.”

The plea hearing marked a rare public appearance for Williams and revealed a rift between the two former presidents and shifting blame for the corruption scandal.

During a long speech, Williams blamed Jones for covering up the spending of more than $1 million in union funds on luxury items during UAW junkets in Palm Springs. Those items included private villas for months at a time, cigars, liquor and golf.

“I knew in many cases such as golf and cigars, that there was no good-faith basis to think these expenses were for the benefit of our union,” Williams said while reading from a statement.

Williams said he asked Jones about the expenses.

“He simply told me everything was above board,” Williams said.

“I made a deliberate and conscious decision not to press the matter, even though I strongly suspected that if I looked into how Gary Jones was funding those expenses, I would find union funds were being misused.

"I deliberately looked away."

Williams recounted his more than 40-year UAW career that saw him climb from the ranks of a welder to serving approximately 1 million active and retired workers and their families.

“That is why it is especially painful and humbling here today,” Williams told the judge. “I held a position of trust. I know that my actions and my failures to act abused that trust and hurt the union that I loved.

“I want to apologize to the court, my family and to each and every hard-working UAW member paying dues.”

Williams was last heard from during a series of nationwide raids by a team of federal agents from the FBI, Internal Revenue Service and Labor Department. He was held at gunpoint, ordered to lie down and handcuffed after confronting federal agents who arrived to search his $610,000 California home in August 2019.

Williams also has agreed to forfeit several items seized during the raid and has repaid more than $56,000. Those seized items include a set of Titleist golf clubs, clothing and golf merchandise. He also is required to pay taxes to the IRS.

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

The hearing comes one month after Williams, who headed the UAW from 2014-18, was charged with conspiracy to embezzle union funds, a felony punishable by up to five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.

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

The conspiracy outlined by federal prosecutors started in 2010, when Williams was the UAW’s secretary/treasurer, and lasted until September 2019. The conspiracy involved top leaders in the UAW assigned to Detroit and a regional office in Missouri.

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

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

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

“It is my sincere hope that the convictions obtained over the course of this investigation have begun the process of ensuring honest leadership takes the helm of one of the most important labor unions in this country,” said Steven M. D’Antuono, special agent in charge of the FBI in Detroit, in a statement.


Ford sales down 4.9% in
third quarter, beating
industry decline of 10%

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
Oct 3, 2020

Ford Motor Co. made progress in the third quarter in its bid to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic's toll, posting sales results Friday that beat analyst expectations as well as its crosstown competitors' results.

The Dearborn automaker sold 551,796 vehicles in the third quarter, a 4.9% decline from the same period a year ago.

General Motors Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, meanwhile, reported Thursday that their new-vehicle sales were down 10% year-over-year in the three-month period that ended in September.

"Ford posted an excellent quarter for sales on the strength of pickup trucks and SUVs," said Michelle Krebs, executive analyst at Autotrader. 

"The consumer has been remarkably resilient and Ford has had ample inventory to meet their needs. But Ford also made some progress on the fleet side as well this quarter, a part of the market that remains depressed across the industry."

Tesla Inc., meanwhile, reported Friday that its third-quarter sales jumped 44%, beating Wall Street expectations. The electric-auto maker has fared better than most during the pandemic.

While all three Detroit automakers, and many of their competitors, sold fewer vehicles compared to the third quarter of 2019, the results mark a turnaround from earlier this year. New-vehicle sales industrywide were hammered in the second quarter, following an eight-week North American production shutdown and amid widespread stay-at-home orders and an economic downturn.

Honda Motor Co. reported a 10% drop-off in the third quarter. Nissan Motor Co. reported a 32% sales slide. And Volkswagen of America's sales were down 7.6%.

But consumer demand, primarily among retail customers, has come back stronger than initially expected, and now a top concern is making sure dealers have enough inventory on their lots to meet it.

"Pandemic and recession be darned, Americans are out buying new wheels," said Charlie Chesbrough, senior economist at Cox Automotive Inc. "Upper-income consumers dominate the new vehicle market and this group has not been impacted severely by the recession, which is why vehicle sales have been rebounding from April so quickly."

Ford was buoyed by sales of pickups and SUVs, which now make up the vast majority of its sales in North America as it largely exits the sedan segment. The automaker's 311,751 truck sales marked an 0.6% year-over-year increase, while SUV sales of 191,803 were down just 0.7%.

The Blue Oval sold 249,997 F-Series and Ranger pickups in the third quarter.

Results were strongest among retail customers, with overall retail sales down only 2%; retail truck sales up 8.3%; and retail SUV sales down 3.4%.

"Despite the challenging pandemic environment, our retail unit sales were down only 2% and we had our best third quarter of pickup truck sales since 2005," Mark LaNeve, vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service, said in a statement.

He noted the strength of the automaker's flagship F-Series pickup truck franchise in September, with sales up 17.2%: "This is a testament to our winning product portfolio and the performance of our great dealers."

Retail sales of the F-Series were up 10.1%, which Ford reports is back above pre-coronavirus sales levels. And total sales of the F-Series, the company's profit engine, were up 3.5%, to 221,647.

In addition to F-Series and Ranger, sales of the EcoSport compact SUV, Explorer mid-size SUV and Expedition full-size SUV were all up year-over-year.

Ford's Lincoln brand was down 1.4% for the quarter.

Analysts took note of the strong performance of the Ford Explorer, up 73.9%, and the Lincoln Aviator, up to more than 6,100 sales compared to fewer than 1,900 in the third quarter of 2019.

"Like almost everything else in life right now, it looks like consumers are re-examining their needs," said Brian Moody, executive editor of Autotrader, noting that several sedans across the industry did well.

"It's a similar story at Ford, while many discontinued models are dragging the average down, consumers are discovering, and buying, truly good utility vehicles like the Ford Explorer and Lincoln Aviator."

For the year, Ford's sales of about 1.5 million vehicles are down 17.5%, from more than 1.8 million vehicles sold by this point in 2019.

Analysts expect sales to be down industrywide for the year. Cox forecasts 13.9 million new cars and truck sales this year, after five consecutive years of 17-million-plus.

And while third-quarter sales represented progress in the industry's recovery, analysts warn the fourth quarter could bring new challenges.

Among them: tight inventory. Inventory levels stood above 3.4 million in March, but had dropped below 2.2 million in September, according to Cox. And only 3% of vehicles on dealer lots are for the newest model year, compared to 25% this time last year.

Experts also warn that consumer sentiment could die down a bit amid the election and ongoing pandemic.

"The auto market enjoyed a strong and profitable third quarter, but with the economy losing momentum as fiscal support wanes, we can't expect the sales pace to continue," said Jonathan Smoke, chief economist at Cox.

But at least thus far, consumers have kept on buying vehicles.

"Tight inventories, bad economic news, concerns as pandemic hotspots break out, and plenty of political uncertainty in the time of presidential election – this is not an environment that supports strong auto sales," said Chesbrough. "And yet, if Q4 is like Q3, American car buyers will keep on buying cars at a healthy pace."


Ford recalls over 700K vehicles,
including 2020 F-150s

Associated Press
Sept 30, 2020

Detroit – Ford is recalling more than 700,000 vehicles in North America because the backup cameras can show distorted images or suddenly go dark.

The recall covers most 2020 versions of Ford’s F-Series trucks, as well as the 2020 Explorer, Mustang, Transit, Expedition, Escape, Ranger and Edge. Also included are the Lincoln Nautilus and Corsair. F-Series trucks are the top-selling vehicle in the U.S.

The company says in documents posted Wednesday by the U.S. government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that a poor electrical connection is causing the problem.

Ford says it doesn’t know of any crashes or injuries caused by the problem.

Dealers will replace the rearview camera at no cost to owners. The recall is expected to start Nov. 7.



Unifor members ratify
historic agreement with
Ford Motor Company

Ratification vote 81%
BPDC  84%

September 28, 2020

TORONTO—Unifor members working at Ford Motor Company voted 81% in favour of a new three year collective agreements that include $1.95 billion in investments to bring battery electric vehicle (BEV) production to Oakville and a new engine derivative to Windsor, along with other significant gains.

“This is the single biggest investment in the Canadian auto industry in years providing long-term job security for Unifor members,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “The vote result not only demonstrates our members’ overwhelming support for their bargaining committees and their new collective agreement, but also shows Unifor members have a clear vision of a strong and prosperous Canadian auto sector.”

Highlights of the deal include $1.8 billion to retool and build new battery electric vehicles in Oakville, including a crossover utility vehicle (CUV), and $148 million for Windsor powertrain facilities. Ford has committed to source new 6.X L engines to the Windsor Engine Plant and sole source 5.0L engine assembly and current component machining to the Essex Engine plant, along with any derivatives.

“This agreement is perfect timing and positions our members at the forefront of the electric vehicle transformation, as the Oakville plant will be a key BEV supplier to the North American and European Union markets,” said Dias.

The union also negotiated a five per cent wage increase over the life of the agreement, along with a four per cent lump sum, a productivity and quality bonus of $7,250, inflation protection bonuses and major changes to the New Hire Program, including an 8-year wage grid, and re-instatement of afternoon and midnight shift premiums.

A 20 per cent wage differential has also been re-instated for skilled trades workers and many improvements to benefits have been negotiated along with paid domestic violence leave and a racial “justice advocate.

“We went into bargaining with two major priorities, to secure new product allocation and make progress on wages and working conditions for our members, and I think it’s safe to say we hit a home run on both fronts,” said John D’Agnolo, Chair of the Master Bargaining Committee.  “We want to thank the bargaining team, our local leadership, and the members who showed unwavering solidarity through some very intense weeks of bargaining.”

Talks with Fiat Chrysler begin later this week. A digital media kit can be found on this website.

Unifor is Canada’s largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 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.


Canada failed to protect elderly in
first wave of COVID-19 — will the
same mistakes be made again?

Experts say federal government slow to act on national guidelines for long-term care

Adam Miller
CBC News
Sep 26, 2020

As COVID-19 cases surge across Canada and outbreaks in nursing homes flare up once again, experts say vulnerable elderly populations are at extreme risk in the second wave due to a lack of government action.

Long-term care facilities bore the brunt of the first wave of the pandemic in Canada, with more than 70 per cent of deaths from COVID-19 occurring in those aged over 80, about twice the average of rates from other developed countries.

"That is one of the most damning failures that's taken place through the pandemic," said Dr. Andrew Boozary, executive director of health and social policy for Toronto's University Health Network.

"If we were going to be judged by how we protected our most susceptible and people who are structurally vulnerable — we failed them."

Dozens of COVID-19 outbreaks have recently been reported in nursing homes in Ontario, B.C., Alberta and Quebec as the second wave arrives in much of Canada.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau explains what prompted his government to begin a dialogue with the provinces around national standards for long term care facilities. 1:49

In his address to the nation Wednesday night, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the situations experienced by "too many elders" in long-term care homes is "unacceptable."

"That has to change and it will change," he said. "We will be working with the provinces and territories to set new national standards on long-term care."

But Canada's systemic failures in long-term care are nothing new, and neither are the calls for action.

Long-term care deficiencies a longstanding issue

A July report from the Royal Society of Canada, an association that includes some of Canada's top scientists and scholars, described COVID-19 as "a shock wave that cracked wide all the fractures in our nursing home system." It called on the federal government to act "immediately" on creating national standards of care.

Months later, no concrete action has yet been taken, and the second wave of COVID-19 infections is well underway in previously hard-hit provinces, such as Ontario, B.C. and Quebec.

On Friday, Trudeau conceded during a press conference that problems in long-term care facilities "existed long before COVID-19."

"The systems that we had were inadequate all across the country," he said. "They were not up to the task of protecting our seniors appropriately."

But experts question why the process of fixing those systemic issues has only now just begun.

"The writing is on the wall that this had to happen yesterday," said Boozary.

"To not ensure that every measure, every resource is in place to protect these families and their loved ones — to me is just damning, it's egregious."

The prime minister was quick to point out that long-term care is "very clearly a provincial jurisdiction," adding that the federal government was busy helping the provinces "get the situation under control" early in the pandemic.

"Whether it was sending in the military or the Red Cross or sending extra financial support to vulnerable health care workers, the federal government was busy acting," he said. 

But Trudeau also said the need for national standards of long-term care only became clear to his government after "conversations with Canadians and the provinces" following the devastation caused in the first wave of the pandemic.

Long-term care facilities unprepared for second wave

A group of major stakeholders in Ontario's long-term care system sent a 60-page letter to Ontario Premier Doug Ford and the ministers of both Health and Long-Term Care this week calling for "immediate action" to protect the health of residents, staff and family members.

"In the absence of these measures and support from government, Ontario's long-term care homes are not currently ready to manage a second wave of COVID-19," said the letter, which was first reported on by the Globe and Mail.

"The recent surge in cases in Ontario and other provinces is a warning that we have little time to waste," it stated. "We need decisive action now."

Dr. Anna Banerji, an infectious disease expert and faculty lead for Indigenous and refugee health at the University of Toronto, said she's not convinced Canadian long-term care homes have made the necessary changes to protect elderly residents in the second wave. 

"We don't want to see the same kind of disasters that we were seeing in the spring where we had all these people dying and the people that were living were basically living in squalor," she said. "If that occurs again, it's a real failure."

Banerji said nursing homes need to ensure they have no more than one resident per room with individual access to their own bathroom, while staff should have adequate personal protective equipment and infection control training — something they lacked in the first wave.

Dr. Aisha Lofters, a family physician and researcher at Women's College Hospital in Toronto, said nursing homes also need to ensure staff aren't putting residents at unnecessary risk.

"In the early days, we saw a lot of people who were working in multiple long-term care homes, working part-time and casual, having to move from home to home to home," she said.

"We saw the devastating effects of that."

National standards of long-term care need enforcement

Dr. Naheed Dosani, a physician and health-justice advocate in Toronto, welcomes the creation of national standards for long-term care, but hopes those homes in violation of them will face serious consequences.

"One of the things that we need to be aware of is that at least in Ontario, it was shown that for-profit homes especially had a higher proportion of deaths," he said.

Dosani said he wants the national standards to create a baseline for where care needs to be in nursing homes across Canada, so that seniors aren't left to suffer the consequences.

"They already suffered in the first wave. My hope is that they don't have to suffer and less people have to die in the second wave," he said.

"Why would we allow this to happen in the second wave? The federal government has the ability to set that bar where it needs to be so that standard of care is met so that doesn't have to happen again."


Tentative contract between Ford,
Unifor anything but a done deal

Automotive News Canada
Sept 25, 2020

So far, we know little about what the union agreed to on economics.

Ford’s plan to invest nearly $2 billion in its Canadian facilities and turn the Oakville, Ont., assembly plant into an electric vehicle hub beginning in 2025 is undoubtedly historic for this country’s auto sector.

As Flavio Volpe, head of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association, told me on Tuesday, the investment plan “stands alone as potentially the best news of the last 10 years” for auto manufacturing in Canada. It could bolster the supply chain and make the assembly of EVs in Canada more viable or even attractive to other automakers in the future.

And most importantly for workers in Oakville, it shows that Ford has plans — big plans — for the factory beyond 2023, when production of the Ford Edge crossover is expected to end, casting doubt over the plant’s future.

But it’s not a done deal yet. Ford’s tentative three-year contract with Unifor still needs to be ratified by union members. Many of them will be interested in learning more details of Ford’s plan, as well as any changes to wages, pensions and benefits.

“The company doesn’t just give this stuff away,” says Kristin Dziczek, vice-president of industry, labour and economics at the Center for Automotive Research.

So far, we know little about what the union agreed to on economics. Unifor President Jerry Dias, in a Tuesday news conference, said he was “very pleased” with what he called “positive changes” to the 10-year wage grow-in. He would not elaborate, saying the union would first discuss details with its members.

Changes could prove to be critical to winning over members, particularly younger employees who have long been opposed to the 10-year grow-in – a concession Unifor agreed to in the wake of the bankruptcies of General Motors and Chrysler. For proof, look no further than the 2016 ratification vote, when a majority of Oakville workers rejected the tentative contract, in large part, because it maintained the 10-year wage grid. (The contract was ratified due to overwhelming support from workers at Ford’s Windsor, Ont., engine plants, which received new investment.)

It’s possible we won’t know more until Sunday morning, when Unifor makes its contract highlights sheet available to members shortly before a virtual ratification meeting that will include questions about wages.

And expect there to be questions about pensions, which could also be key toward securing support. Dias acknowledged that fewer workers will be needed under the Oakville EV manufacturing plan, which involves a $1.8-billion retooling in 2024 and the assembly of five electric vehicles in the plant by 2028, with the first being built in 2025.

He expects retirements will account for the smaller headcount, so I anticipate members nearing retirement age will make sure their pensions are secure before voting to ratify.

Union leaders have a major investment commitment that they can tout to win support from their members. That alone may be more than enough for ratification.

But many workers will likely want satisfying answers on economics before casting a vote to ratify. We’ll know soon enough if Unifor has them.


These are the pharmacies offering
COVID-19 tests in Brampton

Matt Dionne
September 24, 2020

With the number of new COVID-19 cases rising, the Province is working to make testing more accessible and convenient.

Starting September 25, select pharmacies across Ontario will be permitted to provide tests--free of charge--for those who believe they may have been exposed to the virus, but aren't experiencing symptoms.

Additionally, more pharmacies will be permitted to administer tests in the coming weeks.

These are the locations in Brampton where tests will be available:

Shoppers Drug Mart - 160 Main Street South

Shoppers Drug Mart - 10665 Bramalea Road

Shoppers Drug Mart - 34A Avondale Boulevard

Shoppers Drug Mart - 366 Main Street North

Shoppers Drug Mart - 10048 McLaughlin Road

Shoppers Drug Mart - 1 Kennedy Road South

Shoppers Drug Mart - 3938 Cottrelle Boulevard

Shoppers Drug Mart - 11965 Hurontario Street

Rexall - Unit A01 - 545 Steeles Avenue West

Tests will be available by appointment only, and those who go for a test will still be required to follow all public health measures, including wearing a mask, practising physical distancing, and frequent handwashing.


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

Anita Balakrishnan
The Canadian Press
Sept 23, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

By Heather Scoffield
Ottawa Bureau Chief
Sept. 21, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
Sept 21, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Ford Ranger tops 'made
in America' index

Breana Noble
The Detroit News
Sept 20, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The rest of the top 10 finishes as follows:

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


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

Rachel Aiello
Ottawa News Bureau

Sept 17, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


U.S. abruptly lifts tariffs
on Canadian aluminum

The Canadian Press
Sept 16, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Ford Bargaining Update #4


Unifor members,

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

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

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

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

The week ahead

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

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

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

Unifor promoting racial justice

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

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

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

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

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


Ford Announces that
the Bramalea Parts
Warehouse will close!

Little information is presently available but it looks like they will be
moving to two warehouses, one in Toronto West and another in
Eastern Ontario (Possibly the Ottawa area).

Hopefully no employees will be displaced and will have
the opportunity to transfer to either location.

Click here for the company notice issued on August 28, 2020


Ford replacing huge
Ontario distribution center
with two new ones

Automotive News
Greg Layson
August 29, 2020

“In order to improve customer satisfaction and expedite parts delivery time to dealers, Ford will be opening a new parts depot in Eastern Ontario and a new location west of Toronto to continue servicing Canada’s most heavily populated region,” Ford Canada spokeswoman Rose Pao told Automotive News Canada in an email. “As a result of the two new locations in Ontario, Ford will no longer operate out of the current Bramalea Parts Distribution Centre once the new locations open.”

The Bramalea National Parts Depot opened  on Aug. 1, 1964, after operating in several other locations through the Greater Toronto Area beginning in the 1940s.

The Bramalea site is 900,000 square feet — or 83,600 square metres — in size and employs about 200 people, Pao said.

News of the closure comes as the Detroit Three and Unifor prepare for contract talks. Local bargaining, including with Unifor Local 584 in Bramalea, is already underway.

“We are currently at the collective bargaining table with Unifor. We will continue to have dialogue with Unifor on our plan, including employment-related details," Pao said when asked whether the current employees will be able to transfer.

When the facility opened in 1964, it took on 49 transfers from Windsor, Ont., according to the union’s website.

Ford Canada hasn’t yet decided on the location of the two new facilities.

“We are in the process of determining the new sites now, so it is too early to provide timing,” Pao said. “We anticipate this transition to take place over the next few years.”

Pao couldn’t say whether the new locations will be built from scratch or located in existing buildings.

Unifor Local 584 officials weren’t immediately available for comment.



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

The Detroit News
Sept 14, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The result: 810 horsepower. 

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

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

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

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

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


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

The Canadian Press
Sept 11, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lawyers argued universality of health-care at stake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'A historic win'

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

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

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

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

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

Looking to the future

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

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

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

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



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

Robert Snell
The Detroit News
Sept 10, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Ford employees in Oakville 'most vulnerable' in contract talks

Kaitie Fraser  
CBC News
Sep 08, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Union pushing for government support, electric innovation

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

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

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

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

Unifor members give strong strike mandate

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

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

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

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

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



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

John Pearley Huffman
Sept 8, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not much, but something.


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

The Canadian Press
Sept 5, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

Sept 3, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Factories have been reopened and demand is slowly returning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Jordyn Grzelewski
Daniel Howes
The Detroit News
Sept 2, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

A Ford spokesman declined to comment on the latest cuts.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



2020 Ford Mustang
Shelby GT500 test drive

August 21, 2020

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


UAW Moves Closer to Teamsters-
Style Government Monitoring

Aug 20, 2020
LaborPains.org Team

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

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

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

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

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

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


Ford introduces accessories to
customize Bronco, Bronco Sport

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
Aug  19, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Global News
Craig Lord
August 16, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I frankly was flabbergasted,” she says.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“People need the money now,” he says.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Legal aid for travellers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Negotiations underway between
Unifor and Detroit Three
auto makers

August 14, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Ford recalls midsize SUVs to
fix possible brake fluid leaks

Associated Press
August 13, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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


Union, automakers begin
negotiations as uncertain
economy raises stakes

Aug 12, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Breana Noble,
The Detroit News
Aug. 11, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Retiree Christiaan Dragt
Passes away Aug 8, 2020

1945 - 2020

July 1, 2004
32 yrs

On Behalf of Unifor Local 584 we would like to extend our
deepest condolences to his wife Annemarie and his family.
Chris will be sadly missed by all.

It is with great sadness that the family of Christiaan Dragt announces his passing on August 8, 2020 at the age of 74 years old at the Carleton Place District Hospital. Chris will be lovingly remembered by his wife of 47 years, Annemarie and their 3 children, Mieke (John), Jeff, and Ben (Maggie). He will also fondly be remembered by his 3 grandchildren, Madigan, Amelia, and Daniel. He will be missed by his sister Riek Buss and many nieces and nephews. Chris was predeceased by his parents, Pieter Dragt and Jantje Dragt (Salomons), his brother Koert Dragt and his sister Hilda Crombeen. Chris was born on August 17, 1945 in Amsterdam Netherlands and immigrated to Rexdale Ontario Canada in June 1970. As per his wishes an Open House Celebration of Life will take place on Sunday August 23, 2020 from 2-5pm at his daughters home.




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

Keith Laing,
The Detroit News
August 8, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 8, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Ford ends sedan production for
US as Fusion is phased out

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

Sean Szymkowski
Aug. 6, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Auto industry conspirators stashed
bribes offshore, GM alleges

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Jordyn Grzelewski,
The Detroit
August 2, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Drivers hold onto cars in pandemic

Associated Press
July 29, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Breana Noble,
The Detroit News
July 28, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Ford trains robotic dog
to map its plants

Breana Noble,
The Detroit News
July 27, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

July 26, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

COVID-19 challenges

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

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

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


Ford Mustang SUV prototype
has 7 electric motors

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

Henry Payne,
The Detroit News
July 22, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Retiree Bill Studholme
Passes Away July 15, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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


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




Ford executives, dealers report big
early demand for 2021 Bronco

Jordyn Grzelewski,
The Detroit News
July 19, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bronco vs. Jeep

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

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

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

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

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

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

Early enthusiasm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Anne Little
In Loving Memory
1941 - 2020

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

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

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


Photo taken at our Thanksgiving Luncheon Oct 2017



Trudeau urges Trump to not
impose aluminum tariffs

The Canadian Press
July 16, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trudeau demurred when asked whether this time, Canada might consider extending the 30-day window.

"We've pledged to continue to monitor closely the situation that is constantly evolving," he said.

"We will be discussing with our American partners what the next steps should be, and I think this is a situation that is evolving rapidly and we need to keep responding to the situation on the ground."


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

A classic nameplate returns on all-new truck.

By Gary Gastelu
Fox News
July 14, 2020

Ford is bringing back the Bronco as a lineup of SUVs aimed at off-road and outdoors enthusiasts.

Three years after Ford announced it was on the way, the reborn Bronco has arrived.

The midsize SUV unveiled Monday night was developed as a direct competitor for the Jeep Wrangler with styling inspired by the original 1966 Bronco, body-on-frame construction, standard four-wheel-drive and a removable roof and doors. A smaller Bronco Sport crossover will join it in showrooms as part of a new Bronco sub-brand of Ford.

The Bronco Sport will be sold alongside the 2-door and 4-door Bronco.​​​​​

The 2021 Bronco will be built alongside the Ford Ranger pickup in Michigan and share its 270 hp 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. The Ford F-150’s 2.7-liter turbocharged V6 is optional and rated at 310 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque. Both engines are offered with a 10-speed automatic transmission, but the four-cylinder can also be matched to a 7-speed manual with an ultra-low “crawler” gear for extreme off-roading.

Two-door and four-door models will be available with tons of accessories across six trim and equipment levels starting at $29,995, plus a limited production top-of-the-line First Edition.

Unlike the Wrangler, the Bronco has an independent front suspension that Ford maintains is better for high-speed desert running and on-road refinement than the Wrangler’s solid axle, but can still boulder with the best of them. Two 4x4 systems with two-speed transfer cases are offered across the lineup, the upgrade version adding a full-time 4x4 setting.

Several suspension configurations are available, including a “Sasquatch” package that delivers the most off-road capability, thanks in part to its 35-inch tires and a stabilizer bar that can be disconnected when the Bronco is already at an angle and automatically reconnects as speeds increase. With this setup, the Bronco has 11.6 inches of ground clearance, can ford 33.5 inches of water and has best-in-class departure and breakover angles.

Off-road tech includes a selection of seven so-called G.O.A.T driving modes, which calibrate the drivetrain for different surfaces and play off the original Bronco’s claim to be able to Go Over All Terrain. There’s also a low-speed cruise control for rock crawling, a 4x4 turn assist that uses the inside rear brakes to help it maker sharper turns on loose surfaces and a unique one-pedal driving system that applies the brakes as you ease up on the throttle so you don’t need to use both feet to negotiate tricky terrain.

Ford designed the first Bronco in 25 years to be configurable and customizable, with parts like bumpers and fender flares engineered to be easily removable and frameless doors that are compact enough to pack into the trunk in storage bags. Two hoops on top of the fenders serve both as corner sights and tie-down points for roof-mounted cargo or limb-risers. A swing-out tailgate is complimented by a slide-out tray that can be used as a table or seat.

When the hard or soft top is removed, the cabin is entirely open to the sky and the elements. The Bronco doesn’t have a crossbar connecting the roof rails behind the driver’s seat, but does have waterproof switchgear, available water-resistant marine grade upholstery and rubber flooring with drain plugs. High-end models feature a 12-inch central display while the top of the dashboard has power ports and attachment points for a rack that can be used to mount mobile electronic devices and action cameras.

The instrument panel in the 2021 Bronco two- and four-door models is ready for installation of accessories such as a bring-your-own-device rack shown on this prototype. (Prototype interior shown not representative of production vehicle.)

The instrument panel in the 2021 Bronco two- and four-door models is ready for installation of accessories such as a bring-your-own-device rack shown on this prototype. (Prototype interior shown not representative of production vehicle.)

A 360-degree camera system with bird’s-eye and front views is available, and Ford’s Co-Pilot360 driver suite of driver aids offers blind spot monitoring and automatic emergency braking, but not adaptive cruise control. All Broncos have over-the-air software update capability that can be used to add features and troubleshoot issues with all vehicle systems.

Ford is now accepting reservations for the Bronco with a $100 deposit and deliveries are scheduled to begin next spring.


Engine shortage from Mexico
could shut down Ford plants

Jordyn Grzelewski,
The Detroit News
July 12, 2020

Ford Motor Co. may have to shut down production at plants in the U.S. due to a shortage of engines from Mexico.

The supply issue and potential shutdown was first reported by Reuters, which cited comments made Thursday by the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Christopher Landau during a talk organized by the Atlantic Council.

In a statement, Ford confirmed it is experiencing a supply issue: "Due to COVID-19, the State of Chihuahua in Mexico has limited employee attendance to 50%, a region in which we have several suppliers," said Kumar Galhotra, president of Ford's Americas and International Markets Group. "With our U.S. plants running at 100%, that is not sustainable. While we do not expect any impact to production next week, we are continuing to work with government officials on ways to safely and constructively resume remaining production."

According to Reuters, at issue are engines produced in Mexico for Ford vehicles. Landau said he discussed the issue with an unnamed senior Ford executive on Wednesday: "They're saying that they're going to start shutting down factories in the United States as of next week if they don't get that rolling," Landau said, Reuters reported.

Ford declined to provide further comment about the timing of a potential shutdown and what U.S. plants or vehicles would be affected.

Ford's Chihuahua Engine Plant currently makes the Duratec I4, Scorpion 6.7-liter and Diesel V8 4.4-liter engine lineups, according to the company's website. The Scorpion 6.7-liter engine is used to power Ford's Super Duty pickups. The plant's current product lineup includes at least two engines used in hybrid vehicles.

A widespread U.S. production shutdown would be a major setback for the effort to restart auto manufacturing amid the coronavirus pandemic. Detroit's three automakers shut down North American production for eight weeks, from the end of March to mid-May, to help stop the spread of COVID-19. 

The simultaneous restart of all three automakers was a historic moment in the industry, and one that experts said would be a major test, given possible disruptions in the industry's global supply chain and the need to prevent COVID-19 from spreading within plants.

Ford, along with its crosstown rivals, restarted on a reduced production schedule. But within five weeks, the Dearborn automaker announced it was back to full, pre-coronavirus production levels, ahead of schedule. All three automakers have been rushing to fill depleting inventories on dealership lots, as consumer demand for new vehicles has rebounded stronger than expected.



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

Sophia Cai,
July 10, 2020

Ford Motor Co.’s top executive has pushed back against some employees calling for the top seller of vehicles to U.S. police departments to exit the business.

Chief Executive Officer Jim Hackett sent a more than 600-word letter to senior staff in response to messages he’s received both from within and outside Ford’s ranks to reconsider producing police vehicles.

Hackett, 65, said that while he and Executive Chairman Bill Ford support the Black Lives Matter movement and believe police should operate with more transparency and accountability, first responders “play an extraordinarily important role in the vitality and safety of our society.”

“Our world wouldn’t function without the bravery and dedication of the good police officers who protect and serve,” Hackett wrote. “But safety of community must be inclusive of all members and today, it is not.”

“Holding these two thoughts together in one’s mind is possible, but now there is tension,” Hackett continued. “It’s our belief the recent issues surfacing from the George Floyd tragedy are bringing a very intensive and necessary spotlight on police training and reform.”

The second-largest U.S. automaker by sales joins household-name companies including Facebook Inc. and PepsiCo Inc. in being pressured to reconsider or change business practices following the police killing of Floyd, an unarmed Black man, in May.

The fallout has been significant for some – Facebook is being hit by a major advertiser boycott – while Pepsi and others have abandoned brands rooted in racism. Amazon.com Inc. has implemented a one-year moratorium on police use of its facial-recognition software.

Ford Police Interceptor sedans and sport-utility vehicles – souped-up versions of its Fusion and Explorer models – are a small sliver of the more than 2 million cars the automaker sells in the U.S. every year. But its domination of the segment has long been a point of pride. The company boasted less than a year ago that it accounted for almost two-thirds of U.S. police vehicle sales.

“It’s not controversial that the Ford Police Interceptor helps officers do their job,” Hackett wrote. But he pushed back against the notion that supporting police accountability and producing vehicles for departments across the U.S. are mutually exclusive.

“The issues plaguing police credibility have nothing to do with the vehicles they’re driving,” Hackett said.



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

Setting a new benchmark in off-road capability, the Ranger Raptor has been purposefully-designed to incorporate Ford Performance DNA as well as the toughness of core Ranger design and engineering capability

Alex Reid
MSN News
July 9, 2020

Ford is redesigning the Ranger for 2022, and along with it will come another Raptor variant, which might be coming to North American markets for the first time.

Sources claim the next-generation Ranger Raptor will be available with three different engine options, according to Car Expert , including one powertrain already available in the F-150 Raptor.

In other markets, the Ranger Raptor was designed to house a diesel powerplant between its fenders, which is why it was never offered in the U.S. The 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder produced 210 horsepower and 369 lb.-ft. of torque.

The 2022 Raptor will be powered by that same engine but will also be joined by a variety of V6s, including a 3.0-litre turbo-diesel with 250 horsepower and 440 lb.-ft. of torque, and a 2.7-litre turbocharged gasoline engine with 325 horsepower and 400 lb.-ft. of torque, according to these reports.

While the diesel powertrains will likely not make it to the U.S.- or Canadian-spec model, we’re betting the 2.7-litre V6 will. The engine is already used in the F-150 Raptor with slightly more power, so it would be easy to de-tune it for the smaller Ranger. The engine could make its way, too, to the Bronco, as the T6 platform it rides on will also underpin the next-generation Ranger.

The redesigned Ranger Raptor will be unveiled in 2021 as a 2022 model, along with the standard Ranger.


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

The Detroit News

July 7, 2020

When Ford Motor Co. unveils the all-new, 2021 Ford Bronco on July 13, it will be more than a rugged SUV. It will be a brand.

Like Ford’s Mustang sub-brand which now includes an electric SUV in addition to a stable of two-door muscle cars, the four-wheel-drive Bronco brand will include a truck-based SUV in two-door and four-door trim, and a Bronco Sport SUV based on the unibody Ford Escape. Customers will also have access to off-road parks, driving instruction, an online community and apparel.

The outdoor SUV brand — complete with the “Built Wild” marketing tagline — will be a key ingredient of Ford’s evolutionary, three-pronged product strategy built on SUVs, the Mustang sport coupe and pickups. Ford will no longer produce sedans for the U.S. market.

Ford Bronco teases on Instagram (Photo: Ford)

Echoing Mustang, the Bronco brand will be emotionally anchored in 1960s nostalgia when Ford introduced the first “sport utility vehicle” as an off-road, Jeep-inspired lifestyle vehicle. The 1966 Bronco was introduced just a year after the Mustang set the performance world on fire with an affordable, drop-top muscle car.

“Bronco gave rise to the fun and versatile off-road SUV in 1966, becoming the first enjoyable sport utility vehicle for those who wanted to live, work and play outdoors,” said Jim Farley, Ford’s chief operating officer. “Like the original, the all-new Bronco family is engineered to take you to epic places, with capability to deliver confidence on any type of terrain.”

Like the original, the Bronco brand supports a race car — the Bronco R — for the grueling Baja 1000 off-road race. The Bronco R made its debut last winter at the famed Mexican endurance race. A Bronco won the Baja 1000 in 1969, the first time a production vehicle had ever won the race — a record that stands to this day.

Ford’s 1960s success runs deep through the brand. Its halo Ford GT supercar — in production since 2017 — builds on Ford’s historic 1966 Le Mans 24-hour win. The Bronco was launched in 1966 and the Mustang in 1965.

"The mid-1960s were very good years for Ford," said IHS Markit principal auto analyst Stephanie Brinley. "If you’re a traditional automaker, you have to evolve your brands. Ford is talking about its past and future at the same time."

Though the Bronco name has been out of circulation for 25 years, it still peppers popular culture. It’s appeared in 1,200 films, as John Paul II’s Popemobile in 1980, not to mention the infamous 1994 O.J. Simpson chase. 

Under the Built Wild tagline, the Bronco brand will seek to build an off-road and virtual community for owners that includes outdoor adventure playgrounds and social media.

Dubbed Off-Roadeo, the playgrounds will have four locations around the U.S. starting in 2021 and will be a place where owners can test their steeds — or get driving instruction — on challenging terrain similar to public Michigan parks like The Mounds near Flint or Jerome’s Bundy Hill. No word yet on whether one of those locations will be in Michigan.

When they’re not at play, Bronco enthusiasts can tune into Bronco Nation (www.thebronconation.com), an independent online community. It’s a forum for owners and enthusiasts to share off-asphalt adventures as well as vintage Bronco vehicle information and event calendars. Ford promises Bronco brand apparel, too.

“Bronco delivers on the common thread desired by enthusiasts — authenticity,” said Ford marketing manager Mark Grueber. “Building Bronco as Ford’s distinct outdoor brand includes engagement that extends far beyond ownership.”

In addition to helping re-order Ford’s lineup for an SUV and electric future, Bronco brand wants to capitalize on the "overlanding" trend. Made popular by the Jeep Wrangler, overlanding is an outdoor lifestyle of traveling around the country to often remote locations.

"There is a commonality in American culture going back decades that we want to go places, we want to explore," said IHS Markit’s Brinley. "The Bronco very much taps into  that American psyche."

While more details of the Ranger pickup-based Bronco will be forthcoming July 13, we do know the two-and-four-door Broncos will come standard with 4x4 drive as well as removable body panels like the Wrangler.

The Bronco Sport, to be unveiled the same day, will seek to capitalize on this appeal as well, though it will be based on the same unibody architecture of Ford’s popular Escape crossover. 

With the introduction of Bronco Sport, Ford will bifurcate the compact SUV segment. The sleek Escape will be aimed at urban commuters, while the Bronco Sport — complete with boxy design cues from the Bronco — will appeal to a more niche lifestyle owner.

"As Ford’s lineup changes, it’s not enough to offer another SUV," said Brinley. "You have to do something different if you want to keep your buyers. People want to feel special about their vehicles whether they are sedans or SUVs. Bronco hopes to make that emotional connection using a great history."



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

Jordyn Grzelewski and
Kalea Hall,
The Detroit News
July 6, 2020

Ford Motor Co. confirmed Wednesday it will permanently end production of the Lincoln Continental built at the Blue Oval's Flat Rock Assembly Plant.

The move is just the latest in the Dearborn automaker's long-term strategy of ditching sedans and compact cars in favor of a wider array of profit-rich trucks and SUVs that U.S. customers have come to prefer.

It also brings Ford a step closer to fulfilling the strategy it announced in 2018 of no longer producing traditional cars, except for such select models as the Mustang and its multiple variants. By axing the Continental, Lincoln's lineup will be all-SUV since the brand previously announced the discontinuation of the other remaining car, the MKZ.

In confirming the discontinuation of the Continental, Lincoln emphasized its SUV lineup, which includes models such as the Aviator and Navigator: "Lincoln is investing in growth segments and the brand will feature a full portfolio of SUVs, including a fully-electric vehicle in the future," spokeswoman Angie Kozleski said in a statement.

"Lincoln will continue to keep its newest SUVs fresh and we will have more news to share later this year; however, as the full-size premium sedan segment continues to decline in the U.S., we plan to end production of the Lincoln Continental at the end of this year."

A 2021 model year Continental will be offered in Ford's China market, before the model is discontinued there, as well: "The Continental has had a really rich past, but we'll return the name to the vault after that," Kozleski said.

The Flat Rock plant also produces the Mustang. Kozleski said Ford does not anticipate any layoffs as a result of discontinuing the Continental.

The Continental makes up just a small portion of Lincoln brand sales. In 2019, Ford sold just more than 6,400 Continentals, down nearly 25% from the previous year. The brand as a whole delivered more than 112,000 vehicles, most of them SUVs.

It makes economic sense for Ford to drop the Continental because the luxury sedan shares the same chassis as the Ford Fusion, and Fusion production is slated to end this year, said Karl Brauer, executive publisher for Cox Automotive. A Ford spokeswoman confirmed production of the Fusion will end this summer.

“That plant, that assembly line, that chassis, the R&D budget to keep evolving it, all of those things are more important for the volume model than the luxury model," said Brauer. "If the volume model can’t exist, the luxury model is gone."

But he said the new Continental was not just a “gussied up Ford Fusion: "Yes, somewhere in the heart of its chassis was a Ford Fusion, but they did such a good job on its exterior design and proportions … it looked like its own vehicle.”

The history of the Continental dates back to the World War II era. The Lincoln Zephyr Continental was introduced in 1939 and was "an immediate design icon," according to a history of the model on Ford's website. The Continental was commissioned by founder Henry Ford's son, Edsel Ford. He headed up the Lincoln division at the time and wanted to make a vehicle reminiscent of the automobiles he encountered in Europe.

The original version of the Lincoln was discontinued for several years, before being revived in the 1950s as the Lincoln Continental Mark II.

The Continental and Fusion are just two victims on a long list of discontinued cars as sales have plummeted in recent years. General Motors Co. nixed its Cadillac XTS, a full-size luxury sedan, the Chevrolet Impala and Cruze. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV was the first to start exiting the car market with the Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200.

Now, with consumers favoring trucks and SUVs, automakers are resurrecting old, larger vehicle nameplates, including the Ford Bronco, GM's Hummer and the Jeep Wagoneer.


Ford sales down 33%
in second quarter

Kalea Hall,
The Detroit News
July 5, 2020

The Detroit Three posted sales declines of more than 30% in the second quarter as the coronavirus pandemic raged through the United States. 

Ford Motor Co. sales in the second quarter dropped 33%, the Dearborn automaker reported Thursday. The numbers come a day after General Motors Co. reported a 34% sales decline and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV a 39% drop in the same three-month period, showing just how hard COVID-19 affected auto sales as much of the U.S. economy was shut down.

State economies have reopened and there's been positive growth in jobs, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics saying Thursday that 4.8 million jobs were added in June. But it remains unclear how recent surges in coronavirus cases that have revived certain stay-at-home restrictions —  and expiring unemployment stimulus — will hit future sales.

Incentive programs offered by Ford during the second quarter, including 0% for 72 months, helped dealers like Tim Hovik, owner of San Tan Ford in Gilbert, Arizona, and vice chairman of Ford’s national dealer council.

"The Ford programs are more competitive and more consumer friendly, and have given us a leg up on competition," Hovik said. "That has been a key to our success. We have had a better line of sight than a lot of competition and it's really allowed dealers to be much more positive and develop very solid, consistent business plans as we worked through this thing."

Hovik never had to close his dealership during the pandemic. His sales for the year are flat over last year, he said: "We are holding up pretty well." 

He had about $54 million worth of inventory in mid-March and is down to about $26 million, but "the sun is coming back to shine," he said, since he's expecting a 30-days supply shipment in the next 30 days. The latest data from Cox Automotive shows Ford with inventory levels closer to 90 days, above the national average of 70 days.  

"As the capacity of the factories increases, I will be getting more … the reality is we are going to be a little tight for the rest of the year," he said.

With people transitioning to cross-country vacations with their car during the pandemic, Hovik is hopeful that movement will boost sales the rest of the summer: "That’s played a factor and I think that will continue to drive demand in our business."

Jim Seavitt, owner of Village Ford in Dearborn, sold 265 new vehicles in June, making for his best month ever in the last three years. Incentives and pent-up demand helped lure would-be buyers back to the showroom.

“People are back on the market and people have money and they have confidence in their jobs,” he said. “For the month of July, I don’t think we have a chance to be as good as we were in June."

With its dealer network, Ford and other automakers shifted to online and remote sales in the second quarter, which helped grow the automaker's retail share by an estimated full percentage point to 13.3% — Ford’s best retail share quarter in five years.

"Our performance in Q2 was really driven by Ford and our dealers’ deep commitment to customers and quick action taken to support our customers during these unprecedented times," said Mark LaNeve, Ford vice president for U.S. marketing, sales and service, in a statement. "Our support programs continue with our recent introduction of ‘Ford Promise’ to provide extra security during these difficult times. It’s another way Ford is standing with hard-working Americans.”

Ford sold 433,869 in the second quarter, down from 650,336 sold last year. Ford's retail sales were down less than 14.3%. The coronavirus shutdown affected fleet sales the most. Daily rental was down 94%, while commercial was off 78% from production shutdowns. The commercial performance did improve through the quarter, Ford noted.

Ford's profitable F-Series had overall sales of 180,825 pickups, down 22.7% over last year. The F-Series did expand its leadership position in the second quarter with an estimated 2.6 percentage point increase in retail share. In June, the Ford Explorer led as the best-selling midsize SUV. Overall Explorer sales were up 12% over last year. 

The performance, Jessica Caldwell, executive director of insights at Edmunds.com, says, "reiterates how strong their truck and SUV lineup is for them and how that really is carrying these automakers, particularly the Detroit automakers, through this downtime."

Ford recently revealed its new generation of its money-making F-150, which is scheduled to go on sale later this year. The Blue Oval will unveil the new Bronco, a vehicle that's been out of production since 1996, on July 8. The automaker will broadcast the virtual reveal of the Bronco across Disney’s broadcast, cable, digital and streaming properties, including ABC, ESPN, National Geographic and Hulu, during the first commercial break in the 8 p.m. EDT hour on July 13. The Bronco will launch in 2021.

"They are selling down a lot of vehicles and then launching going forward," said Michelle Krebs, senior director of automotive relations for Cox Automotive. "They have decent inventories. They have a lot of new product launches if they nail those they will be in pretty good shape."


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

CBC News
Aaron Wherry
July 2, 2020

The Donald Trump era began in 2015 with a promise to build a wall between the United States and Mexico. Five years later, the Trump era may end with citizens in much of the rest of the world — Canadians, in particular — insisting on a virtual wall between themselves and the United States.

With the United States adding 40,000 new cases of COVID-19 each day, the European Union is leaving the U.S. off a list of 15 countries whose citizens soon will be allowed to visit its 27 member nations. In Canada, there seems to be no great desire to quickly reverse the unprecedented border restrictions that were imposed in March.

The question for Canadians is how much longer the virtual wall will have to be in place — and how much it might hurt to keep it there.

"My guess is it's going to have to stay closed for more than 12 months," Colin Furness, an epidemiologist at the University of Toronto, told CBC News this week. "It's hard to imagine what's going to happen in the United States until we have a vaccine or until the population has been sufficiently infected that you have herd immunity."

Canadians are in no rush to reopen

When Leger Marketing asked Canadians in May when they thought Canada should reopen its border with the United States, 47 per cent of respondents said "not before the end of the year." With more than 2.6 million cases now in the United States, it's unlikely Canadians' enthusiasm for welcoming our American neighbours has increased since then.

An exemption for "essential" travel significantly reduced the disruption to the Canadian economy. "Canadians continue to get the food, medicine, commercial goods, and other essential supplies they need to live and work, and Canadian exporters for the most part have not suffered disruption," said Goldy Hyder, president and CEO of the Business Council of Canada.

But the decline in traffic across the border has still been precipitous. According to data obtained by Postmedia, between June 15 and June 21 just 170,998 people entered Canada at a land crossing with the United States — and 104,247 of those people were truck drivers. Over the same period in 2019, more than 1.2 million people traveled through a land crossing from the U.S. into Canada.

Based on those numbers, the pandemic is going to leave a deep mark on the Canadian tourism industry and on border towns like Windsor and Sarnia, Ontario. Hyder and the Business Council have called on the federal government to extend its wage subsidy for the tourism sector through the rest of the year.

The damage could be lasting

But it can't be assumed that the exemption for essential business travel and widespread use of video conferencing are preventing all damage to the economic relationships between Canadians and Americans.

"People say, okay, well, the trucks are going, so the supply chains are working. But the supply chains reflect agreements and contracts that were made in the past with a lot of face-to-face interaction," said Bill Anderson, director of the Cross-Border Institute in Windsor. "If those agreements aren't being made now, the question is — what's the supply chain going to look like six months to a year from now?"

It also can't be assumed that cross-border travel will quickly return to its pre-COVID-19 normal once the threat of the disease has passed, Anderson added. Traffic between Canada and the United States dropped significantly after 9/11 and had yet to fully return to previous levels when the pandemic hit.

Beyond the economic concerns, there are the personal plights — the families still being kept apart by the border restrictions. An exemption introduced in June only applies to "immediate" family members such as spouses, parents, children and guardians.

A pandemic running rampant in the U.S.

But all complications associated with the current restrictions must be balanced against the significant health risks of reopening the border — and the economic disruption that would occur if there is a resurgence of COVID-19 in Canada.

Furness said his suggestion of 12 months was not meant to be perfectly precise. "It's a very, very rough idea," he said. "I just want people to get used to the idea that maybe it's not going to be next week or next month."

But his projection is based on a belief that COVID-19 has now spread too far in the United States for it to be contained. "My assumption is that the genie is so far out of the bottle that there isn't even a bottle anymore," he said.

In these circumstances, it might be hard for any industry or community to argue that the border should be reopened. But accepting that a return to normal is unlikely in the near future could refocus the discussion on what, if anything, can be done to find a new normal that is even just slightly less restrictive.

Baby steps

"I don't think the solution is to say, 'Let's pick out a date and say, OK, the border is now open.' In fact, I would say that maybe 'open' is the wrong term to use," said Anderson, who is also thinking of COVID-19 as a long-term problem. "I think what you need to do is try to find rational and safe ways to ease some of the restrictions."

Anderson said that expanded testing (likely conducted away from the border crossings themselves) might allow some travellers to cross if they can show that they have recently tested negative. The effectiveness of that approach, of course, would depend on the accuracy of the testing.

Laurie Trautman, director of the Border Policy Research Institute at West Washington University, said the current exemption for family members could be broadened to include extended family like grandparents. Furness also would look at family unification.

"I really would like us to revisit that with a long view," Furness said of the current policy on family members. "To say, 'This is going to be in place for a long time, now how can we alleviate the worst of the suffering?'"

a person is walking down the street: Two friends embrace during a visit at the Canada-U.S. Douglas-Peace Arch border crossing in Surrey, British Columbia on Wednesday, April 24, 2019.© Ben Nelms/CBC Two friends embrace during a visit at the Canada-U.S. Douglas-Peace Arch border crossing in Surrey, British Columbia on Wednesday, April 24, 2019.

If that meant a lot more people crossing the border, then testing could be a useful policy, Furness said. But he suggests that what is currently a "tiny trickle" of cross-border travellers should only be allowed to become a "slightly bigger trickle" — no tourists or unnecessary business travel. He said international students should still be allowed to enter Canada, but he would like greater clarity on what constitutes "essential" travel.

The border restrictions put in place in March have been extended three times and are now set to expire on July 21 — officially, at least. Even if the deal is only extended for another month, it's likely time to accept that a largely closed border between Canada and the United States is, like the disease itself, going to be our reality for the foreseeable future —  and to plan accordingly.

"Right now I think everyone's responsibility is to figure out how we're going to live with this thing," Anderson says. "Because it might not go away for a long time."


New NAFTA takes effect amid
carmaker COVID-19 recovery

Keith Laing,
The Detroit News
July 1, 2020

Washington — The replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement takes effect July 1, meaning automakers will have to begin grappling with a new set of trade rules as they try to remain afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.

On Wednesday, the trade rules by which automakers have played since 1994 will be replaced by a new pact requiring automakers to produce cars with 75% of parts originating from the United States, Canada or Mexico — up from 62.5% — within five years to qualify for duty-free treatment. The pact, known as the United States Mexico Canada Agreement, was signed into law by President Donald Trump in January.

In addition to the USMCA's new requirements for parts, known as "rules of origin," the new pact requires 40-45% of an auto’s content to be made by workers earning at least $16 per hour. Vehicles not meeting the requirements will be subject to a 2.5% duty. Automakers and other companies will also have to make sure 70% of the steel and aluminum they use comes from North American companies.

The U.S. Trade Representative only recently released uniform rules for the trade pact that has been agreed to by the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Trump administration officials expressed confidence on Tuesday that enough information has been shared with U.S. companies to ensure a smooth transition for affected industries, including automakers.

"We have done a significant amount of communications and outreach," Brenda Smith, the Executive Assistant Commissioner, Office of Trade, at U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said in a press call. She noted that her agency has released three sets of implementation instructions since April, including one set on monitoring and enforcement procedural guidelines that was released publicly on Tuesday.

Smith said automakers will have about a six-month transition period to get up to speed on the new rules, followed by six months of "informed compliance" in which regulators will keep an eye on their documentation to make sure things are in line with the new expectations. But they avoid stiff penalties. She acknowledged automakers will be in a whole new trade world, beginning on Wednesday.

"Any time you've trained and built processes around a 25-year set of rules, any change is going to be a challenge," Smith said.

"We will not be in a gotcha mode, but we certainly want to make sure that industry is in compliance with the agreement," she continued. "Generally, the expectation of the government is if you make a claim for preferential treatment, your production and content is compliant with the agreement."

Smith said she was not worried about the possibility that the coronavirus pandemic and the international travel restrictions that have been in place in recent months would hamper companies' ability to comply with the requirement, noting that the new rules will be phased in and a lot of the compliance documentation will be submitted electronically.

"In terms of essential workers, they're able to cross the border," she said. "We don't think travel restrictions that are currently in place will impact on our ability to implement this agreement."

In a statement, Ford Motor Co. said it has "long supported USMCA as a template for future U.S. trade agreements and are pleased that it is now officially in effect." The company added it "will continue working closely with (U.S. Trade Representative) to ensure that its implementation spurs innovation and keeps the U.S. auto industry globally competitive.”

General Motors Co. declined to comment, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Jennifer Safavian, president and CEO of Here for America, which lobbies in Washington for the U.S. operations of international motor vehicle manufacturers, said in a statement the USMCA's implementation is an important step because "an integrated North American automotive market has been key to the expansion of international automakers’ operations in the United States, who together build nearly half of all cars and trucks produced here and support over 2.4 million American jobs." 

Charlie Chesbrough, senior economist and senior director of industry insights for Cox Automotive, said automakers will be juggling a lot of competing demands between the new trade rules and the pandemic.

"The industry has so much to worry about right now that USMCA implementation is just icing on the cake," he said. "There will likely be some issues with paperwork and documentation with the new agreement that will take time to sort out.  But the industry is more focused on supply and demand issues in front of them today.  Factories are trying to maintain COVID compliance and get inventory levels back to more robust levels."

He added: "With the shut downs in March, inventory has fallen and this could hinder sales in June and July.  If buyers can’t find exactly what they want, they may decide to delay purchasing. 

"Inventory on dealer lots has fallen significantly in recent weeks as demand has improved while supply was constrained," Chesbrough said. "This issue is likely more pressing for OEMs, but certainly supply chain disruptions due to COVID, or USMCA compliance, would not be helpful right now." 

Joseph Semsar, Deputy Under Secretary for International Trade for the U.S. Department of Commerce, said in a webinar hosted by the Washington, D.C.-based Wilson Center, a non-partisan policy forum, on Tuesday "the USMCA modernizes critical provisions of NAFTA and sets the stage for creating the automotive industry of the future in North America."

He touted provisions in the trade pact boosting the requirements for the number of North American parts and wage requirements for automakers as seminal achievements for the Trump administration, which has promised to rewrite trade deals the president deemed unfair to American workers during his 2016 campaign.

"According to estimates from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative new capital investments in the U.S. attributable to USMCA by automakers and battery suppliers will total approximately $34 billion over five years," he said. "The USMCA will incentivize at least $23 billion annually in new U.S. automotive parts purchases within five years."


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

Jordyn Grzelewski,
The Detroit
June 30 2020

Ford Motor Co. has joined the growing roster of corporations that are using their advertising dollars to send a message to social media platforms where hate speech and the spread of false information often go unchecked.

The Dearborn automaker confirmed Monday that it is halting all social media advertising in the U.S. for 30 days "to re-evaluate our presence on these platforms."

In recent days, amid ongoing nationwide protests over racial injustice and police brutality spurred by George Floyd's death while being arrested by Minneapolis police, dozens of major companies around the world have stopped advertising on social media platforms. Civil rights organizations, including the NAACP and Anti-Defamation League, launched a "Stop Hate for Profit" campaign asking companies to halt advertising on Facebook for the month of July, saying the social media giant has not done enough to monitor harmful content.

"We know what Facebook did," a statement on Stop Hate for Profit's website reads. "They  allowed incitement to violence against protesters fighting for racial justice in America in the wake of (the deaths of) George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony  McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks and  so many others. ... Could they protect and support Black users? Could they call out Holocaust denial as hate? Could they help get out the vote? They absolutely could. But they are actively choosing not to do so."

The Associated Press reported Sunday that Starbucks Corp. was pausing its social media advertising. Participants in the boycott include Unilever, a major multinational consumer-goods company that is behind brands such as Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream and Dove soap; Coca-Cola; and Verizon.

Well-known retail brands such as Eddie Bauer, Patagonia and lululemon are also among the participants. The AP reported that some companies are halting ads only on Facebook, while others have stopped advertising on all social media platforms. Some have aligned themselves with #StopHateforProfit, while others have shied away from directly associating themselves with the campaign.

Honda Motor Co. is also participating in the boycott.

In a statement, a Ford spokesman said: "The existence of content that includes hate speech, violence and racial injustice on social platforms needs to be eradicated. We are actively engaged with industry initiatives led by the Association of National Advertisers to drive more accountability, transparency and trusted measurement to clean up the digital and social media ecosystem."

General Motors Co. does not seem to have gone as far as boycotting social media platforms, as of Monday. The automaker said in a statement that as it "work(s) to eliminate injustice and drive inclusion, we are reviewing and reinforcing our strict marketing guidelines that ensure our brands are never associated with content that is hateful or harmful."

"When we have concerns, our approach is to engage our advertising partners directly and privately and work to find solutions," a GM spokesman said.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Retiree Ross Lowery celebrating
Father's Day at Home


'Continuing the legacy:'
Ford F-150's roots
go back to early 20th century

Jordyn Grzelewski,
The Detroit News
June 25, 2020

When Ford Motor Co. debuted its F-Series truck lineup in 1948, advertising campaigns proclaimed the trucks were "Built Stronger to Last Longer."

Today, the messaging is remarkably similar: the Dearborn automaker declares its trucks are "Built Ford Tough." In the decades-long history of the F-Series and all its permutations, the design and amenities of the trucks have evolved with the times, but the promise of the lineup has remained consistent: Utility. Reliability. Functionality.

The result has been the growth of a loyal customer base that has made the F-Series the bestselling vehicle for decades running not only in Ford's lineup, but in the entire country, and the perennial engine of the automaker's revenue and profitability.

On Thursday, Ford will open the next chapter in the series' history with the reveal of the new, 14th-generation F-150 pickup truck. The redesigned model will be unveiled at 8 p.m. via livestream on YouTube, and the truck is scheduled to go on sale later this year.

Details of the new truck — slated to come in hybrid and, eventually, fully battery-electric variants alongside the usual complement of gas-powered models — have been kept under wraps. But experts expect a new-and-improved take on the vehicle that has kept customers coming back year after year.

"It hasn't changed. That's the beauty of the F-Series truck," said Ted Ryan, Ford's archives and heritage brand manager. "All the others change and change and change. The F-Series has its North Star."

Dana Sturtz is a mother of two who used to buy minivans and SUVs before switching to a truck. Now the 45-year-old teacher from Huntington Woods counts herself among the F-150's dedicated customers.

"I feel like I've been missing out for years," said Sturtz, who began leasing the pickup late last year. "It's the best car I've ever had. I'm in love with it. I don't think I'll ever go back. It's just an awesome, awesome vehicle for our family."

She never saw herself in a truck until the staff at the Village Ford dealership in Dearborn convinced her to try it. The size of the four-door's cabin blew away her preconceived notions. The vehicle has proven to work well, even for carpooling with a 16- and 13-year-old.

Plus, when the family goes camping Up North, the bed provides plenty of space for all their gear. And Sturtz thinks the gas mileage is an improvement on the Ford Explorer the family had before.

She raves about the vehicle to friends and is looking forward to seeing the redesigned version: "I'm so content and happy. I think anything they add would just be a bonus."

That's just what the guardians of the Blue Oval want to hear. Ford's first truck, the Model TT, debuted in 1917, 14 years after Henry Ford founded the company in Detroit. The inaugural truck was true to Henry Ford's philosophy of building strictly utilitarian vehicles.

"He didn't care about style. He didn't care about beauty," Ryan said. "He was trying to build the best cars in the world that were economical and useful."

So when the need for a flatbed truck arose, Ford essentially tacked on a flatbed to its Model T: "It was the most Henry Ford of all the Henry Ford things," Ryan said.

Henry Ford's vision to create a vehicle with a cab and work-duty frame capable of accommodating cargo beds and third-party upfit equipment proudly endures a century later in the Built Ford Tough F-Series lineup, from F-150 to F-750 Super Duty

Three decades later, in 1948, Ford launched the F-Series with a half-ton vehicle called the F-1. Looking back on advertising brochures from the era, you will find phrases such as: "'Hard-working.' 'There for you.' 'Heavy capability,'" Ryan said. "That 1948 brochure reads like a 2020 brochure."

Some of the most significant milestones for the lineup came in the 1970s. In 1974, Ford introduced the SuperCab, giving customers who were increasingly buying trucks for personal use, and not just for work, the option for a roomier ride. Then, in 1975, Ford debuted the F-150; a few years later, in 1978, it sold a record 864,000 F-Series trucks.

In the 1980s, the lineup underwent a significant redesign and added diesel pickups. In 1999, production began on the F-Series Super Duty.

The current-generation F-150 launched in 2015. The 13th-generation model featured a first-of-its-kind military-grade, aluminum-alloyed body. The launch was the culmination of at least five years of research and development as Ford overhauled the building process, from exterior painting to interior design, to incorporate the lightweight but costlier material.

The changes the series has gone through over the years have responded to customer preferences while staying true to the F-Series' roots, Ryan said: "The design has changed to make them, A, more comfortable, and B, to infuse technologies that make it easier for people to work or place. (Ford has built) different features into the cab, the liners for the beds, the hooks — anything that can be done to make them more utilitarian more useful."

With the new F-150, "I think we're continuing the legacy we started in 1917 and enhanced in 1948," he said.

The 2019 Ford F-150. A first-ever offering from Ford, the off-road leveling kits bring FOX shocks, exclusive Ford Performance tuning, 2-inch front lift, new front coilovers, vehicle-specific upper front mounts and locking spring pre-load rings

The F-150 consistently leads the increasingly competitive light-duty, full-size pickup truck segment, which has carved out a crucial — and lucrative — space in the auto industry.

The F-150 made up 22.6% of new leads in the segment on CarGurus.com, as of earlier this month. And, according to data from Edmunds.com, Inc., the F-150 makes up about one-third of U.S. light-duty truck sales; Ford sold nearly 600,000 F-150s last year, compared to about 450,000 of the No. 2 Chevy Silverado 1500.

The truck also has generated higher-than-average loyalty among customers. A recent CarGurus survey of current and former pickup truck owners found that 27% of Ford full-size pickup owners would not consider purchasing another brand, compared to 17% among full-size pickup owners in general.

A successful launch of the new F-150 is crucial for Ford, as it grapples with the economic consequences of the coronavirus crisis. Pre-pandemic estimates by Morgan Stanley have pegged the value of the lineup at more than the company as a whole.

"The F-Series launch is a pivotal moment for Ford," said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds' executive director of insights. "This truck has been Ford's cash cow for years and a bright spot during this pandemic, but it has also been in need of a fresh redesign as the truck wars have grown more heated."

The F-150, she said, "is what pays the bills," so "Ford needs it to succeed the most to get through this economic crisis and beyond."


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

June 24, 2020

DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. next week will show the next generation of its brawny F-150 pickup truck that offers a new sleeper-seat feature and over-the-air software updates.

The new F-150, part of the best-selling vehicle line in the United States, accounts for $50 billion (all figures in USD) in annual revenue, and a significant share of Ford's annual profit. The truck is the top-selling vehicle in Canada and has been the best-selling pickup in Canada for more than 50 years.

While Tesla Inc and General Motors Co have moved faster on over-the-air software upgrades and high-speed in-vehicle data networks, the new F-150 will bring such technology squarely into the mainstream.

The new truck, expected to launch later this year, is a critical plank in Chief Operating Officer Jim Farley's plan to slash $5 billion in warranty costs, speed Ford's push into vehicle connectivity and add to the No. 2 U.S. automaker's already-strong position in the North American commercial vehicle market.

Automotive News in February reported on some of the new F-150's design ques.

Ford has borrowed more than $20 billion to ride out the economic shock from the coronavirus pandemic. Revenue generated from the new F-150 will be key to paying that money back.

Ford is not taking big risks with the exterior look of the new truck given its sales dominance, instead focusing on improving the interior, according to those who have seen it. Ford is scheduled to publicly show for the first time the new F-150 online on June 25.

"It's really about technology and productivity," Farley said at a Deutsche Bank conference on June 10.

One prominent feature will be the lay-flat passenger seat like those seen in first-class cabins on some planes, said a person familiar with the plans who asked not to be identified. "You can basically live in the truck," the person said.

Ford's nicer interior, including a larger display screen, follows a similar move by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles with its new Ram truck, which received enthusiastic reviews for its stylish interior and optional 12-inch display screen.

"Ram taught everybody a little bit of a lesson," said Rhett Ricart, owner of Ricart Ford in Columbus, Ohio. "The old 5-inch screen for your navigation and radio controls is gone. They're all going to be 10-, 12-, 15-inch screens. That was started by Tesla."

The F-150's new electrical architecture will allow Ford to provide over-the-air updates to key modules controlling the vehicle, replacing trips to the dealership.

The new truck's connectivity also will help Ford boost sales to commercial customers, and reduce warranty costs, Farley told investors.

The F-Series truck has been around since 1948, while the F-150 debuted in 1975. Sales of the current version have remained strong despite its age, and the new model could help Ford hold or even build its position in the segment, said Sandy Munro, CEO of Michigan-based consulting firm Munro & Associates.

"If they add the same stuff as what Ram did and if they can add more stuff like Tesla's doing, there'll be a gigantic gap between Ford, and Ram and Chevy," he said.

The key for Ford will be to avoid the kinds of costly production problems that hobbled the launch of the new Explorer SUV last year. Ford acknowledged it erred in trying to launch the Explorer and Lincoln Aviator simultaneously while breaking in a new assembly line at its 95-year-old plant in Chicago.

Farley has been visiting the plants in Dearborn, Mich., and Kansas City, Mo., that will build the new F-150. Despite delays related to the virus, he said the launch is in "really good shape."


UAW training center reforms seek
transparency, higher standards

Breana Noble,
The Detroit News
June 23, 2020

Structural changes to the United Auto Workers' training centers jointly operated with Detroit's three automakers, coupled with new U.S. Labor Department rules, could subject the embattled organizations to greater reporting requirements and the highest levels of scrutiny, according to officials.

The training centers have been at the center of a five-year federal corruption investigation into the union for the misappropriation of funds to bribe UAW officials and the misuse of trinkets and trash contracts to solicit kickbacks.

Labor contracts ratified last year with the automakers dissolve the corporate nonprofit training centers, creating two trusts each in their places. The new structures, according to officials, will subject the funds designated for training blue-collar workers to more federal oversight, annual audits, greater transparency and stricter administrative standards that could help prevent future scandals.

"I think it's a good-faith effort that the two sides are coming together to repair the damage that was done with the corruption," said Jonathon Mason, a 43-year-old production worker at Ford Motor Co.'s Dearborn Truck plant. "They need to get that on track. It's the training center — that's for the future of the companies and the UAW."

The structural changes follow a number of reforms implemented to address corruption within the organizations, including the elimination of training center credit cards, stricter asset and monetary rules, budget reviews, multi-vendor bids for contracts and bans on charitable gifts.

Fourteen people have been convicted in relation to corruption stemming from the training centers. Three former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV executives, including Vice President Alphons Iacobelli, have pleaded guilty to embezzling National Training Center funds to pay off UAW officials with lavish trips, private villas and other personal luxuries. The conspiracy has led General Motors Co. to pursue a civil racketeering case against the Italian American automaker, which FCA has called meritless.

The government also has secured three convictions related to UAW officials soliciting bribes from contract vendors for the UAW-GM Center for Human Resources. The structural changes to all three centers will not affect the day-to-day operations of joint activities, the union has held, but they will help to ensure sound oversight and governance.

"The newly reconstituted joint program centers," according to a statement from the UAW, "will protect UAW members by imposing strict fiduciary standards on the conduct of trustees managing the centers and allow UAW members more access to financial information related to the centers."

In place of the current training centers, according to the contracts, will be two Taft-Hartley nonprofit trusts each. Taft-Hartley refers to the Labor Management Relations Act that regulates unions.

"The Taft-Hartley trust structure, which is used throughout the US, imposes strict fiduciary obligations on the trustees of each trust to use assets properly, and makes those trustees personally responsible for meeting their obligations," said Ben Eisner, co-counsel to the UAW-FCA National Training Center, in an email.

"The Taft Hartley structure will hold the people in charge accountable and will provide additional confidence in these valuable and important joint training and other programs."

The reforms will bring a much-needed formal process of scrutiny to the training centers for the first time in 40 years, said Thomas Adams, a retired autoworker who has studied corruption in relation to the training centers for years and is turning his 2010 doctoral dissertation on the subject into a book. But the continued operation of so many joint operations, he believes, should be examined, as well.

“The joint programs are a way to buy influence into the union,” Adams said. “They bought labor peace that way. Instead of representing the interest of the workers, they maintained the interest of the (training centers’) bureaucracy and the largesse to the political machine and the Administrative Caucus,” the union's equivalent of a political party that has represented nearly all of the UAW's top international leaders for 70 years.

'Every dollar'

The two trusts replacing each center are broken between the responsibilities subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act and those that are not. The Labor Management Committees Trusts will cover those that are not, such as health, safety, diversity and inclusion training as well as new-hire orientations.

The second trusts are Voluntary Employees' Beneficiary Associations, or VEBAs. They will oversee programs such as tuition reimbursement and employee assistance. UAW members might be familiar with such associations from the UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust launched in 2010 to oversee retiree health-care plans.

The UAW said it began discussions on restructuring the joint program centers with General Motors Co. in early 2019 under former UAW President Gary Jones, who pleaded guilty this month for helping steal more than $1 million from training center funds and member dues as part of a racketeering scheme.

UAW President Rory Gamble "was directly involved in the 2019 negotiations concerning reconstituting the joint program centers with these heightened financial reporting and operational standards," the union said. "Such reforms are in line with the efforts he and the UAW have undertaken to ensure wrongdoing like those uncovered by the investigation never happen again."

The transition to the trusts will take some time, though the administrations overseeing the new arrangement are in the works in hopes of creating "new structures that would enhance transparency and internal controls," FCA said in a statement.

The contract with the Italian American automaker, which was the last to be ratified, set a deadline of July 1 to finalize the structure of the final two trusts, but because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, it has been extended until Sept. 1. The March 31 deadline in the UAW-Ford contract also has been extended, according to the Dearborn automaker. GM's deadline was the earliest and was unaffected by the virus.

The boards of the trusts will be split evenly in representation between the union and the automakers. Like the current training centers, the trusts must file publicly available tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service. They also will undergo annual financial reviews by independent auditors, a practice only recently implemented at the training centers since the federal government's investigation into the UAW began.

The VEBA trusts, in particular, will have additional scrutiny under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, a federal law known as ERISA that establishes standards for retirement, health and other benefit plans in private industry.

The duties of the fiduciaries that operate plans or trusts regulated by ERISA are the "highest known to the law," according to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Every dollar, every penny is a plan asset under ERISA," said Paul Catenacci, an ERISA specialist and partner at Novara Tesija and Catenacci PLLC law firm in Troy. "You're not allowed to do anything, you're not allowed to spend a penny unless there is a specific exemption that allows you to do that."

ERISA gives the U.S. Labor Department extensive oversight powers that allow it to conduct an audit or look at an organization's books almost at any time. It also often requires additional public disclosures on an organization's service providers, direct and indirect compensation and investments.

Trustees responsible for organizations subject to ERISA must operate the organizations in the interests of the beneficiaries alone. Fiduciaries are expected to diversify the trusts' interests, avoid conflicts of interest and have written documents with specifics on how to spend the money. ERISA also provides the courts the power to take action against fiduciaries who do not meet conduct protocols, including making them personally liable to recover losses.

Contracts typically must undergo strict requests for proposals processes, Catenacci said. Fiduciaries are expected to monitor all professionals they hire.

"Trustees should be actively engaged," Catenacci said. "If there is a manager underperforming, they're expected to ask, 'Should we make any changes in those professionals?' They should be answering those questions. They can't put the plan on autopilot."

ERISA also provides beneficiaries the right to access all documents for funded programs under the plan or trust. They can appeal procedures if they believe they have not received the benefits to which they are entitled.

Additionally, ratified contracts ban promotional items for the training centers and give the automakers sole exclusive discretion to accept, modify or reject expenditures approved by the trusts' leadership.

'Financial integrity'

The Labor Department also is using the corruption in the training centers as justification to require labor organizations to report on funds that they not only exclusively control but over which they exercise domain. Such disclosures under From T-1 were abandoned under the Obama administration.

"The disclosure created by the form would help protect the financial integrity of union training centers and other union funds set up to benefit rank-and-file members," the Office of Labor-Management Standards wrote in May 2019 to propose the new rule.

The department finalized Form T-1 in March. The additional disclosures include details on receipts, disbursements, and employee compensation. They are meant to help workers "maintain democratic control over their labor organizations and ensure a proper accounting of labor organization funds," according to the rule. It, however, does contain an exception for trusts subject to ERISA.

"The UAW acknowledges and appreciates the U.S. Dept. of Labor’s recent efforts to increase financial transparency in labor-related trusts and entities such as the joint program centers," the UAW said in a statement.

"The bargained agreements providing for the reconstituted joint program centers will afford UAW members greater access to financial information related to the centers than the newly announced DOL reporting rule, and much sooner as well."

The 2019 contracts with the automakers also put the UAW-FCA training center in Warren and the riverfront UAW-GM Center for Human Resources in Detroit on the sale block. The companies will provide space at other facilities to conduct joint activities. The Detroit building housing the UAW-Ford National Program Center will continue to support training programs.

In March, more than 70 employees were laid off at the GM center because of its closure. An independent appraiser has assessed the property for the FCA center off Nine Mile, and Eisner said a real-estate professional has supplied a marketing plan to "make sure that any sale is appropriate and fair."


Ford and Fiat Chrysler return
to full production Monday

Jordyn Grzelewski,
The Detroit News
June 22, 2020

Detroit's automakers are on pace to resume full, pre-coronavirus production schedules, five weeks since a historic, industrywide restart of North American operations.

Ford Motor Co. will resume its full production schedule in the U.S. on Monday, two weeks sooner than it had planned, the automaker confirmed Friday. And when Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV restarts its second shift at Belvidere Assembly in Illinois on Monday, it too will be back to regular production.

General Motors Co. said its truck and SUV plants are firing on all cylinders again, with most car and crossover plants operating at pre-pandemic levels.

The ramp-ups come five weeks after the U.S. auto industry restarted North American operations after being shut down for eight weeks to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Plants came back online on reduced schedules, in part to allow workers to get used to new health and safety protocols that include measures such as daily temperature checks and required face coverings.

The return to normal operating patterns signifies strong consumer demand, that automakers have been able to work through snarls in the supply chain, and that health protocols are working, said Kristen Dziczek, vice president of industry, labor & economics at the Center for Automotive Research.

Detroit's automakers are working to make up for lost time and replenish dealer inventories to meet demand that has been higher than initially predicted at the onset of the pandemic. The resumption of full production is a sign that “demand has remained relatively strong and that there’s a need for the products in the marketplace," Dziczek said.

The auto industry on average had a 60.9-day supply of inventory in May, down from 64.2 days in May 2019 and from 120.7 days in April, according to the latest data from Edmunds.com Inc., an auto information website.

There have been some noted supply-chain issues along the way, including one that prevented GM from adding additional shifts at its profit-rich truck plants. That issue was worked through and GM added the shifts at the start of June. But these moves signify that automakers “been able to overcome whatever hurdles, and there are many in their whole production system, to get all the parts that they need from all the various places they need them from to build these very complex assemblies," said Dziczek.

While there have been some coronavirus cases in auto plants, the virus has not been widespread. Dziczek noted that the protocols the automakers are using have worked as intended, identifying positive cases and preventing employees who should not be in contact with others from working in the plants: “They are continuing to refine and evolve those protocols as they come up against hurdles or as the science changes to try to keep workers as safe as they possibly can be.”

Ford at first was mum on when it expected to get back to its normal production schedule; then, last week, the automaker signaled it expected to return all U.S. plants to pre-coronavirus capacity by July 6.

Those plans have now been bumped up, thanks to the readiness of Ford's workforce and supply base, Kelli Felker, Ford's global manufacturing and communication managers, told The Detroit News: "We are pleased to be able to return to our normal operating pattern in the U.S. on Monday — which is sooner than expected — because our workforce and suppliers are able to support. The safety of our workforce continues to be our top priority."

She noted that U.S. production accounts for the "vast majority" of the Dearborn automaker's global operations. Ford, as well as other automakers, resumed production in other markets, including China and Europe, prior to North America.

The ramp-up comes as Ford is gearing up for key product launches that are upcoming, including the redesigned F-150 pickup truck — Ford's best-selling vehicle — that the automaker will reveal next week and plans to bring to showrooms later this year.

Fiat Chrysler builds the Jeep Cherokee at Belvidere Assembly. With the resumption of the second shift there, "all of our North American assembly plants will be back at their pre-COVID operating patterns next week," Fiat Chrysler spokeswoman Jodi Tinson said.

"All of GM’s U.S. truck and SUV plants are back on three shifts and nearly all of our car and crossover plants are working the same number of shifts as they did pre-pandemic," GM spokesman Dan Flores said. "More than 90% of our hourly team is back to work. As a course of normal business, we will continue to monitor the marketplace and adjust production as needed."


Ford teases new F-150 ahead
of next week's world premiere
The computer-generated image shows the darkened profile of the new Ford F-150's front end with no features visible except for LEDs framing the grille. (Photo: Ford Motor Co.)

Jordyn Grzelewski,
The Detroit
June 21, 2020

Ford Motor Co. is building up anticipation for the reveal next week of its next-generation F-150 pickup.

The Dearborn automaker on Friday released a teaser image on its website as part of the publicity leading up to June 25 premiere of the truck. The computer-generated image shows the darkened profile of the new F-150's front end with no features visible except for LEDs framing the grille. A disclaimer notes that the representation is of a pre-production model.

The computer-generated image shows the darkened profile of the new Ford F-150's front end with no features visible except for LEDs framing the grille.

The design of the 2021 F-150, which is now in its 14th generation, will be unveiled via livestream at 8 p.m. next Thursday. Those interested in watching can sign up for a calendar reminder on Ford's website.

Although the automaker has yet to share any details of the redesigned truck, some of the new features have been leaked. Reuters, citing an anonymous source familiar with the plans, this week reported that a prominent feature of the truck will be sleeper seats that recline all the way back.

The new F-150 lineup includes plans for hybrid and fully battery-electric variants.

The F-150, along with being Ford's top-selling product and a key moneymaker, has been the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. for more than 40 years. Last year Ford sold nearly 900,000 F-Series trucks compared to 633,694 sales of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV's Ram pickup and 575,600 sales of General Motors Co.'s Chevrolet Silverado.

Sales of the new truck will be key to helping Ford dig itself out of a pile of a new debt it took on to help preserve cash amid the coronavirus crisis. The launch of the next-generation model, slated for later this year, comes as the entire auto industry gets back on its feet following an eight-week production shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. Ford confirmed Friday it will get back to up full production capacity on Monday, two weeks earlier than planned.

Detroit's three automakers have been gradually ramping production back up since they restarted May 18, in a bid to make up for lost time and refill dealers' lagging inventories.

Ford is also preparing for the launch later this year of a hotly anticipated comeback of the Bronco SUV. Amid controversy over an original reveal date that coincided with O.J. Simpson's birthday on July 9, the automaker said Friday it had moved the premiere to July 13.


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

Jordyn Grzelewski,
The Detroit News
June 18, 2020

The future of the Ford Edge crossover SUV and the Canadian plant where it is built may be in question.

That's according to automotive forecaster Sam Fiorani of Pennsylvania-based AutoForecast Solutions LLC, who told numerous media outlets he's heard from "multiple sources" in the automotive industry that Ford plans to cancel the Edge after the current generation model expires in 2023.

"We got word that Ford had canceled the program for the next-generation Edge," Fiorani told The Detroit News Tuesday.

Prompted by media reports about the vehicle, which is built at Ford's Oakville plant in Ontario, Unifor, the trade union that represents hourly workers there, communicated with Ford officials Monday and Tuesday about the program. Unifor National President Jerry Dias told The News he did not get definitive answers, but said: "There is no question, they are going through a major evaluation of their portfolio, based on a whole host of things," including the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

In response to questions about the Edge reports, Ford spokesman Said Deep said: "Edge remains a critical product in Ford’s winning portfolio of SUVs. We have no plans to exit the segment, particularly as Edge sales were up 3% to nearly 140,000 Edges in the U.S. last year."

Ford reports it has sold 1.6 million Edges in America since it launched in 2006, and noted that retail sales of the all-new Edge ST were up 41% last year. "We also are building on that success with launch of the Edge ST-Line, which is now available for order, plus an upgraded features for the 2021 Edge," Deep said.

Fiorani said the Dearborn automaker may be looking to reduce overlap in its lineup, particularly as it prepares to launch a number of new products in the next few years, including the returning Bronco SUV: "Their lineup seems to be very CUV and SUV-heavy, and it just seemed like there was a lot of overlap within the models. ... The potential of the Bronco Sport overlapping with the Edge, along with two or three other in the market in the near future, it made sense (to give) the Bronco Sport or any other model some breathing room.”

The mid-sized crossover segment is also a competitive one, he noted: "The Edge has been on the market since 2006, so it is one of the oldest players in the market. Breaking free of any tradition and moving on to a new nameplate would give Ford the potential of adding market share, whereas it would be much more difficult to do that with a legacy brand name."

The potential elimination of the Edge calls into question the future of Oakville Assembly, which dates back to 1953. Unifor said the plant, which is located between Toronto and Hamilton, employs about 4,200.

The plant has ceased building the Ford Flex and Lincoln MKT and is also set to phase out the Lincoln Nautilus. That would leave the Edge as the plant's only remaining product, at least as of now.

As Unifor prepares to head into contract negotiations with Ford this fall, Dias remains optimistic that an agreement can be reached to keep the plant running.

"(Canada is) a strong market for Ford and always has been, and the Oakville plant is the last assembly plant they have in Canada," said Dias. "(Canadians) are loyal to the OEMs that are loyal to them. ... For Ford to leave Canada makes no sense."

He expects plans for the Edge to be a major point of discussion during collective bargaining: "Can I tell you what (a solution) looks like today? The answer is no. But I'm 100% focused on finding out what the solution looks like."


Ford rolls out its first
Mustang Mach 1 since 2004

The 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 features 480 horsepower, stiffened suspension, and a handling and appearance pack (car at fore) to turn things up a notch. (Photo: Ford, Ford)

Henry Payne,
The Detroit News
June 16, 2020

With signature matte-black hood stripe, howling V-8 engine and extensive handling upgrades, the legendary Mach 1 Ford Mustang has been reborn for 2021.

Purists might miss the hood shaker and grille lights, though.

Ford unveiled the special edition Mach 1 in its birthday suit on Tuesday after teasing the car in camouflage two weeks ago. With 480 horsepower (nearly double that of the original, 250-horse coupe that debuted in 1969) and 420 pound-feet of torque like the outgoing Mustang Bullitt special edition model, Mach 1 features a unique fascia, paint scheme and performance pieces from its sibling GT350 and GT500 track monsters.

The 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 features 480 horsepower, stiffened suspension, and a handling and appearance pack (car at fore) to turn things up a notch.

“It is the new pinnacle of 5.0-liter, Mustang performance,” said Mustang marketing chief Jim Owens, who says Mach 1 is defined by three criteria: handling, straight-line speed and style.

Likely to start around $50,000 when it hits dealers next spring, the Mach 1 is the most capable, 5.0-liter V-8 engine-fired stallion in the sixth-generation Mustang stable. It will reside in the middle of a performance lineup that ranges from the affordable 2.3-liter Ecoboost High Performance turbo-4 cylinder model all the way to the track-stomping $70.000, 760-horsepower GT500. The last Mach 1 was produced as part of Mustang’s fourth-gen, 2004 lineup.

The retro-inspired Mach 1 returns, not uncoincidentally, as Ford launches its Mach E, the first electric SUV ever with a Mustang badge. If the Mach 1 symbolizes Mustang’s dominance of pony car’s past, Ford hopes Mach E represents promise for its all-electric future.

Mach 1 and Mach E were spied circulating Pontiac’s M1 Concourse race track together last week, gaining footage that may appear in future marketing campaigns.

The 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 (fore) shares signature elements with the original 1969 Mach 1 (rear) like black hood strips, front splitter, and unique grill.

The 2021 Mach 1’s wardrobe pays homage to previous generations that sold from 1969-1978 and 2003-2004. A signature, low-gloss black stripe is prominent on the hood, as are rocker panel stripes down the sides. Unlike the ’69 original, the Mach 1 logo is separated from the stripe to stand alone behind the front fenders. The rear fascia is also painted matte black similar to predecessors.

An appearance package is available in Fighter Jet Gray with a choice of three stripe colors: white, red, and orange. Brake calipers are painted orange.

Purists will be disappointed that the 2021 Mach 1 is not optioned with a shaker (a hood scoop poking through a hole in the hood) for better engine breathing as in previous generations. “The 5.0-liter engine is focused on performance output, and it didn’t need (the shaker),” said Owens.

Budget issues may have been in play given massive amounts of money Ford is spending to bring the Mach E to market.

Another signature piece of hardware – twin lights in the grille - also are compromised compared to past models. Where the 1969 Mach 1 used the grille lights for extra lighting at night, the round inserts are plastic-capped and for show only on the new car.

“We have no doubt some of our customers will punch them out for increased cooling modifications,” smiled Owens.

The 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 (fore) builds on the heritage begun by the original 1969 Mach 1 (blue and red in back).

The Mach 1 will be track ready.

Cooling the 305-cubic inch beast within was a priority of engineers. Two heat exchangers and other hardware are added behind the unique Mach 1 fascia for better breathing. A huge, new underbelly pan with special airfoils for cooling and downforce is the vehicle’s most significant aero upgrade, and the Mach 1 gets extensive suspension upgrades like bigger sway bars and stiffer springs.

Out back, bazooka-sized, 4.5-inch chrome exhaust tips signal the Mach 1’s intentions.

Buyers who want even more capability can add a Handling Package that consists of sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires (a step up from standard Michelin 4S treads) wrapped around unique 19-inch wheels. Also included are a rear spoiler taken from the GT500, upgraded front splitter and aero tweaks around the fenders. Ford says it will increase downforce on track by 150%.

The 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 (left) is timed with the Mustang Mach E, the first electric Mustang SUV. (Photo: Henry Payne, The Detroit News)

Inside, purists will revel in the standard, manual, six-speed shifter (with rev-matching for the first time) topped off by a cue ball. An automatic 10-speed transmission is also available. Behind the fat steering wheel is a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, and the dash is stamped with a chassis number badge.

In addition to Fighter Jet Gray, the Mach 1 can be dressed in an array of Skittle colors including Velocity Blue, Twister Orange and Grabber Yellow.

Seating can also be had with right-hand drive in foreign markets where the Mach 1 will also be sold. Mustang is the best-selling two-seat sports car in the world across 147 countries.


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

Jordyn Grzelewski,
The Detroit News
June 15, 2020

Major automakers are pushing full steam ahead to ramp production even as they continue developing autonomous vehicles of the future, leaders of Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co. and Volkswagen AG said Wednesday.

Executives from the three automakers headlined the first day of the Deutsche Bank Global Auto Industry Conference, and reported mostly smooth sailing since auto production resumed in North America last month amid the coronavirus pandemic.

An alliance between Ford and Volkswagen will produce a medium pickup truck built by Ford and sold by VW as the Amarok; two commercial vans, one built by VW and the other by Ford; and an electric vehicle for Ford of Europe, built on VW's EV architecture, shown here. (Photo: Seth Wenig, AP)

Ford expects to return all of its U.S. plants to full, pre-COVID-19 capacity by July 6, Chief Operating Officer Jim Farley said. He reported that in the three weeks since production restarted, Ford has built approximately 96% of its planned volume and is in the process of adding a third shift back to key facilities.

GM expects to be at normal production capacity by the end of June "or sooner if possible," Chief Financial Officer Dhivya Suryadevara said: "Demand is strong from a customer perspective, so we have been gradually ramping up to meet that demand."

The Detroit automaker also is beginning to introduce overtime again, spokesman Dan Flores confirmed. First shift at the plant in Arlington, Texas, is being called to work on Saturday as the company boosts production of its new full-size SUVs. The company is returning the third shift on Monday.

As suppliers are able to increase their production, so can the automakers, said Scott Keogh, CEO and president of Volkswagen Group of America: "From what we can see right now, the supply base in the U.S. is stable-ish. And Mexico is getting online as we speak."

All three automakers said they are pushing forward with electric- and autonomous-vehicle development, and that the coronavirus crisis may even have made some of these programs more appealing to customers despite the current economic downturn.

"I think people have (now) seen what clean air looks like," said Keogh. "And I think people have seen what happens when a society is unprepared. ... I see trends to electrification coming out of COVID, but these are still early pulses."

Ford and VW took a step forward on their development of next-generation vehicles Wednesday when they completed an alliance under which the competitors will collaborate on the development of several new products. The alliance, first announced last July, will produce a medium pickup truck built by Ford and sold by VW as the Amarok; two commercial vans, one built by VW and the other by Ford; and an electric vehicle for Ford of Europe, built on VW's EV architecture.

The companies, which will remain competitors in the marketplace, say they will produce up to a combined 8 million pickup trucks and commercial vans.

Ford and VW both have invested in self-driving software company Argo AI, whose technology they will use to develop autonomous vehicles. The alliance structure allows them to save on development costs for technology that is considered the future of the industry but which is not expected to yield returns for several years at least.

Ford executives said Wednesday that they do not expect the launches of key products, including the redesigned F-150 pickup truck, to be delayed any longer than the eight-week shutdown period.

Suryadevara of GM reported that the automaker's cross-over vehicle and truck assembly plants have been adding shifts.

Asked about the automaker's free cash flow, she acknowledged that cash the company had expected to generate this quarter might get pushed out to the third quarter, depending on the timing of ramping production back up to full capacity.

GM is pressing ahead with its plans to invest $20 billion over the next five years on EV and AV programs, she said: "While the reveals (of planned EVs) may have been delayed, the product timelines ... have not been impacted. We're all-in on electrification."

And, despite recent layoffs at GM's self-driving subsidiary Cruise, the "mission continues unchanged," Suryadevara said. Cruise "is incredibly well-capitalized, which is very important in times like this."

Another result of the coronavirus shutdown, automotive executives noted, was the acceleration of a digitized car-buying process. Farley reported that 72% of Ford dealers in North America now offer online sales, and about 25% of sales are done online.


NAFTA replacement looms as
carmakers emerge from
COVID-19 shutdowns

Keith Laing,
The Detroit News
June 13, 2020

Washington — With assembly lines returning to full production and auto sales beginning to rebound from the coronavirus pandemic’s impact, carmakers are turning their attention to the replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement, which takes effect July 1.

On that date, the trade rules by which automakers have played since 1994 will be replaced by a new pact requiring automakers to produce cars with 75% of parts originating from the United States, Canada or Mexico — up from 62.5% — within five years to qualify for duty-free treatment. The pact, known as the United States Mexico Canada Agreement, was signed into law by President Donald Trump in January.

In addition to the USMCA's new requirements for parts, known as "rules of origin," the new pact requires 40-45% of an auto’s content to be made by workers earning at least $16 per hour. Vehicles not meeting the requirements will be subject to a 2.5% duty.

The U.S. Trade Representative only recently released uniform rules for the trade pact that has been agreed to by the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

The new documents, released in early June by the federal agency, spell out the rules of the road that automakers must follow to continue to avoid tariffs. The documents lay out definitions for terms that will be used to measure compliance with the new trade rules, such as accessories, spare parts, tools and customs value.

Automakers are likely to be grateful for the increased clarity, said Charlie Chesbrough, senior economist and senior director of industry insights for Cox Automotive. But he said it will be tough for automakers to focus on compliance as they and their suppliers try to recover from two-month factory shutdowns in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

"The implementation of USMCA couldn’t come at a worse time for the industry," Chesbrough said. "Finally having closure on rules and regulations is something OEMs and suppliers have wanted for some time. However, understanding and complying with new policies could take some time, and some leniency from governments may be necessary.  With plants now reopening under new safety precautions, getting the supply chain up and running and producing at high volumes is the focus today."

Jennifer Safavian, president and CEO of Here for America, which lobbies in Washington for the U.S. operations of international motor vehicle manufacturers, said her organization's members "are very diligently working to become ready" for the implementation of the new trade pact.

"There's no question the COVID shutdown of production threw a wrench in their plans," she said. "This is something they've been planning for, but obviously nobody could have been prepared for that."

Safavian noted that automakers have only had the USMCA definitions for about a week, and she said they are waiting for clarification on other issues like how the new rules for  car worker earnings, known as labor value content, will be defined.

"It's a pretty lengthy document," she said. "Our members are still reviewing it. They definitely have more questions, but they're pleased to have some clarity."

She said the pandemic shutdowns at suppliers could make it more difficult for automakers to get answers about auto parts that will be needed to demonstrate compliance.

"We were hoping to get more time," she said, nothing that the USMCA implementation date was pushed back one month from its original proposed start date. "We're grateful we did get a little more time. The administration was originally looking at June 1."

The USMCA allows automakers to request permission to implement an "alternative staging regime" that would allow them to extend the deadline for compliance with the new trade rules for as long as five years. Automakers have been asked to submit finalized alternative staging plans by Aug. 31.

Kristin Dziczek, vice president of the Center for Automotive Research, said the incongruence of the deadlines could cause short-term problems for automakers.

"If you're a company that wants to do alternative staging, you have to get your plan in by Aug. 31, but you have to start complying with something on July 1," she said. "There's a little bit of ambiguity there."

Dziczek said automakers need flexibility in light of the rapidly changing market conditions — especially since demonstrating compliance will require increased communication with suppliers who are also in recovery mode. 

"They know the principle core and content levels they have to get to," Dziczek said. "The base parts of the agreement have been known for a couple of years... They know what they have to do, but how do you certify that you're in compliance?"

U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens, D-Rochester Hills, agreed that automakers need as much clarity as possible on the rules that will begin governing their industry 's North American operations in a scant two weeks.

"This is a critical time for our incredible automotive industry, which is doing everything it can to weather this economic downturn," she said. "With implementation of the USMCA just weeks away, our automakers and suppliers deserve more certainty, clarity and leadership from their federal government."


Ford recalls about 2.5M vehicles
for latch, brake troubles

Tom Krisher,
AP Auto Writer
June 12, 2020

Detroit – Ford is recalling about 2.5 million vehicles in the U.S., Canada and elsewhere because of a nagging door latch problem and a brake fluid leak.

The door latch recall covers more than 2.1 million cars, SUVs and vans in the U.S. The latches can fail and cause the doors to open while the vehicles are moving. It’s the third recall for the same problem.

Ford also is recalling nearly 344,000 F-150 pickups in the U.S. and Canada to fix a fluid leak from the brake master cylinder. The company says the problem has caused seven low-speed crashes with two injuries.

Ford has had nagging quality troubles with the latches, some car transmissions and other issues that have hurt its bottom line.

The company said Wednesday the previous door latch recalls were done because of defective pawl spring tabs that could crack and fail in high temperatures. Usually the doors won’t close if there’s a failure, but if they do close, they could open again while the vehicles are in motion. The previously recalled vehicles may not have had the latches replaced, or repairs may not have been done correctly, the company said in a statement.

Owners will have the option to inspect the latch date codes and check online to see if the two previous recalls were done correctly or if further service is needed. Those who don’t want to do the inspection, and those whose latches need to be replaced will be told to go to dealers.

The recall covers vehicles in the U.S. and includes the 2012 to 2015 Ford Focus, the 2013 to 2014 Ford Fusion, the 2011 to 2014 Ford Fiesta, and the 2013 to 2015 Ford Escape and C-Max. Also covered are the 2013 and 2014 Lincoln MKZ, the 2015 Lincoln MKC, the 2015 Ford Mustang and the 2014 to 2016 Ford Transit Connect van. Not every recalled vehicle from those model years will be included.

The brake fluid recall covers certain 2014 through 2017 F-150s in the U.S. and Canada. The F-Series pickups are the top-selling vehicles in the United States.

All the recalled trucks have 3.5-liter turbocharged engines. Ford says fluid can leak from the master cylinder for the front-wheel circuit. Depending on how much fluid is lost, the front brakes could lose much of their stopping ability, but the rear brakes would work. That can lengthen stopping distances and possibly cause a crash.

Ford says in a statement the driver could hear a chime or get a warning light on the dashboard. It could also take more pressure on the pedal to stop the trucks.

Dealers will replace the brake master cylinder and the brake booster if it is leaking.


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

Cabin 4 at the UAW conference center on Black Lake in Onaway. (Photo: John L. Russell, John L. Russell)

Robert Snell and Daniel Howes,
The Detroit News
June 11, 2020

Detroit — The United Auto Workers has accepted an offer to sell a $1.3 million lakefront home built for retired President Dennis Williams as federal prosecutors signaled their interest in having the property forfeited to the government.

The sale to an unidentified buyer is pending, and UAW officials are in talks with the U.S. Attorney's Office to remove a lien filed against 27 acres of land and the cottage at the union's Black Lake Conference Center in Onaway.

A sale would yield an unspecified amount of money for the UAW and let the union shed a controversial property built with nonunion labor that has become a symbol of corruption during a scandal that has led to 14 convictions. New UAW President Rory Gamble detailed plans to sell the building last year as part of a broader series of reforms after the home was raided by federal agents as part of an ongoing embezzlement investigation targeting Williams.

The UAW confirmed the pending sale Wednesday, three months after federal prosecutors filed a lien on a 27-acre section of the Black Lake resort, which includes a golf course, hotel and conference center.

“This is the right thing to do,” Gamble said in a statement Wednesday. "We committed to this as part of our comprehensive reforms and I believe the government agrees that the sale of Cabin 4 should go forward to an independent buyer and the proceeds from the sale should go back to what our membership intended it be used for to begin with."

The property could be subject to forfeiture because of various crimes under investigation, including embezzlement, conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and violations of labor laws barring union officials from receiving money from auto executives, according to the lien filed in Cheboygan County.

The crimes are listed on an affidavit federal prosecutors filed in Cheboygan County on March 11, according to a copy obtained by The Detroit News.

“This means they could go and try to seize the Black Lake property because of the corruption issues going on,” said Peter Henning, a Wayne State University law professor and former federal prosecutor.

The prospective buyer has no ties to the UAW, union spokesman Brian Rothenberg wrote in a statement to The News: "It is our understanding that the U.S. Attorney’s Office has indicated they will remove the filing as soon as they have verified the buyer is an independent party, and we provided all requested information to them about the sale."

Gina Balaya, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, said the affidavit on the property will be removed "at the appropriate time." She said the deal requires some local and state approval because of lake access and land division.

"We have absolutely no reason to believe the government is interested in blocking the sale and we have been working cooperatively with the government to finalize the sale," Rothenberg added. "We understand there have been some delays in finalizing the sale due to COVID-19."

The lien is the latest legal development in a years-long corruption investigation targeting UAW leaders, and the latest entanglement involving Black Lake. Federal agents raided Black Lake in August and searched a $1.3 million home on the shores of Black Lake the UAW built with nonunion labor for retired President Dennis Williams.

UAW leaders approved construction of the retirement home amid a federal investigation into whether union funds illegally benefited labor leaders. Last week, federal prosecutors accused Williams of helping embezzle more than $1 million spent on personal luxuries and illegally using money from Detroit automakers to renovate the union’s northern Michigan resort.

The 1,885-square-foot home — featuring a secret room hidden behind a hinged bookshelf — was recently listed for sale for $1.3 million as part of a broad series of reforms announced by Gamble.

The government lien could complicate a sale, Henning said: “If I’m a buyer, I’m very fearful that the government is going to seize the property. That’s going to be a problem.”

The Williams cottage is a contrast to the rustic lodging available to rent at the 241-room resort. Opened in 1970, the center features a campground, gym, Olympic-size pool and an adjacent golf course. The ashes of former UAW President Walter Reuther and wife May were scattered on the center’s grounds after the couple was killed in an airplane crash nearby in 1970.

The Black Lake conference center and golf course are valued at approximately $37 million, according to the union's 2018 Labor Department filing. The UAW flirted with selling the Black Lake retreat in early 2010 during the Great Recession, citing shrinking membership. At the time, the retreat had lost an estimated $23 million during the previous five years and the UAW was forced to borrow to keep it afloat, according to Labor Department filings. 

The affidavit does not automatically signal that prosecutors will move to have the Black Lake property forfeited to the government. The U.S. Attorney's Office filed similar liens against others convicted in the corruption scandal, including former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Vice President Alphons Iacobelli and Monica Morgan Holiefield, wife of the late UAW Vice President General Holiefield, but did not seize the homes


Ford, VW to make about 8M
commercial vehicles
VW CEO Herbert Diess and Ford CEO Jim Hackett formally announced their companies' partnership in July 2019.

June 10, 2020

Ford Motor Co. and Volkswagen Group said on Wednesday they would make up to eight million units of medium pickup trucks and commercial vans during the lifecycle of the vehicles as part of an alliance announced last year.

The automakers will collaborate on a city van built by Volkswagen, a one-ton cargo van developed by Ford, and a Volkswagen medium pickup built on the Ford Ranger platform, starting in 2022.

The No. 2 U.S. automaker will also make a new electric vehicle for Europe by 2023, built on Volkswagen's Modular Electric Drive toolkit, and could deliver more than 600,000 units over several years.

Ford and VW announced their partnership plans in January 2019, as carmakers around the globe join forces to invest in electric and self-driving technology to help save billions of dollars. VW CEO Herbert Diess and Ford CEO Jim Hackett formally announced their companies' partnership in July 2019.


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

2020 Ford Escape Plug-In Hybrid (Photo: Ford)

Henry Payne,
The Detroit News
June 9, 2020

Ford announced the first-ever plug-in model of its Escape SUV today, part of the brand’s full-court press to bring electrification to its lineup.

Based on the $26,130 compact Escape that is the best-selling truck that isn't a pickup in the Blue Oval’s lineup, the Escape Plug-In Hybrid will start at $34,285 and achieve best-in-class100 MPGe. On a full charge, the Escape Plug-In can go 37 miles on battery power alone before the gas engine kicks in.

The plug-in is the second hybrid model offered in the Escape lineup after the Escape Hybrid, which starts at $29,000.The plug-in model runs on the same electric motor-assisted, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine as the Escape Hybrid, but then adds a more-robust 14.4-kWh lithium-ion battery beneath the second-row seats for extended battery range.

Escape pioneered hybrids in the SUV segment in 2005, but the 2020 models are the first offered since 2012.

The Escape Plug-In will go head-to-head against the pricier $39,220 Toyota RAV4 Prime with an estimated 42-mile battery-only range and 94 MPGe. The RAV4 Prime offers 302 horsepower, versus the Ford's 221 ponies.

n addition to its green chops, the Escape features a sliding rear seat which adds 6 inches of legroom. It comes standard with Ford Co-Pilot360 safety features including blind-spot assist and autonomic high-beams.

On a standard, 110-volt Level 1 wall outlet, the the Escape Plug-In can reach full charge in 10-11 hours. Install a 240-volt Level 2 charger, and that charge time drops to 3.5 hours.

The Escape Plug-In Hybrid is part of Ford’s investment of more than $11.5 billion in electrified vehicles. The plug-in model available on every Escape trim level except S and SE Sport, and hits dealer lots this summer.


Unemployment rate hits record
high even as economy adds jobs

Jordan Press
The Canadian Press
June 8, 2020

OTTAWA — Canada added 289,600 jobs in May as provincial governments began easing public health restrictions and businesses reopened, Statistics Canada said Friday.

Still, the unemployment rate in May rose to 13.7 per cent, the highest level in more than four decades of comparable data.

The increase in the unemployment rate, which topped the previous record of 13.1 per cent set in December 1982, came as more people started looking for work.

The monthly labour force survey showed that men gained back more jobs than women in May, resulting in a wider gender gap in employment losses as a result of COVID-19, and that the pandemic continued to disproportionately affect lower-wage workers.

The increase in the number of jobs — which mirrored a similar bump in the U.S. — came after three million jobs were lost over March and April and about 2.5 million more had their hours slashed.

Statistics Canada said the number of people who worked less than half their usual hours fell by 292,000 in May.

Combined with the increase in jobs, Statistics Canada said the country recovered 10.6 per cent of employment losses and absences related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The rise in the overall unemployment to 13.7 per cent, the highest on record, shouldn't be taken as a sign of underlying weakness, since it simply represents more out-of-work Canadians stating that they are now looking for work," CIBC senior economist Royce Mendes wrote in a note.

"The surprisingly positive readings on employment paint a more optimistic picture of the early part of the recovery, but there's still a long road back."

Provincially, Quebec led the way, gaining 231,000 jobs as it became one of the first provinces to ease restrictions, doing so just before Statistics Canada collected data the week of May 10.

Combined with people working more hours, the province recovered nearly 30 per cent of what it lost in March and April.

Similarly, all four provinces in Atlantic Canada posted jobs gains in May. Western provinces posted gains except for Saskatchewan, which saw little overall change in employment, Statistics Canada said.

Losses continued in Ontario although at a slower pace than in March and April. The provincial unemployment rate rose to 13.6 per cent in May, up from 11.3 per cent in April.

The total number of unemployed Canadians doubled from February to April, a surge driven by temporary layoffs that the vast majority of workers expected to last less than six months.

At the same time, there was a spike in the number of people who wanted to work but weren't actively looking for a job, likely because the economic shutdown has limited job opportunities. People not actively seeking work aren't counted in unemployment figures.

The unemployment rate for May would have been 19.6 per cent had the report counted among the unemployed those who stopped looking for work — largely unchanged since April.

TD senior economist Brian DePratto noted that close to 90 per cent of those who lost work over March and April are still sitting on the sidelines.

Lower-wage workers were among the first and hardest hit during the shutdown, largely because they worked in industries like retail, restaurants or hotels that closed early in the pandemic.

Statistics Canada said lower-wage workers recovered just over one-tenth of the losses they experienced in March and April. But they continued to have a higher share of people working less than half of their usual hours.

The number of jobs men gained in May outpaced gains by women, who had seen significant job losses early on in the pandemic. Women with children under age six also saw slower job gains than those with older children.

Rebounds were also weak for students and recent immigrants.

"Women, low-paid workers, and racialized workers continue to struggle disproportionately," said Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress.

"While women and youth are re-entering the job market, job offers continue to be scarce."


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

Jordyn Grzelewski,
The Detroit News
June 7, 2020

The auto industry was already facing financial headwinds. But new challenges courtesy of the coronavirus may take auto manufacturers and suppliers years to overcome, says a new outlook detailed Thursday by Alix Partners LLP, an industry consultant.

"We were already on the backside of the (global sales) peak, but (the coronavirus) accelerated this in a very unprecedented way," Mark Wakefield, global co-leader of AlixPartners’ automotive and industrial practice, told The Detroit News. "While there will be some snapback in terms of filling inventories, both the demand and supply side will be hit for some time."

AlixPartners warned last year that the auto industry was entering a "profit desert," driven in part by the shift to the autonomous and electric vehicles that require heavy investment but which are unlikely to generate returns in the near-term.

Then came an eight-week production shutdown, induced by the coronavirus pandemic that caused the industry to bleed billions of dollars and led manufacturers and suppliers to assume a whopping $72 billion in debt in just a matter of weeks. Now it may take half the decade for the industry to bounce back.

Auto sales have been on the decline since 2017, when global sales peaked at 94 million. AlixPartners projects 2020 sales will be down to 70.5 million globally. The firm projects 13.6 million in sales volume in the U.S. this year, down from 17.1 million last year.

Overall, it may take until 2025 for the industry to get back to prior-peak sales volume, AlixPartners predicts. Compared to 2019, the industry faces a cumulative volume drop of up to 36 million vehicles this year through 2022.

The recovery of the industry is expected to vary by market, with prospects for China — which shut down first, reopened earlier and now is rebounding — and the U.S. looking stronger than for Europe, according to AlixPartners' outlook.

In the short term, the industry appears poised for a sharp rebound as manufacturers rush to fill depleted inventories and consumers shy away from public transportation and ride-sharing due to the coronavirus. But longer-term, AlixPartners expects a slow recovery hamstrung by reduced consumer demand and the need to pay off debt.

Returns on capital in recent years had already dropped by 47% for automakers and 36% for suppliers from Great Recession levels, as sales softened and the industry poured money into the Auto 2.0 sectors of mobility, autonomy and electrification.

Now, with their financial challenges exacerbated by the coronavirus, automakers will have to make some tough decisions about programs that are considered to be the future of the industry. "You still have to invest in the future," said Wakefield. But, "the cash available for that is just less."


The industry is still in the early stages of developing autonomous- and electric- vehicle technology, an effort that requires significant investments with high fixed costs but little return to show for it. Those sectors are not expected to be profitable for at least several years.

"You're shifting your investment and capital into products that aren't returning the level of profit and don't have the scale of the current products in your portfolio," said Wakefield.

Cuts and delays to AV and EV programs are likely (and some have already been announced). As such, the recent trend of automakers teaming up with competitors and technology startups on these ventures will likely accelerate as a way to reduce costs.

A risk the U.S. auto industry's recovery faces is a second wave of COVID-19 cases, Wakefield said. While China has effectively contained the virus and Europe is trending in the right direction, the U.S. has been less aggressive about containing the disease even as cases continue to rise here.

The industry must remain focused on successfully executing the restart of operations, stimulating demand and staying on track for a bevy of product launches that are slated for the next few years, according to the report.

In the meantime, expect major automakers to deepen cuts they have been making over the last few years.

"We do believe almost all OEMs will address structural costs," said Stefano Aversa, AlixPartners' chairman of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. That will likely mean workforce cuts and plant closures, especially because some automakers continue to operate more plants than they need to meet their share of market demand.


FCA distributing 1,300
buyout packages at
Windsor Assembly Plant

Dave Waddell 
Windsor Star
June 4, 2020

Just as the Windsor Assembly Plant returns to three shifts next week, FCA Canada will begin distributing buyout packages to eligible workers in an effort to reduce the number of layoffs required when the company eliminates that third shift on July 13.

There will be about 1,300 packages handed out, equivalent to the number of jobs expected to be eliminated.

“On Monday the representatives from WAP will be out canvassing the senior employees for buyouts,” Unifor Local 444 president Dave Cassidy said in a statement posted on the union’s Facebook page Thursday night.

“There is a package and they will be given an offer. You will be able to read over your pension statement and your offer. You will be able to make a decision and then sign up.”

Cassidy wasn’t available for further comment, texting Friday that he was ‘deeply immersed’ in further negotiations with FCA.

Local 444 executives met with the company’s pension department Friday. In another post, it was revealed eligible employees for the buyouts will have until 8 a.m. on June 15 to decide on accepting the package.

Unifor officials had hoped to get the company to keep the third shift so that its future, and possible future product at the plant, could be discussed as part of contract negotiations later this summer.

FCA Canada has already extended the production life of the Dodge Grand Caravan to August 22. Its last production day had originally been scheduled for May 22 but was pushed back due to the pandemic.

Cassidy expressed frustration at FCA’s reluctance to sweeten its buyout offer in an attempt to get more senior employees to retire and reduce the number of layoffs. A pitch to offer packages to newer hires has also been rejected to date.

“I tried taking this company to the mattresses to offer more money in the buyout,” Cassidy said.

“We even tried pushing for packages for new hires. We have fought these issues all the way to the top of the company.

“To all of it, they said they are simply ‘sticking to the contract.’”

The Windsor Assembly Plant, which re-started operations May 19 after a two-month shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, returns to a three-shift operation for the next three weeks.

The normal three-shift operation will continue until June 22 when the plant begins preparations to wind down the third shift. That will entail blending together the three shifts into two temporarily to allow for the significant shuffling of jobs and the new training required for those staying on in new positions.

The plant seniority list will also require re-aligning before the new jobs can be allocated.

Unifor officials said there would be no layoffs due to the restructuring of shifts prior to July 13.

“The start of two shifts with three shifts of people will start on June 22,” Cassidy said.

“We have fought through that issue, offering many different avenues, with the hopes of stalling this decision until contract negotiations where we could hash this out over a strike deadline. As of today, the company holds that the shift will be done on July 13.”


UAW corruption scandal nears
milestone with Jones plea

UAW President Gary Jones fires up delegates Wednesday as he starts the chant, 'We Are One,' during his keynote speech. Jones said automakers are "on notice" over the closing of plants and shipping jobs to Mexico. (Photo: Todd McInturf, The Detroit News)

Robert Snell and
Breana Noble,
The Detroit News
June 3, 2020

Detroit — Gary Jones on Wednesday will become the first president of the United Auto Workers convicted of racketeering and embezzlement during a years-long crackdown on corruption. But he won't necessarily be the last as several labor leaders remain under criminal investigation.

Jones, 63, is scheduled to plead guilty at 2 p.m in federal court. The move solidifies a milestone conviction as part of a plea deal expected to require ongoing cooperation with the investigation of a racketeering conspiracy that prosecutors say involves his predecessor, retired UAW President Dennis Williams.

“This is a real black eye for the union,” said Peter Henning, a Wayne State University law professor and former federal prosecutor. “Jones could help (investigators) quite a bit in pointing out where there were violations."

In return for any cooperation, Jones could receive a lighter prison sentence. The embezzlement and conspiracy charges he is facing are punishable by up to five years in federal prison.

Some UAW members said they would like Jones to receive the maximum penalty, but they also hope a plea deal can be used to rid the union of other corruption. Thirteen people have been convicted as a result of the federal investigation into union corruption, and a movement among the rank-and-file seeks to transform how elections of international leaders are held.

"I hope the despicable coward takes as many corrupt union officials with him as possible," said John Barbosa, a 49-year-old block machining line team leader at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV's Dundee Engine plant. "I hope he sings like a bird. I feel the slate needs to be wiped clean.

"A culture takes time to develop. Anyone who is currently in office is exposed and brought up in that corrupt culture. They need to be removed, and put in a new honest and transparent culture that gives the power to the membership."

The cooperation of Jones comes as prosecutors consider seizing control of the UAW by filing a civil racketeering lawsuit, and as the union copes with a burgeoning scandal involving sexual harassment allegations against top labor leaders. Seizing control under civil racketeering law would give the government broad control of UAW operations, including the ability to fire senior officers and to enable rank-and-file members to directly elect new leaders.

Meanwhile, U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider's spokeswoman Tuesday said the region's top federal law enforcement officer is trying to arrange a meeting with UAW President Rory Gamble as part of union efforts to avoid government takeover. The meeting has been delayed by COVID-19 stay-at-home restrictions, some of which were lifted by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday.

Gamble offered to meet with the U.S. Attorney after Schneider criticized his attempts at reform and faulted labor leaders for failing to cooperate. Gamble's agreement to meet carries risks, legal experts said, considering agents are probing ties between Gamble and one of the union's highest-paid vendors as well as whether labor leaders received bribes.

Agent are investigating allegations of strip club payoffs to union leaders in exchange for contracts to supply union-branded merchandise, sources told The Detroit News, as well as financial ties between Gamble, retired Vice President Jimmy Settles and one of the union's highest-paid vendors. Gamble has denied wrongdoing, and a lawyer representing Settles declined comment.

"He's a people person," said Julian Wyatt, a 30-year-old machinist at General Motors Co.'s Romulus Engine plant who has known Gamble for years through labor activism. "He has the same background as far as working in the plant and working on the line. He knows the frustrations of the employees. He doesn't have the boss mentality."

Others, including a group inside the UAW known as Unite All Workers for Democracy, are calling for members to directly elected officers to the governing International Executive Board.

"The same group has been in power for 70-some years," said Scott Houldieson, a 58-year-old electrician for Ford Motor Co. who help found Unite All Workers for Democracy. "We need strong checks and balances put in. The membership can be that check for their power. Under the current circumstances, that is not possible."

A team of federal agents from the FBI, Internal Revenue Service and Labor Department has spent at least five years investigating a range of potential criminal activity, including racketeering, embezzlement, labor law violations and bribery.

In charging Jones, prosecutors accused him of conspiring with six other UAW officials to embezzle union money spent on personal luxuries, including private villas in California, liquor and cigars. The list of officials includes former regional Director Vance Pearson and UAW official Nick Robinson, both of whom have pleaded guilty and cooperated with investigators.

The racketeering conspiracy described by prosecutors also included labor leaders identified in the Jones plea deal as "UAW Official B," "UAW Official C," "UAW Official D" and "UAW Official E."

Sources told The News the officials, who have not been charged with wrongdoing, are:

• "UAW Official B" is Williams, the former union president who retired in 2018. Agents are investigating whether Detroit automakers indirectly paid to build a lakefront home for Williams at the UAW's northern Michigan resort.

Williams was implicated in the scandal in 2018 when a former labor official told prosecutors Williams directed subordinates to use funds from Detroit’s automakers, funneled through training centers, to pay for union travel, meals and entertainment.

he former UAW official, Nancy Adams Johnson, told investigators Williams issued the directive to relieve pressure on the union's budget.

Federal agents raided his California home in August and the lakefront retirement home as part of a series of nationwide raids targeting UAW leaders. Williams was outside his new $610,000 home near Los Angeles, smoking a cigar while awaiting agents, who later held him at gunpoint before handcuffing the retired labor leader, sources told The News.

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

• UAW Official C" is Danny Trull, a former Jones aide. Trull served as Jones' deputy overseeing a 17-state regional office based in Missouri and retired in late 2015. He was accused in the criminal complaint against Pearson that outlined a scheme to use member dues to pay for golf, meals and shopping in Palm Springs and trying to conceal the expenses, including $400 bottles of Louis Roederer Cristal Champagne.

• "UAW Official D" is Amy Loasching. Federal agents raided the former Williams aide's home in Wisconsin in August. UAW funds paid for private villas for Loasching in California from 2014-16, including one villa rented for 67 days at a cost of more than $11,000, according to the Pearson complaint.

The rental overlapped with a villa leased for Williams nearby that cost more than $15,000, prosecutors said.

The government also alleges Loasching bought $1,000 worth of golf apparel and equipment at a pro shop in Palm Springs and put the purchases on Jones' tab. Prosecutors say the purchases were part of a broader pattern of UAW officials spending union money and training funds from auto companies on personal luxuries.

Jones will be the 14th person to plead guilty to federal crimes as part of the government crackdown on auto industry and UAW corruption. The list of convicted officials includes former UAW Vice Presidents Norwood Jewell and Joe Ashton, both of whom served on the union's governing board.

Current members of the UAW executive board are embroiled in a separate scandal involving sexual harassment allegations.

Regional Director Richard Rankin made a "sexually violent threat" to a woman in the workplace in 2015 in response to complaints about inappropriate jokes and comments he had made, according to internal charges issued by the UAW board. The UAW is trying to remove him from office following an investigation.

And last week, a high-ranking female UAW officer filed a sex harassment lawsuit against the UAW and several officials, including Vice President Gerald Kariem. Patricia Morris-Gibson accused three union leaders of sexual harassment, including grabbing, kissing and propositioning her in recent years.

“The sexual harassment allegations are something the government can point to and say the union is out of control," Henning said. “If the government can show that there was a pattern of sexual harassment in the union, that’s going to help if prosecutors want to bring a RICO lawsuit.”


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

The 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1, shown testing in camouflage, has signature air intakes in the grille.  (Photo: Wes Duenkel, Ford)

Henry Payne,
The Detroit News
June 2, 2020

Ford Motor Co. is reviving the storied Mustang Mach 1 badge for 2021, just in time to go on sale next to the futuristic Mach E electric SUV.

The fire-breathing, V8-powered Mach 1 will be the old-school bookend to Ford’s performance lineup as it introduces its stealthy, high-torque Mach-E — which Ford says is the battery-powered future of the company. The Mach-E is the first electric SUV ever produced by Mustang as it expands the legendary pony car beyond its two-door sports car roots.

Ford says the Mach 1 will be Mustang's most track-focused coupe. It will replace the Bullitt badge as a limited-edition, V-8 performance model slotted between the $36,725 GT and top-of-the-line, supercharged $71,495 GT500. Mustang is the world's most popular sports car with over 100,000 copies sold globally each year.

“Mach 1 has a special place in Mustang history,” said Dave Pericak, director of Ford icons. “Like the original, the all-new Mustang Mach 1 will be true to its heritage, delivering great looks and as the most track-capable 5.0-liter Mustang ever.”

Just as the iconic, fastback Mach 1 helped define the 1960s muscle car era when it was introduced in '69, so does Ford hope the Mach-E will define the emerging electric car era of the 2020s.

“The timing is undeniable with the introduction of the Mach-E,” said Karl Brauer, auto analyst, muscle car enthusiast and executive publisher of Kelley Blue Book. “The heritage of the Mach I invokes a sense of speed, and the Mach-E brings a distinctive name to the electric space with that heritage behind it.”

Badging aside, the Mach 1 and Mach-E couldn’t be more different. The iconic fastback coupe that debuted during the '60s golden era of muscle cars returns as Mustang’s ultimate, naturally-aspirated, 5.0-liter V8 beast. When it debuted in 1969, the Mach 1 set design cues that would carry through three generations of the Mach 1. The last Mach 1 was produced from 2003-2004.

The original Mach 1 featured quad headlights with the inner pair inset in the grille. Camouflaged shots of the 2021 Mach 1 released by Ford show round air intakes in the grille reminiscent of the '69 car's lights. The inlets might take the place of the Mach 1’s traditional hood scoop in order to cool the 5.0-liter V-8 beast within.

The Mach 1 traditionally features a hood scoop and a “shaker” option (a hood scoop that sticks through a hole in the hood), though Ford gave no indication of the latter. Rear photos do indicate that the 2021 Mach 1 will, however, continue the traditional rear wing and bazooka-sized quad tailpipes. Expect the new Mach 1 to also feature a signature matte black hood stripe and front spoiler.

By contrast, the battery-powered Mach-E will not exhale through rear tailpipes because it will be powered by either one or two electric motors. The latter version will get the performance GT moniker and boast 459 horsepower and 612-pound feet of torque — competitive with the Mach 1’s power stats which should be similar to the Bullitt’s 480 horsepower and 420-pound feet of torque. The Mach 1 will have to hustle to stay with the EV's sub-4 second zero-60 time.

Expect dramatically different interiors as the Mach 1 will feature Mustang’s familiar dash and instrument displays with round, aviation-style air vents, while the Mach-E EV interior will be spartan with a big tablet center screen like its chief Tesla Model Y competitor.

In an indication of the expense of electric cars versus their gas-powered cousins, the Mach-E will start at $44,995 ($61,600 for the GT) while the Mach 1 will likely start at a price similar to the $48,905 Bullitt it replaces.

With the Mustang Bullitt and GT350 models slated for the chopping block at the end of the 2020 model year, the 2021 Mustang Mach 1 should take its traditional place as the most capable, normally-aspirated V-8 Mustang in the showroom.

“Starting in 1969, the Mach 1 was the best-known, highest-volume, highest profile performance version of the Mustang,” said KBB’s Brauer.

The first generation Mach 1 was re-imagined in 1974 as a hatchback version — a body style that the Mach-E EV will revive in SUV form. The Mach 1 badge returned for a third generation in 2003-2004 with a more athletic suspension and performance Brembo brakes. Photos indicate the new Mach 1 will also feature Brembos.

“Mach 1 has always been that bridge between base Mustangs and the Shelby models,” said Ted Ryan, heritage brand manager, Ford Archives. Now, Ford hopes it will help build a bridge to a new electric era of the performance automobile.


I'm an Infectious Disease Doctor.
Here's How I Decide What's
Safe to Do and What's Not.

Alesandra Dubin
Best Life
May 31, 2020

I'm an Infectious Disease Doctor. Here's How I Decide What's Safe to Do and What's Not.

As the country begins to reopen in phases and people start to venture outside again, we're all making decisions that could affect our health every day. Many of us are basing our choices on some combination of news reports and intuition. But how does an infectious disease doctor decide what's safe to do and what's not in the age of the coronavirus? We spoke with Thomas Russo, MD, chief of the division of infectious disease at the University at Buffalo, to learn what he takes into consideration as the pandemic rages on.

1. Is it an outdoor or indoor activity?

By now, you've likely read that you're much more likely to contract the coronavirus indoors than out. In fact, a study conducted by Japan's National Institute of Infectious Diseases, which has not yet been peer reviewed, determined that "the odds that a primary case transmitted COVID-19 in a closed environment was 18.7 times greater compared to an open-air environment."

So, for Russo, whether or not an activity is outside versus in a confined space where the air volume is finite is an important factor he takes under consideration in a scenario in which other people would be present. "When you're dealing with people [and] you're not sure whether they could be infected or not—new individuals, not people in your house—outdoors always trumps indoors," he says

2. How many people will be there?

The virus is largely known to spread directly from person to person, so Russo always considers how many people are likely to be in an environment and how closely they will be concentrated. "Fewer people is better than more people," he says. "Whenever you can increase distance and decrease interactions, those are positive scenarios."

3. Are they people I know?

Russo says he'd consider a socially distanced gathering in your own backyard or at a friend's place an acceptably low risk. When you're dealing with people you're familiar with and are confident will follow guidelines, "you can space tables out, you can set a food table where people go up individually, and you can maintain all of these safety measures," he says. But with public venues, Russo points out, "you're at the whim of who happens to be there and how they're behaving at the moment."

4. Will people be wearing masks?

Indeed, how other people behave figures heavily in Russo's calculus. He is a big proponent of wearing masks, and he makes plans after considering whether other people will be wearing them or are likely to flout the whole idea.

"Using masks is always better than not using masks," he says. "It's when you get into situations with close contact with individuals for more than a transient timeframe that your risk is going to increase, particularly if individuals are demonstrating bad behavior and not wearing masks."

5. How much control do I have over the situation?

When Russo weighs making plans involving himself and his family, he prefers to enter into situations in which he has as much control as possible over these important variables, so that he doesn't find himself surprised by a suddenly dangerous environment.

"If you go to a drive-in movie, you can control that. You're in your car. Even if you want to venture to the bathroom with a mask, that would probably be safe," he says. "Or if you want to take an RV across the country, that's like a moving house with known entities that you're traveling with, and then you can pick sights that are less crowded or maintain distancing. Some things are unpredictable and you can't control them. Others are more controllable." He picks the latter whenever possible.

6. What's the risk versus the reward?

It's not feasible for everyone to isolate indoors forever or even until there is a coronavirus vaccine. But when Russo decides to expose himself to any potential risk, he does it after considering how important it is to his quality of life. For instance: Is it an ordinary grooming appointment or a once-in-a-lifetime family milestone? And he suggests others also weigh their own personal vulnerabilities—such as age and existing health conditions—against the potential risks, too.

"By no means am I advocating that we should isolate ourselves. I think getting out is good, but try to do it under circumstances where you have a sense of what you're getting into and how people are going to be behaving," he says. "I'm a big fan of getting out in a safe way.


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

Premier Doug Ford last week said he wanted to increase testing in “areas of the automotive sector and start testing people in automotive sector right across the province.” - The Canadian Press

Automotive News
Staff and wire reports
May 30, 2020

Ontario's new COVID-19 testing strategy does not yet focus the auto industry. Instead, the province will target specific workers such as first responders, LCBO staff and people in businesses with outbreaks, and sometimes bringing mobile testing units to them.

The province has at times struggled to meet its daily testing goals, and is now expanding the list of those who can get tested.

A testing strategy released Friday says the province is testing staff and inmates in some correctional facilities, staff in select hospitals, first responders in Toronto and their families, LCBO workers, all residents and staff in retirement homes and people in long-term care homes for a second time.

Premier Doug Ford last week said he wanted to increase testing in “areas of the automotive sector and start testing people in automotive sector right across the province.”

However, that’s not yet the case. But, autoworkers are mentioned in Ontario’s new testing guidelines, entitled Protecting Ontarians Through Enhanced Testing.

“The province is also looking to expand testing to additional essential workplaces and is working collaboratively with sector leaders, including auto manufacturers, major retailers and trucking,” the document reads under the Targeted Testing Campaigns section.

“Branch testing…could include retailers, transportation workers, auto workers and educators and school staff as schools open, among others. Moving forward, the province expects that private-sector workplace testing will leverage private and public resources as the government works with private-sector employers to develop the appropriate models for their environments.”

General Motors Canada supports Ford’s plan to implement mass testing for COVID-19 and it’s offering up a site in the Greater Toronto Area to help the effort.

The province says that next week community testing will also start in places with a high number of COVID-19 cases, with a van or bus going to affected workplaces, or simply directing employees to go to assessment centres.

Ontario has intended to do 16,000 tests per day throughout May, and while it has met that goal less than half of the time, the numbers have increased in recent days, with 18,525 tests reported today.

Levels dropped sharply once a blitz of nearly all long-term care residents and staff was completed over the long weekend, but they have picked up again in recent days after Ontario relaxed criteria for members of the public to be tested.

Anyone concerned that they may have been exposed to COVID-19 can now get tested, whether or not they have symptoms.

Ford has spoken about testing asymptomatic front-line health-care workers, large workplaces such as food manufacturing facilities, groups such as truck or taxi drivers, and doing a second round of testing in long-term care.

He said mass testing is the province's best defence against the virus.

Ontario reported 344 new COVID-19 cases Friday, and 41 more deaths. That brings the provincial total to 27,210 cases, which is an increase of 1.3 per cent over the previous day. The total includes 2,230 deaths and 20,983 cases that have been resolved.

Ontario's chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, has said new cases from a round of long-term care testing earlier this month are still coming in, so he's not sure yet what percentage of the new cases are from the community.

The number of people in hospital with COVID-19 and in intensive care dropped, but the number of people on ventilators rose from 94 to 100.


Three UAW leaders created sexually
hostile environment, lawsuit alleges

Robert Snell and
Breana Noble,
The Detroit News
May 28, 2020

Detroit — A high-ranking female officer with the United Auto Workers accused three union leaders of sexual harassment, including grabbing, kissing and propositioning her in recent years, according to a federal lawsuit Wednesday.

UAW international service representative Patricia Morris-Gibson accused the union leaders of creating a hostile work environment, failing to take corrective action and cutting her salary by 50% last month after she raised concerns, according to the lawsuit filed against the union and several senior officers, including newly appointed Vice President Gerald Kariem.

Kariem is the latest member of the UAW's governing board accused of harassment since leaders moved to oust regional Director Richard Rankin in March following an investigation.

The lawsuit coincides with an ongoing federal corruption investigation involving the UAW that has led to the convictions of 13 people and exposed the union to possible takeover by the federal government. Former UAW President Gary Jones is expected to plead guilty next week to racketeering and embezzlement charges.

Morris-Gibson, 56, lives in Taylor and works as an international service representative, a $127,790 job that includes travel and work far removed from the assembly line.

"Throughout her employment with the UAW, plaintiff was subjected to discrimination and sexual harassment including but not limited to unwelcome sexual advances, comments, and offensive conduct of a sexual nature," Morris-Gibson's lawyers, Avery Williams and Gerald Evelyn, wrote in the lawsuit.

The UAW has not yet been served with the lawsuit and, typically, does not comment on litigation, UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg wrote in an email.

The lawsuit includes allegations involving Morris-Gibson's supervisor, Assistant Director Miguel Foster, during a Coalition of Black Trade Unionists convention in Atlanta, Ga., "asked plaintiff to sleep with him," the lawsuit alleged.

At the time, Foster was director of the UAW's Civil and Humans Rights department, according to the lawsuit.

Foster joined Morris-Gibson's division in 2018 and "almost immediately" started harassing her, according to the lawsuit.

"Foster made comments about bending plaintiff over her desk" and alluded to having sex with her, according to the lawsuit.

In October 2018 at the union's Blue Cross Blue Shield division, Foster "shockingly kissed plaintiff on the side of her mouth without her consent or permission," the lawsuit alleged.

Foster could not be reached for comment.

The alleged kissing incident was reported to a department director, according to the lawsuit.

"Plaintiff’s complaints have always been treated as mere puffery and exaggeration by defendants, who devoted their energy to 'protecting Foster,'" the lawsuit alleged.

In other instances, the UAW failed to take corrective action after being alerted to sexual harassment involving more senior labor leaders, according to the lawsuit.

Morris-Gibson says she suffered numerous other instances of harassment by other UAW officials, including Kariem, now a vice president of the UAW and director of the Ford department.

Kariem, who until earlier this year served as a regional director, allegedly whispered in her ear asking for her to sleep with him during a conference in Washington, D.C. When Morris replied that she was married, he laughed and said that he would not tell, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit does not list the year of the conference.

During a bargaining conference in March 2019 at the TCF Center, Kariem allegedly approached Morris-Gibson and used an expletive to refer to her appearance.

Kariem did not respond to a message seeking comment Wednesday.

The lawsuit includes allegations involving former UAW Vice President Jimmy Settles, who is not named as a defendant. Settles was the union's top negotiator with Ford until retiring in 2018 and being appointed by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan to a $155,000 job as head of the city's Department of Neighborhoods.

During one meeting, Settles made a comment to now-President Rory Gamble about plaintiff’s breasts, the lawsuit alleged.

"Plaintiff was embarrassed by Settles’ comment and Gamble told Settles to 'leave her alone,'" according to the lawsuit.

Settles also called Morris-Gibson to meet former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick so he could "see a pretty face" to help him feel better before he went to prison, according to the lawsuit.

Settles did not respond to a message seeking comment Wednesday. His lawyer, Steve Fishman, who represents him in connection with a separate federal corruption investigation, declined comment.

Despite UAW leaders witnessing and having knowledge of the harassment, nothing was done to address it, according to the lawsuit. The UAW did not investigate her sexual harassment allegations until April 2019, after Morris-Gibson requested her personnel file, six months after the UAW director was informed of the harassment, according to the lawsuit.​

"The atmosphere of harassment and hostile work environment for women, particularly women of color, was pervasive," Williams and Evelyn wrote.

Morris-Gibson is requesting money for damages in excess of $75,000, an injunction prohibiting any further acts of discrimination, attorney fees and costs.

The lawsuit comes after the UAW’s governing International Executive Board in March moved to remove regional director Rankin from the union. A third-party investigator had “substantiated allegation of workplace harassment,” the union said in a statement at the time.

The union's constitution provides 15 days for an accused official to prepare a defense, but a trial before a 12-member jury has been delayed due to gathering limitations amid the COVID-19 outbreak, Rothenberg said.

Rankin has been suspended of his duties, though he has said in a previous statement from his lawyers he intends to fight the charges.


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

Flashing hazard and tail lights of Ford's Police Interceptor Utility vehicle warn officers that the high-temperature interior disinfecting process is running. The sanitation procedure seeks to limit the spread of COVID-19 to first responders. (Photo: Ford)

Breana Noble,
The Detroit News
May 27, 2020

Ford Motor Co. is rolling out new software for its Police Interceptor Utility vehicles to heat their passenger compartments to temperatures as hot as Death Valley on its warmest day to disinfect the interior against the coronavirus.

The technology, Ford said Wednesday, heats the interior above 133 degrees for 15 minutes to kill the virus — figures that showed a quick reduction in the virus's stability, according to a study by the World Health Organization. It is immediately available for 2013-19 model-year vehicles in the United States, Canada and other countries.

“First responders are on the front lines protecting all of us. They are exposed to the virus and are in dire need of protective measures,” Hau Thai-Tang, Ford's chief product development and purchasing officer, said in a statement. “We looked at what’s in our arsenal and how we could step up to help. In this case, we’ve turned the vehicle’s powertrain and heat control systems into a virus neutralizer.”

Ford worked with microbiologists at The Ohio State University to determine the temperature and time duration needed. The researchers found the combination reduced viral concentration by more than 99% on interior surfaces.

Since late March, Ford's engineering team has looked at how to disinfect vehicles using heat. Ford conducted operational trials with a number of U.S. police departments, including the Michigan State Police and New York City Police Department, which directly reached out to Ford for help on the matter.

The software can be activated by a sequence of actions involving cruise control buttons or through an external tool. Flashing hazard and tail lights indicate when the sanitization process is in action. The function also includes a cool-down mechanism.


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

Kalea Hall,
The Detroit News
May 26, 2020

Detroit — The coronavirus pandemic is proving to be yet another obstacle for the self-driving and ride-sharing movement, delaying the widely touted arrival of next-generation automotive technology.

Ford Motor Co. is postponing for a year the commercial deployment of its autonomous vehicles. Waymo LLC, the self-driving unit of Google parent Alphabet Inc., had to temporarily suspend its on-road testing and its ride-hailing offerings in Arizona. Uber Advanced Technologies Group recently announced layoffs of 3,500, citing the pandemic. And General Motors Co. is shutting down Maven, the car-sharing service that debuted in 2016 as the wave of the future.

With demand for car-sharing and ride-sharing diminishing sharply in the age of social-distancing and other forms of vigilant hygiene, companies are shifting their focus to using driverless vehicles to deliver goods before they ferry people — a reversal of a robo-taxi future envisioned just a few years ago, courtesy of the virus that causes COVID-19.

Expensive electrification programs that have yet to create revenue for automakers, however, continue despite automakers losing billions with auto plants closed for eight weeks and many dealerships unable to sell vehicles with stay-at-home orders in place during the pandemic. Still, the prevailing industry consensus holds that electric vehicles must be an option for consumers, and electrified powertrains are the foundation of self-driving vehicles and future mobility technologies.

"Electrification is clearly going to be the priority," said Sam Abuelsamid, principal analyst for Washington-based Guidehouse Insights, a global management consultancy. "It has to be the priority. For regulatory reasons, they need it for Europe and for China, in particular, and to a lesser degree, North America."

It's also a product line that's a lot closer to delivering profit than automated technology. There have been some small commercial deployments of autonomous vehicles by Waymo and others. Abuelsamid previously predicted thousands would be deployed globally by about 2023 and millions by 2025. Guidehouse now forecasts about 300,000 will be deployed by 2025 and 13 million by 2030.

"The reality is that the technology is still not ready," he said. "Electric-vehicle technology is ready."

Ford, which has partnered with Argo AI on self-driving technology, recently said it would delay the launch of its commercial self-driving services to 2022 instead of next year because of COVID-19's impact on changing customer behaviors. Argo's autonomous fleet has restarted on-road testing in Pittsburgh, one of six cities where it tests, after a temporary pause during the pandemic.

While Ford has "always planned on building and launching services to move people and goods," the automaker is now seeing "a big shift toward package delivery based on the pandemic. This could also impact our go-to-market strategy," Ford Autonomous Vehicle spokesman Dan Pierce said. Ford is still planning to invest more than $4 billion through 2023 on its self-driving business.

Doubts for 'shared mobility'

Doug Parks, GM global product development and purchasing chief, said at the 2020 Car of the Future Virtual Symposium that the COVID crisis might push people away from ride-sharing. But in addition to ride-sharing, the Cruise Origin autonomous shuttle could also be utilized for package delivery, which could accelerate after the crisis. The Origin is an electric self-driving shuttle developed by GM's autonomous subsidiary, Cruise LLC, in partnership with Honda Motor Co.

"We are going to see a lot of these companies shift away from robo-taxis in the near term to goods delivery," Abuelsamid said. "There’s more demand for it, and also it’s an easier problem to solve. In the post-pandemic era, there’s going to be some reluctance to use shared mobility."

Waymo restarted its Arizona testing operations on May 11, and the self-driving unit progressively plans to get back to serving customers with its Waymo One ride-hailing services.

While GM's Cruise has laid off employees, GM has said the pandemic will cause little to no impact on certain programs including the Cruise Origin. Cruise has not confirmed publicly when the Origin will hit roads, and it also has yet to set a new deployment launch date for its autonomous Bolt EVs.

COVID-19 is changing how people perceive mass transit. And that shapes how GM will develop vehicles like the Origin, which is designed to transport many people, GM CEO Mary Barra said during a web conference hosted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: "How do we ensure that it's got the right level of cleanliness or (is) disinfected person to person? I think that is all things we can work on, but it doesn't deter at all our vision and our drive to create this vision."

Amid the pandemic, Cruise had paused its on-road testing until it started using its autonomous fleet of vehicles to deliver food to those in need in San Francisco.

"I’m very pleased with the progress that they are making from a technology perspective at Cruise," Barra told investors during a first-quarter earnings call. "We are continuing to hit milestone after milestone there, so I’m very positive about what’s happening at Cruise. I see huge opportunity, and so our commitment … is unwavering."

In April, GM confirmed it would end its Maven car-sharing service after suspending it at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak. GM reviewed the business during the suspension and decided to shift its resources to areas with greater potential for profit and growth. The business had been struggling before the pandemic, in large part because car-sharing failed to resonate with users the way ride-sharing did.

Maven last year exited eight cities that didn't produce the demand needed to sustain the service. Ford Motor Credit Co. last fall announced it was selling its vehicle subscription service Canvas to a California-based car-rental app, Fair. And Ford Motor Co. ended its shuttle service, Chariot, last year.

Meanwhile, Zipcar, a car-sharing network operating in select cities, including Detroit, launched earlier this month "Instant Access," which enables new members to access a car with a smartphone and drive within minutes of joining, according to the company.

Unchanged plans

Even though some electric-vehicle programs have seen delays, GM consistently has said its programs, including the GMC Hummer EV and Cadillac Lyriq EV, will see little to no delays from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Hummer, slated to debut in fall 2021, will be built at a repurposed Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant. GM remains committed to its autonomous program with subsidiary Cruise LLC to move people and packages around in electric autonomous vehicles.

"Our strategy is an all-electric future," said Ken Morris, GM's vice president electric and autonomous vehicles. "We want zero congestion, zero emissions and zero crashes. You can’t work on everything when the revenue is different ... you do have to decide: What are we going to put our focus on? And we are going full-speed ahead on the electric and autonomous vehicles programs."

The Detroit News previously reported there would be delays on refresh launches of the light-duty Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra trucks, the GMC Terrain SUV as well as Chevrolet Equinox and Traverse SUVs, Bolt electric car and Camaro sports car. A future variant of the Chevrolet Corvette that was not slotted for 2020 also will be delayed.

Despite a delay in the refresh program of the Bolt EV because plants had been down since mid-March, GM hasn't delayed other electric vehicle programs it's publicly announced. The automaker plans to have 20 electric vehicles worldwide by 2023, and it still plans to deliver on that goal.

"We haven’t changed any of our plans," Morris added. "We are basically doing everything we possibly can to make sure that (we) meet or beat that timing. We would like to get them out even earlier, so we are working with full intensity."

Before the pandemic, GM hosted an EV Day to show the company's electric-vehicle products and its new battery technology that expands its battery range and lowers the cost, top concerns among potential buyers. GM is moving forward with the construction of a battery-cell manufacturing plant in northeast Ohio in a joint venture with partner LG Chem. The plant is slated to come online in early 2022.

GM's Barra used the event in early March to say the automaker plans to spend $20 billion on electric and autonomous vehicle development through 2025. It hasn't retreated from its commitment to that investment, Morris said, despite gas prices below $2 during the pandemic. Automakers stress cheaper gas prices matter less to consumers weighing the longer-term lower cost of owning an electric vehicle: the vehicles don't require gas and come with fewer parts, translating to less maintenance over the vehicle's lifetime.

Ford also is sticking to its more than $11.5 billion-plus investment in electric vehicle programs through 2022, though the automaker and Plymouth-based electric vehicle startup Rivian Automotive LLC have canceled plans to develop a new electric SUV for the Lincoln luxury brand because of the current environment created by COVID-19 outbreak. Lincoln still plans to deliver an electric vehicle, and Ford and Rivian remain committed in their partnership.

Ford plans to launch its electric Mustang Mach-E and a hybrid F-150 pickup later this year. An electric Ford Transit van is slated for 2022. The Dearborn automaker has also said it will deliver an electric F-150 in a few years, though it hasn't given an exact release date.

FCA 'on track'

Increasing regulatory requirements, particularly in Europe, are driving Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV’s efforts to continue electrifying its portfolio, CEO Mike Manley recently told investors: “In Europe, on the passenger-car side, we are absolutely on track.

“At this moment in time, I foresee no issues this year on passenger cars because we delayed projects that did not include those vehicles that contribute heavily to our compliance. … There may be a week slippage here and there but largely on track to what we thought.”

Those include the battery-electric Fiat 500 city car, plug-in hybrid Jeep Renegade and Compass SUVs and several electric Maserati vehicles currently in development. In its commercial business, however, the Fiat Ducato electric van, which was scheduled to launch this year, is facing delays.

Whatever the short-term dip in electric vehicle releases might be, there's a positive long-term trajectory for them, said Lea Malloy, associate vice president for research and development at Cox Automotive Mobility.

"What's driving that is the consumer is starting to get a taste for what's compelling about the EV," she said. "The environmental benefits are hard to miss when you see clear skies ... so that, in combination with EVs (that) are more fun to drive and have lower cost profiles, it's sort of, in my mind, a no-brainer."

As consumer interest in electric vehicles grows and automakers amp their strategic responses, would-be customers are showing signs they're satisfied for now with the present level of assisted driving, Malloy said: "They are not really demanding this completely automated experience."


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

By Salmaan Farooqui
The Canadian Press
May 25, 2020

Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced Sunday that anyone in the province can get tested for COVID-19, regardless of whether they have symptoms, as cases continued to mount and officials criticized thousands of people who gathered in a Toronto park a day earier.

The premier said mass testing is the province’s best defence against the virus, adding that the only way for the province to reach its testing capacity of nearly 25,000 is for people to show up to provincial assessment centres.

Currently, daily testing rates hover around 11,000.

“If you are worried you have COVID-19, or that you’ve been exposed to someone who has COVID-19, even if you’re not showing symptoms, please go get a test,” Ford said during a televised speech on Sunday.

“You will not be turned away, you don’t need an appointment, just show up.”

A spokeswoman for the Minister of Health later said in an email that the province doesn’t anticipate demand for tests outpacing supply, even with this directive.

The messaging is a marked change from earlier guidelines for the general public, which said that only people displaying one or more symptoms of the novel coronavirus should be tested.

Ford also said a new detailed testing strategy targeting specific sectors will be unveiled next week.

The announcement comes as cases continue to mount in Ontario, with 460 confirmed cases reported on Sunday along with 25 deaths related to the virus.

The new cases account for a 1.8 per cent increase over the previous day.

The province now has 25,500 confirmed cases, which includes 19,477 that are marked as resolved and 2,073 where patients have died.

The Ministry of Health said it completed 11,383 tests over the previous 24 hours.

Meanwhile, the premier criticized Torontonians who flocked to a popular downtown park on Saturday after city officials said thousands of people at Trinity Bellwoods Park were flouting physical distancing rules.

“I thought it was a rock concert in the beginning when I went out there, I was in shock,” Ford said.

“I get it, it’s a beautiful day out, everyone wants to get out and have a great time … but the images I saw, we just can’t have that right now, it’s just too many people too close.”

On Sunday, far fewer people were at the park, Toronto police said, noting that there were more cops and bylaw officers present to issue $1,000 tickets to those violating the rules.


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

Kalea Hall,
Jordyn Grzelewski
and Breana Noble,
The Detroit News
May 20, 2020

Dajuan Hampton was headed to his 5 a.m. shift at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV Warren Truck plant with a mask strapped around his head when former first lady Michelle Obama came over the radio to encourage listeners to stay home.

Instead, Hampton, like thousands of other autoworkers heading back to plants after an eight-week pandemic-induced shutdown, kept driving to work on Monday — the first step in the historic restart of an industry that accounts for nearly 4% of the nation’s economy.

"The factory is the most cross-contaminated workplace next to a buffet. Period," said Hampton, 39, of Detroit, who installs seats. "There is no way to make it coronavirus-proof."

Most workers at FCA Warren Truck came prepared for a restart under new safety guidelines, with masks already strapped around their faces. But many expressed concern and frustration about going back to work when uncertainty about the virus remains.

How successful the resumption of auto production ultimately will be, will depend in large part on whether Ford Motor Co., Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and General Motors Co. can keep their employees safe at work. Workers who returned to work Monday expressed a mixture of optimism and skepticism that it will be possible to prevent COVID-19 from spreading in manufacturing plants.

Hampton's concerns weren't eased after the eight-hour shift. He kept thinking about that message from the former first lady telling him the importance of staying home to stay safe, he said: "This is unreal. We are going back to work to build a truck while Michelle Obama is telling us to stay home."

Meanwhile, work was "pretty smooth" at Ford Motor Co.’s assembly and stamping plants in Wayne, said MaryLisa Poole, 57, of Canton Township, who works as a receiver for trucks delivering materials: "As far as the virus, (there's) nothing to mention. I wore my mask. I had my face shield.”

The restart of vehicle production at GM, Ford and FCA, one week after major suppliers resumed production, is the linchpin of an unprecedented and coordinated effort to rev up almost the entire auto industry, foreign and domestic, after the shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic and government responses to it.

"It’ll be the first time in history everybody comes back up at the same time," Gary Johnson, Ford's chief manufacturing and labor affairs officer, told The Detroit News last week. "So that will be a test."

The restart will test the new health and safety protocols the automakers have developed and implemented already in China, in Europe and in U.S. plants producing medical equipment and supplies. How effective those protocols prove to be should help ease anxieties of those returning to work.

Hampton reserved some of his criticism for the UAW, saying: "I am little taken back because I thought there would be resistance from the union because of this pandemic." To him, there's no logic in going back into a plant to build trucks with new cases still cropping up: "If the numbers decrease, then I would see more reasoning into bringing us back."

Michigan on Monday confirmed 24 deaths tied to the virus, marking the ninth straight day with fewer than 100 new deaths from the illness reported in the state. Monday was the fourth consecutive day that the state had fewer than 800 new cases of COVID-19, for a total 51,915 known cases since reporting began, according to state data.

But while the UAW can advocate for stronger health and safety protections, the contracts between the union and the automakers give the companies the final say on when production resumes, UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg said.

"The UAW will continue to do everything we can to protect the health and safety of all members as plants reopen," the UAW said in a statement Sunday, noting that the union continues to advocate for the automakers to test all workers for COVID-19 when testing becomes more widely available.

Prior to restarting, the automakers did not know exactly how many workers would return, or how many would be unable to work after answering questions about their potential exposure to the virus. But, Rothenberg said he heard from all three companies Monday that they had full staffing, and in some cases, more than expected. Absenteeism did not appear to be an issue.

In a statement, FCA said it was "pleased" with Monday's restart. The automaker brought back some 12,000 U.S. employees. "Everyone followed the new protocols and our plants were fully staffed to start production," the company said. "We are very confident that we have all the right protection measures in place to keep them all safe."

As they shuffled back into work Monday morning, however, some employees at the Warren Truck plant were not quite as convinced. More than 1,280 workers were called back to work there for the first shift from 5 a.m. to 1 p.m. A second shift is scheduled to restart in a few weeks.

At least one worker was sent home after answering "yes" to being exposed to the coronavirus.

Theresa Segura, 61, of Lincoln Park recently saw her brother, who has tested positive for the virus. She'll have to get tested now before she can go back to work, which is fine with her because she doesn't want to get any of her co-workers sick: "There's a lot of other people out here sick already, and you don't want another life to pass away."

Segura knew some of FCA Warren Truck workers who died from COVID-19 complications. At least four Warren Truck employees have died after contracting the coronavirus, prompting heightened anxiety among employees at the plant about returning to work.

"Everybody should be tested before they go in the plant because you can go in the plant and get sick and you don't know it," said Segura. "You are risking your life to go in there."

Not all employees will be tested for COVID-19, though the companies are offering testing through their medical teams or partner health systems to employees who have symptoms of the virus.

FCA assembly worker Richard Werth, 56, of Redford Township, a 25-year employee of the Warren Truck plant, was not necessarily excited about coming back Monday after being off for two months. But he wasn't concerned because he's already "been out and about."

"It's no biggie as long as they take precautions," he said. "Just be safe. Keep your hands clean. Keep your distance."

Meanwhile, Harnett Weatherspoon, 34, of Detroit works in the trim department at FCA's Warren Truck. He was "very fearful of coming to work" because he believes it's not safe, despite new virus-related safety protocols.

"If you guys have to do all this, it's not safe for us to be in here," Weatherspoon said of the company's safety precautions. "Why am I coming to work with this on?" he asked, pointing to the black mask around his head.

An FCA employee at Sterling Heights Assembly plant who returned early to help prepare the plant for restart was also sent home Wednesday after testing positive for COVID-19, causing some concerns among the rank-and-file.

In a letter sent home to workers, Mark Stewart, the company's chief operating officer in North America, said workers were wearing the required face masks and safety glasses provided to them and that the company was continuing to strengthen its procedures.

Another complication for the industry, which provides hundreds of thousands of American jobs, is the potential for snarls in the supply chain. Already, Daimler AG said it was idling its Mercedes-Benz plant in Alabama, which had reopened in late April, due to a parts shortage. Having to shut down factories after reopening them is the last thing automakers and their suppliers want, according to experts, and is a strain on their capital.

Mexico accounts for almost 40% of imported auto parts. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced plans last Wednesday to begin a phased reopening in his country on Monday to coincide with many U.S. plants. After some confusion about when exactly plants there are allowed to reopen, the Mexican government clarified that plants can begin reopening this week after receiving approval for their safety plans.

"The industry shut down all at the same time," said Jeff Schuster, head of global vehicle forecasting for LMC Automotive. "In terms of a parts shortage, that's still a risk. And all it takes is many outbreaks in a supplier plant or assembly plant for things to have to get re-evaluated."

The companies are returning workers in phases. GM last week restarted production at three engine and propulsion plants to fill its supply pipeline but is recalling one shift at most of its assembly plants this week. Ford's three-shift plants are starting with two, and two-shift plants with one. Fiat Chrysler has said it is basing its ramp up on demand and will reduce jobs per hour to ensure safe distancing.

Workers will go through safety briefings at all of the companies before production resumes. The companies also have sent home fliers and packets with information on the return-to-work procedures.

“The last thing we want is to see a spike when the governor starts pulling back restrictions,” said Jim Glynn, GM's vice president of global workplace safety. “The reason we are sharing all of this information is because we want to be successful. Everybody has to make that decision: ‘Do I feel comfortable coming to work?’ We want everybody to feel comfortable."

The automakers have installed plexiglass barriers, signs and other cues to help with social distancing in the plants. Ford is providing wristwatches that beep when employees get within 6 feet and that can help with contact tracing if a case is identified.

The automakers are having employees fill out questionnaires asking them about travel and if they are experiencing symptoms. GM and Ford also are checking temperatures with thermal cameras; FCA is providing temperature strips for employees to check daily at home.

The protocols will be a transition, company executives say, adding that plant management will continue to follow up with employees about questions and concerns throughout the week.

"Every human being, myself included, is going to have some anxiety," said Shaun Whitehead, Ford's director of manufacturing, transmission and driveline components, last week. "We're going to give ourselves some time. ... There are a lot of very small things that we do differently now."


Bomb threat was made against
Unifor blockades in February

Arthur White-Crummey,
Regina Leader-Post
May 19, 2020

Regina’s mayor received an anonymous letter in February from someone threatening to blow up Unifor blockades if police didn’t dismantle them. The local representing locked-out Co-op refinery workers insists it was never warned.

The letter, which purported to come from farmers facing fuel shortages, said “special mixes” had been set up that could cause pallets and gates to “start flying.”

“Only a cell phone call away from Ignition Time,” the letter reads. “If we see no progress this week — it will be time to act.”

The anonymous letter claimed that the alleged would-be bombers had a list of names and home addresses of union officials living outside Saskatchewan.

“Time for action there as well if things do not start happening — first get rid of the Unifor A**holes,” the letter continued.

Unifor 594 posted the letter to its website on Sunday, along with an explanation of how it obtained a copy through a freedom of information request.

“Buried in a mountain of documents, we have unearthed a very alarming letter that shows there were credible threats made against Unifor 594 members,” the post said. “The letter frighteningly details a plan to blow up picket lines.”

The copy of the letter posted online was addressed to the RCMP and the Regina Police Service (RPS). But it was also marked with a “received” stamp from the mayor’s office dated Feb. 18.

Regina Mayor Michael Fougere confirmed on Sunday that the letter posted to the Unifor 594 website looks very much like one he received, though he was not at his office to verify the specific date and details. He said he passed it along to the RPS immediately after receiving it.

Fougere said there was no return address or markings on the letter that would allow him to identify its author.

Neither the RPS nor the RCMP were not immediately available to comment on Sunday. Fougere said he’s not aware of how police responded to the letter since it’s not up to the mayor’s office to follow up on any investigations.

In its web posting, Unifor 594 faulted Fougere and the police for not warning union officials about the threat.

“The most horrifying reality is that these threats were never conveyed to members of the local union,” said the posting. “These credible threats were never once passed along by the police who initially received it.

“The officials who are charged with the safety of the citizens of Regina chose not to pass along information that people were in danger,” the Unifor 594 post said. “They willfully ignored that people could be blown up.”

Fougere confirmed that he did not forward the letter to Unifor. He was not aware whether the police did so.

“It would be up to the police service to take the steps necessary. They would ordinarily do on any sort of a threat,” he said. “We certainly didn’t do that. It’s not the role of the mayor’s office to look at the validity of a threat. It’s for the police service to do.”

He responded to Unifor’s criticism by noting that “there is a lot of emotion and anger” in the months-long dispute .

Kevin Bittman, president of Unifor Local 594, reiterated in a telephone interview that union officials were never informed about the threat in any way.

He accepts that they mayor’s office isn’t responsible for investigating a bomb threat, but thinks Fougere should have done more to follow up with police.

“I think theres probably some onus on him to follow up if there’s a death threat in his city,” said Bittman.

Unifor 594 added that union members have repeatedly faced threats of violence over the course of the lock-out, which began on Dec. 5 of last year .

“Several social media posts, comments and direct messages, on both Twitter and Facebook, outline a variety of threats of physical violence towards union members,” said the Sunday web post.

“Since the lockout began the union office has also received dozens of venomous and menacing phone calls from Co-op supporters.”

Bittman said it’s not unusual to hear hostile comments on the lines, but he said the threat in the letter was “next level.”

He said the union never found any devices or suspicious items in the blockades that would suggest anyone actually carried out the threat made in the letter.

He would have, however, appreciated the heads-up, just in case something was there that could “blow someone to smithereens.”

January and February were in many ways the height of the conflict between Unifor and the Co-op Refinery Complex. Days before Fougere received the letter, a judge fined Unifor 594 $250,000 for contempt in relation to the blockades.

On January 20, Unifor national president Jerry Dias was arrested at the refinery blockades . Special mediator Vince Ready began his work about the time the letter arrived at city hall, but Unifor continued to set up blockades at other CRC facilities afterwards.


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

Global News
Beatrice Britneff
May 18, 2020

Days after announcing additional financial relief for seniors struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal minister responsible for seniors wouldn't confirm Ottawa will move ahead with a planned increase to the Old Age Security (OAS) pension in July -- a promise made by the governing Liberals during their campaign for re-election.

In an interview with The West Block's host Mercedes Stephenson this week, Seniors Minister Deb Schulte said the federal government is "completely committed" to implementing their campaign promises but right now is "completely focused" on helping Canadians through the coronavirus pandemic.

"We are committed to delivering on our promises but right now the pandemic is taking all efforts and energies and that’s where our focus is," Schulte said.

Last fall, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged to implement a 10 per cent increase to the Old Age Security program for seniors once they turn 75, as he courted seniors' votes.

During the 2019 campaign, the Liberals said the increase -- scheduled to take effect in July 2020 -- would amount to an extra $729 for most seniors annually and would be indexed to keep up with inflation.

The increase to the OAS as a whole would cost $1.63 billion in 2020-21, rising to $2.56 billion in 2023-24, the party estimated in September.

Asked whether the Liberal government is still on track to fulfill that pledge this summer, Schulte wouldn't confirm. Instead, she emphasized the recent top-ups announced in April and May for seniors facing additional living costs due to the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak, such as grocery deliveries and additional dispensing fees at pharmacies due to prescription refill limits.

In April, Schulte said single seniors on low and modest incomes would have received an extra tax-free GST credit of $375, on average, with senior couples receiving more than $500.

Then on May 12, federal officials announced a plan to give seniors eligible for the OAS pension a one-time, tax-free payment of $300. Those also eligible for the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) would get an additional $200, the government said.

Officials said they expect this financial relief for seniors to cost $2.5 billion.

The OAS pension is a monthly payment made to eligible seniors who are 65 years old and older. The GIS is a monthly, non-taxable benefit provided to low-income recipients of the OAS pension.

Asked why the OAS and GIS top-ups weren't announced until mid-May -- about two months into a near country-wide shutdown -- Schulte said the federal government "saw there was need for more" after the April GST credits were doled out.

"We definitely recognize that seniors are being heavily impacted not only from their health perspective -- being more vulnerable to the effects of the pandemic, the COVID-19 virus -- but also with the impacts of the additional costs that they’re facing," the minister said.

"That's why we brought forward this announcement this week."


Ford shareholders lament
sagging stock, slowed
production amid pandemic

Jordyn Grzelewski,
The Detroit News
May 17, 2020

Ford Motor Co. shareholders on Thursday quizzed company executives about the low value of the automaker's stock — a longstanding point of frustration that the coronavirus pandemic appears only to be deepening.

Company leaders also were pressed during the virtual annual shareholder meeting about steps the company is taking to manage its finances amid COVID-19, and how quickly production will ramp up to full capacity as the automaker prepares to restart its North American operations on Monday.

Meanwhile, a proposal to abolish the company's two-tiered share structure — which enable Ford family members to wield 40% voting control of the 117-year-old automaker — was voted down, as it has been in previous years.

"The true economic fallout (of the coronavirus) ... won't be known for some time," CEO Jim Hackett told shareholders. "And we're mindful there might be new (COVID-19) outbreaks ahead. That's why we've taken significant actions to reduce costs, preserve cash, and make sure we've got the financial flexibility to ride this out and emerge as a stronger company on the other side."

The Dearborn automaker and its crosstown rivals shut down North American operations in late March to help halt the transmission of COVID-19. After nearly eight weeks of down time that has cost the Detroit Three billions of dollars, plants are set to begin phasing in production Monday. Ford reported a $2 billion net loss in the first quarter, and has said that its losses in the second quarter will be much greater

Top among the questions from shareholders was why Ford's share price trades so low compared to its industry peers — on Thursday, Blue Oval shares closed up 3.6% at $4.90 but down 48 percent since the start of the year — and what company leaders are doing to boost it.

"We had a very good first quarter last year and our stock was headed in the right direction," said executive chairman Bill Ford, citing the botched Explorer SUV launch in 2019 and warranty issues as factors that "knocked us back."

Now, "coming out of COVID, it really is all about performance and executing on our plan," he said. "Management's compensation is heavily tied to our stock, so it's in everyone's interest to get our stock price back up."

Queried about the company's suspension of its dividend in March in a move to preserve cash, chief financial officer Tim Stone said company executives will consider reinstating the payout "as soon as is practical."

In another move to strengthen its cash position during the downturn, Ford has been working to cut costs even as it issues new debt and draws on existing credit facilities to raise capital to weather the coronavirus-induced downturn. 

The company's top 300 executives are deferring 20% to 50% of their salaries for five months, and Bill Ford is deferring his entire salary during that time. Asked whether company leadership would consider adjusting performance-based targets for executive compensation or further pay cuts for management or board directors, executives said they are focusing on deferring, rather than eliminating, compensation, but continue to evaluate.

The company has identified billions in potential spending cuts, but "we know this will not be enough to recover everything this year from the production stoppage," Stone said.

And, as the company shifts to ramping production back up, shareholders wanted to know how long that will take. Production is already coming back up in Asia and Europe, and North American autoworkers will start returning to work Monday on reduced shifts and with stringent health and safety protocols in place.

The intricate restart process depends in large part on the automaker's supply base, Chief Operating Officer Jim Farley said: "It's a very complex formula, because the ecosystem of getting our plants back up to full production is complicated. ... It will really come down to our suppliers' preparation."

Executives emphasized that the automaker remains committed to upcoming product launches — namely a redesigned F-150 truck and the revival of the iconic Bronco SUV — as well as an all-electric future. Ford is investing $11 billion in electrification to deliver 40 new hybrid and electric vehicles by 2022, the company said.

John Chevedden, a shareholder long critical of Ford, again presented a proposal that each share be worth one vote. Via Class B shares, Ford family members have greater voting power than other shareholders — which Chevedden argued "reduces accountability by allowing corporate control to be retained by insiders disproportionately to their money at risk."

That proposal was defeated, with only 35% voting in favor.

The company has identified billions in potential spending cuts, but "we know this will not be enough to recover everything this year from the production stoppage," Stone said.

And, as the company shifts to ramping production back up, shareholders wanted to know how long that will take. Production is already coming back up in Asia and Europe, and North American autoworkers will start returning to work Monday on reduced shifts and with stringent health and safety protocols in place.

The intricate restart process depends in large part on the automaker's supply base, Chief Operating Officer Jim Farley said: "It's a very complex formula, because the ecosystem of getting our plants back up to full production is complicated. ... It will really come down to our suppliers' preparation."

Executives emphasized that the automaker remains committed to upcoming product launches — namely a redesigned F-150 truck and the revival of the iconic Bronco SUV — as well as an all-electric future. Ford is investing $11 billion in electrification to deliver 40 new hybrid and electric vehicles by 2022, the company said.

John Chevedden, a shareholder long critical of Ford, again presented a proposal that each share be worth one vote. Via Class B shares, Ford family members have greater voting power than other shareholders — which Chevedden argued "reduces accountability by allowing corporate control to be retained by insiders disproportionately to their money at risk."

That proposal was defeated, with only 35% voting in favor.

The company has identified billions in potential spending cuts, but "we know this will not be enough to recover everything this year from the production stoppage," Stone said.

And, as the company shifts to ramping production back up, shareholders wanted to know how long that will take. Production is already coming back up in Asia and Europe, and North American autoworkers will start returning to work Monday on reduced shifts and with stringent health and safety protocols in place.

The intricate restart process depends in large part on the automaker's supply base, Chief Operating Officer Jim Farley said: "It's a very complex formula, because the ecosystem of getting our plants back up to full production is complicated. ... It will really come down to our suppliers' preparation."

Executives emphasized that the automaker remains committed to upcoming product launches — namely a redesigned F-150 truck and the revival of the iconic Bronco SUV — as well as an all-electric future. Ford is investing $11 billion in electrification to deliver 40 new hybrid and electric vehicles by 2022, the company said.

John Chevedden, a shareholder long critical of Ford, again presented a proposal that each share be worth one vote. Via Class B shares, Ford family members have greater voting power than other shareholders — which Chevedden argued "reduces accountability by allowing corporate control to be retained by insiders disproportionately to their money at risk."

That proposal was defeated, with only 35% voting in favor.


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

PM promises help for long-term care facilities after pandemic exposed vulnerabilities

Kathleen Harris
CBC News
May 13, 2020

Seniors will be receiving a one-time payment of up to $500 to help offset any increases in the cost of living due to COVID-19 — and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today promised to help find long-term solutions to the tragedies unfolding in long-term care facilities.

Seniors Minister Deb Schulte said today that seniors who qualify for Old Age Security (OAS) will be eligible for a one-time, tax-free payment of $300, and those eligible for the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) will get an extra $200.

Those eligible for both will receive $500.

The direct supports will amount to $2.5 billion and are expected to help 6.7 million older Canadians.

Schulte said seniors are facing extra dispensing fees for prescriptions, added costs for grocery delivery services and taxi fees when they might normally take the bus.

"It's all small amounts, but it adds up," she said.

Seniors who already are receiving OAS and GIS will receive the one-time benefit automatically; they will not be required to apply for it.

Asked by reporters why the aid for seniors took so long to arrive, Schulte said the government already has announced measures for seniors — including a one-time special payment through the GST credit and the reduction of minimum withdrawals from registered retirement income funds by 25 per cent in 2020.

Pandemic taking financial, emotional toll on seniors

During his daily briefing today, Trudeau said COVID-19 is taking a heavy toll on seniors both emotionally and financially, and today's announcement is meant to alleviate some of the stress they're experiencing.

He said there is more work to be done on both short-term fixes and longer-term solutions.

COVID-19 has exposed some "uncomfortable truths" about Canadian society, including how we care for seniors, he said.

"We've seen heartbreaking tragedies in long-term care facilities and nursing homes right across the country. Overworked staff. Understaffed residences. Grieving families. There are serious, underlying challenges facing these facilities. And in the coming months, the federal government will be there to help the provinces find lasting solutions," he said.

The novel coronavirus has spread quickly through many long-term care facilities. About 80 per cent of all COVID-19 related deaths have taken place in those facilities.

Halifax senior Joan McDougall called the situation "heartbreaking" and said it makes her more determined than ever to keep living independently for as long as possible.

"I hope I can put that decision off as long as I can," she told the CBC's Rosemary Barton.

As for today's announcement, McDougall said "every little bit counts" when someone is on a fixed income, but she hopes the government comes through with other measures to help seniors.

With instability in the markets, she said she would welcome any measures to help protect investments without penalties.

"With that instability that we're seeing now, that's what causes me the stress and I'm hoping that will be addressed to some extent," she said.

$20M to help counter isolation

The government is also investing another $20 million on the New Horizons for Seniors Program, which funds various community projects for seniors. Schulte said that money will help to mitigate the impacts of isolation with things like virtual exercise programs and tablet laptops.

Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos said the measures announced today will not require parliamentary authority and the supports are expected to flow within weeks.

Conservative seniors critic Alice Wong accused the government of "letting our seniors down" during the pandemic, saying the help is arriving late.

 "We have heard that Canadians are looking for penalty-free access to their savings during this crisis. Conservatives put forward constructive proposals to help, including allowing Canadians to make a special one-time tax-free withdrawal from their RRSPs and waiving mandatory RRIF withdrawal," she said in a statement.

 "Conservatives will continue to help Canadians who are falling through the cracks."

NDP seniors critic Scott Duvall said he is "largely disappointed" with the emergency aid plan for seniors.

"Providing a one-time payment indicates the government has decided the pandemic will only last for a month. How are seniors going to meet their increased costs in the following months?" he said in a statement.

"The government should help seniors with an ongoing increase in their OAS and GIS. We are happy the government listened to us in ensuring that no one is cut off GIS come July. Allowing GIS recipients until October 1 to file their taxes will certainly help seniors who are struggling right now."

Marissa Lennox, chief policy officer at the seniors advocacy group CARP, said in addition to added grocery and prescription costs, seniors also are seeing free or discounted community services — such as laundry services, meals at community centres and volunteer tax preparation — dry up because of the global pandemic.

She welcomed today's announcement but urged the government to do more to address the retirement security crisis caused by COVID-19.

"The one-time tax-free payments of $300 and $200 for those who qualify for OAS and GIS, respectively, will serve to support immediate needs around grocery delivery and additional prescription medication costs, but are not solutions for beyond the short term. It's unclear how long this will last," she said.

Lennox said many seniors also have seen their retirement savings shrink because of a drop in the stock market.

CARP had asked the federal government to waive mandatory registered retirement income fund (RRIF) withdrawals in 2020. CARP says the mandatory withdrawals increase the tax liability for the year as seniors struggle with added costs related to the pandemic.

"Anything that is withdrawn from a RRIF is fully taxable, and in this unpredictable time, seniors are looking to maximize their cash, reduce their tax liability and maximize their flexibility in arranging their affairs," Lennox said.

CARP also has urged the government to eliminate withholding tax on RRSP withdrawals for the 2020 tax year and allow two years to repay taxes owed.

The group is asking the government to follow through on an election promise to increase Old Age Security (OAS) and Canada Pension Plan (CPP) payments.

During the 2019 campaign, Trudeau said a re-elected government would provide a 10 per cent boost to OAS at age 75 and a 25 per cent increase to the Canada Pension Plan for widows or widowers.

At the time, the Liberal Party said the OAS increase would give Canadians aged 75 and older an extra $729 each year and lift 20,000 seniors out of poverty, while widows or widowers would receive up to $2,080 in additional benefits every year with the increased survivor's benefit under the CPP and Quebec Pension Plan (QPP).

Those changes were to take effect in July, 2020.

Asked about those promised benefits today, Duclos said Tuesday's announcement is meant to provide "quick, solid support" for seniors during the health crisis, and that the government will also deal with financial security for seniors more generally.

Schulte's spokesperson Scott Bardsley said the government has taken steps to support all seniors – especially those who are most financially vulnerable – and that it has more than doubled the financial assistance promised in the election platform ($3.8 billion, instead of $1.56 billion.)

"While the government remains committed to implementing the policies in our platform, at this time we are focused on managing the COVID-19 public health crisis," he said.


Unifor lobbies FCA to build midsize Dakota truck in Ontario

Automotive News
Greg Layson
May 8, 2020

Unifor is lobbying Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to build in Windsor, Ont., a vehicle the automaker hasn’t even confirmed, yet.

In an early-morning Facebook post Thursday, Unifor Local 444, which represents about 5,000 workers at FCA’s minivan plant, called on the automaker to build a midsize pickup at the factory.

Multiple U.S. media outlets say the company filed a trademark application for the name "Dakota," related to "parts for vehicles, namely, automotive exterior decorative trim," according to a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office posting.

Ram dropped the midsize pickup in 2011 after a 25-year run.

“To be clear, Ram has *not officially announced its intention to launch a new Dakota just yet. However, while FCA *may have applied for a Dakota trademark to protect itself from others using the name, it does signal that the company may actually use the name in the coming years,” Unifor Local 444 posted on its Facebook page Thursday at about 1 a.m. ET. “If you want it built right, build it Windsor! It’s what we do!!”

FCA Canada wasn't immediately available for comment.

Unifor’s post comes just months before the union and automaker are scheduled to engage in contract talks, beginning in the fall.

FCA intends to cut one of three shifts at the plant, which currently builds the Dodge Grand Caravan, Chrysler Pacifica and Chrysler Voyager, another badge resurrected by Chrysler.

Ford and General Motors have both brought midsize trucks — the Ranger and Canyon, respectively — back from the dead.

Unifor has made it clear new product is priority No. 1 come bargaining.

FCA CEO Mike Manley said a year ago that the Ram team is "focused on solving a metric ton midsize truck solution for us because it's a big part of the portfolio and growth we want to achieve."

At that time, it sounded as if the decision was coming down to how best to execute a platform for the midsize Ram pickup.

"Being able to find a cost-effective platform in a region where we can build it with low cost and it still being applicable in the market is what they're struggling with at the moment," Manley said. "I want that problem solved, frankly, because it's a clear hole in our portfolio. It will not be filled by Gladiator because Gladiator is a very, very different mission. Trust me, they're focused on it. We need to get it fixed soon."

However, suppliers told Automotive News last year that the midsize Ram pickup would be built in Toledo, Ohio, at the same plant where the Jeep Gladiator is produced. A release timeline is still uncertain. Automotive News previously forecasted the vehicle would be “new in 2022” while Motor Trend, in a story this week, said a new Dakota could arrive as early as the 2021 model year.


GM Canada to resume
engine production
May 11 in Ontario

Automotive Canada
John Irwin
May 7, 2020

A portion of General Motors Canada’s transmission plant in St. Catharines, Ont., will come back online on May 11, with most of the rest of its North American manufacturing operations resuming the week of on May 18, the automaker said today.

In a statement, GM Canada said “a portion” of its HFV6 engine line would resume on May 11. The 3.6-litre HFV6 engines power the Chevrolet Impala sedan, Chevrolet Colorado pickup, Buick Enclave crossover and GMC Terrain crossover, according to the automaker’s website.

The rest of the St. Catharines plant, as well as the automaker’s CAMI assembly plant in Ingersoll, Ont., where the Chevrolet Equinox is assembled, and Oshawa, Ont., stamping operation will “come back gradually in the weeks that follow,” GM Canada said. It was not immediately clear if they would resume the week of May 18, though the GM in Detroit said it planned to resume production at a majority of its North American plants then.

“Based on conversations and collaboration with unions and government officials, GM is targeting to restart the majority of manufacturing operations the week of May 18in the U.S. and Canada under extensive safety measures,” GM Canada said in a statement. “These procedures meet or exceed the World Health Organization and the Public Health Agency of Canada guidelines, and are designed to keep people safe when they arrive, while they work and as they leave the facility.”

Unifor President Jerry Dias said there would be about 300 workers who begin work at St. Catharines on Monday. He said they would be “strictly volunteers” and that they would pass through “heat cameras” when entering the factory and will receive personal protective equipment.

Dias said he anticipated the CAMI plant coming back online on “more like the 25th” of May, as opposed to May 18, though he stopped short of endorsing a return to work then.

“We’ve got to make sure that our members are comfortable,” he said. “I’m not rushing into any sort of decision here.”

GM was the latest automaker to target a May 18 restart date for most of its North American assembly plants. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said it was also aiming to resume production that week, though Dias told Automotive News Canada on Tuesday that Unifor was not yet convinced that FCA’s plants would be safe enough by then.

Canadian auto manufacturing has been virtually shut down since mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


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

Daniel Howes,
The Detroit News
May 6, 2020

In less than two weeks, Detroit’s automakers, their suppliers and the United Auto Workers hope to begin restarting complex manufacturing operations — and they need to get it right.

A false start marred by supply interruptions or an unfortunate outbreak of COVID-19 on the plant floor could scuttle a restart before it gains momentum. That would have far-reaching implications, starting with the confidence of the men and women returning to plants after a roughly two-month hiatus.

Two organizations representing auto suppliers told Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in a letter last Thursday that continued delays in an industry restart would "pose increasing liquidity issues for suppliers and jeopardize long-term capital investment and employment for Michigan," according to the Original Equipment Suppliers Association and the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association.

One risk: Suppliers could "look to move products and employment to a location allowing them to support their global customer base. The future of our workers, our industry, and our state depends on the industry’s collective ability to ramp up vehicle and parts production in a safe and effective manner. It is time to establish a path forward for all."

Translation: The industry needs a timetable for restarting, governor, and it needs it now. Suppliers say they should restart component production five days before automakers to ensure timely delivery of parts and subsystems to assembly plants, meaning supplier production under comprehensive COVID-19 workplace protocols could begin as early as next Monday.

General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV are eyeing Monday, May 18, to begin the process of restarting operations. They plan to slowly ramp up production starting with single shifts, as rank-and-file members adopt new hygiene standards and workplace practices intended to keep the COVID-19 pandemic outside.  

The complexity is mind-boggling. Demonstrating the plants can be operated safely amid COVID-19 should help build the confidence of both hourly employees and management, as well as investors hungry for clues that major players in key sectors like the auto industry can adapt to a new normal.

Many of the proposed safety protocols already are being used — by GM and Ford plants in China, by FCA plants in Italy, by GM and Ford components operations in Michigan and Indiana producing masks, face shields and ventilators with paid volunteers drawn from the ranks of temporarily idled UAW members.

The prevailing sense is a sort of, "We know how to do this." That's because, to a limited extent, they already are ... with union labor in existing facilities. But large-scale production awaits in a state ranked among the top three or four in both total cases and total deaths attributed to the virus. Quelling uneasiness over such facts is why the automakers are producing such detailed safety protocols and sharing them with their employees, the public and the news media.

"During this time of unprecedented global crisis, we know that what people want most is answers, especially when it comes to returning to work," GM CEO Mary Barra and Jim Glynn, vice president of global workplace safety, wrote in the introduction to the automaker's "Returning to Work with Confidence" COVID-19 playbook. The goal is to provide "assurance that robust protocols are being implemented so they can return to work with confidence."

Intricate, often just-in-time supply chains crossing state and international borders must reckon with varying public-health orders in states and at least three countries — Canada, Mexico and the United States. And no single U.S. state boasts more vehicle production than Michigan, also one of the states hit hardest by both reported infections and deaths.

Restarting vehicle and parts production is a critical precondition to reviving the state's economy, to restoring sagging tax revenue, to easing pressure on the over-burdened unemployment insurance system, to enabling dealers and automakers to test market demand with costly incentives and longer-term financing with essentially zero borrowing costs.

Moving ahead with a transparent schedule is critical, and getting it right is as much good politics as it is good business. With the help of the UAW, Detroit's automakers leveraged their engineering and manufacturing heft to design and build medical supplies — now they need a chance to show they can adapt their manufacturing for the age of COVID-19. 


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

Keith Naughton
May 5, 2020

Ford Motor Co. Chief Operating Officer Jim Farley spent the equivalent of almost his entire 2019 salary to purchase $1 million of stock in a show of confidence in the automaker’s recovery prospects.

Farley, 57, earned $1.1 million in salary as part of a compensation package that totaled $8.36 million last year when he was president of Ford’s new business, technology and strategy. He was promoted to COO on March 1 in a management shakeup that included the abrupt departure of his chief rival, Joe Hinrichs.

Farley purchased 194,950 shares at an average price of $5.13 on April 30, according to regulatory filing Monday. The transaction increased his direct share ownership by 31% to 828,922. The stock is down 47% this year.

The carmaker has made clear that Farley is heir apparent to Chief Executive Officer Jim Hackett, 65, who has struggled to institute a sweeping $11 billion reorganization. Before the coronavirus closed Ford’s factories, Farley pledged to accelerate a turnaround at a company that has seen profits decline for three consecutive years.

“Everyone at Ford knows the situation we’re in,” Farley said February 26 at a Wolfe Research conference in New York. “I can see it on the faces of my colleagues and it takes me back to about 10 years ago. I’ve seen that look before.”

Farley’s challenges have only grown since. With North American factories shut since mid-March – and no restart dates scheduled – Ford is forecasting a $5 billion loss in the second quarter, following a $2 billion operating deficit in the first three months of the year. It burned through $8 billion in the first quarter, suspended its dividend, had its credit cut to junk and sold $8 billion in junk bonds.

Farley last week outlined how the company plans to resume production with safety protocols that include mandatory face masks, temperature checks, social distancing and closed common areas such as cafeterias. But he gave no timeline for reopening.

“We want to restart as soon as we can and do it safely,” Farley told reporters. “We’ve gone through so many things as a company for over 100 years, but this is really unprecedented.”


Ontario lays out safety
guidelines for auto industry

Greg Layson
Canada Automotive
May 4, 2020

The government of Ontario has issued the province’s auto sales and manufacturing industries safety guidelines intended to keep workers healthy as the economy gradually reopens. 

The sectors were two of several that were issued guidelines Thursday. The sector-specific guidelines contain recommendations and tips for employers on how to keep workers safe on the job. 

Some of the suggestions the province makes for auto retailers include:

  • Having all employees and visitors wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, before entering the workplace, after contact with others, or with surfaces others have touched;
  • Including handwashing before breaks and at shift changes;
  • Sanitizing the workplace thoroughly and often, especially frequently touched surfaces;
  • Identifying all activities where people may come into contact with others, and employing ways to minimize contact and maintain physical distance;
  • Keeping visitors and staff a safe distance apart by using floor markings, installing barriers and partitions, and changing the work layout where possible to increase physical distance;
  • Rescheduling unnecessary visits by supply chain partners, vendors, service technicians, or others;
  • Introducing more fresh air by increasing air intake and opening windows and bay doors; 
  • Avoiding central recirculation where possible, and;
  • Screening workers regularly for health issues.

The province says dealers should consider issuing or requiring personal protective equipment (PPE) “as a last resort.”

“PPE is effective only if appropriate to the situation and people wear it correctly,” the province says on its website. “Ensure PPE training includes the fit, use, care, putting on and taking off, maintenance, cleaning and limitations of the PPE.”

Premier Doug Ford didn’t give the green light for businesses to open immediately, which means showrooms will remain closed and, despite the protest from dealers, test drives will be disallowed for the time being. The province says “the guidelines are not an indication of which workplaces will be opening.”

Ford said the province is still waiting to see two-to-four weeks of steady decline in the number of COVID-19 deaths and cases before non-essential businesses, such as dealerships, can open.

“Today, we are on the path to reopening the economy. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” Ford said during his daily news conference at Queen’s Park. “We’re telling our businesses how to be ready when we get that green light. We can’t throw out the guidelines and expect people to open up overnight. I just want people to be prepared.

“I know how much people want to get back to work. I know how much we all want to get back to normal. I feel your frustration.”

Some of the suggestions the province makes for manufacturers include:

  • Adding floor markings and barriers to manage traffic flow and physical distancing;
  • Staggering start times, shifts, breaks, and lunch times;
  • Installing barriers, including plexiglass, where practical;
  • Having all employees and visitors wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water before entering the workplace and after contact with surfaces others have touched;
  • Including hand-washing before breaks and at shift changes;
  • Enforcing rigorous use of site sanitation protocols such as use of foot wear cleaning (for example, boot buddies/boot sanitizing trays);
  • Introducing more fresh air by increasing the ventilation system’s air intake or opening doors and windows. Avoid central recirculation where possible, and;
  • Rescheduling any unnecessary visits to the workplace by supply chain partners, vendors or others who don’t need to be there now.

Posters for both employers and workers also offer advice on preventative actions, including physical distancing and workplace sanitation. Employers are encouraged to download the posters to print and post in the workplace.

“I am laser-focused on opening things up as quickly as possible,” Ford said.

Minister of Labour Monte McNaughton also said Thursday that province has hired 58 new labour inspectors, some of whom will assist in communicating the new safety guidelines. Others will enforce physical distancing recommendations and close non-essential businesses that are open. All the inspectors have the power to issue $750 fines to noncompliant businesses.


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

Jordyn Grzelewski,
The Detroit News
May 1, 2020

Dearborn – Ford Motor Co. on Thursday signaled it is ready to restart auto production in North America, just as soon as governments battling the COVID-19 pandemic give the go-ahead.

The automaker detailed health and safety protocols modeled on practices already being used at plants in China, as well as U.S. plants making medical supplies, that the Blue Oval will implement at its North American facilities as soon as stay-at-home orders are lifted and plant employees return to work.

"We've been working intently on how to restart our operations and safely bring back our employees and we're ready," Jim Farley, Ford's chief operating officer, said in a statement. "We have gone through and trialed these processes. We're abiding by our first principles, and we are working with our union and government partners to restart."

The protocols include:

  • Before coming to work each day, employees must self-certify their health via an online form.
  • No-touch temperature scans will take place upon arrival. Anyone with a raised temperature won't be allowed to enter, and will be instructed to visit a doctor to be cleared.
  • Every worker will be required to wear a face mask. Ford will provide its employees with kits containing masks and other items such as disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer.
  • Safety glasses or face shields are required for employees whose jobs don't allow them to maintain the recommended six feet of physical distancing.
  • Facilities will be cleaned more frequently.
  • Hand sanitation stations will be installed throughout facilities.
  • All employees will receive a playbook detailing health and safety measures.

The automaker also will supply personal protective equipment to Ford dealerships.

When General Motors Co. employees head back to work, according to a guide for site leaders the automaker released April 25, they will be asked if they’ve traveled internationally in the last 14 days, have come in contact with a COVID-19 patient in that time, and if they’ve felt sick to gauge their potential risk of having the disease.

Employees who answer yes will be sent to see the medical staff. Employees will also have their temperatures checked upon arrival. They will be provided masks and safety glasses before entry.

Common areas, including entry/exit points and restrooms, will be cleaned three to four times per shift and between shifts. Employees will be given time before each shift to clean their workstations. GM will provide hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes at multiple sanitization stations throughout its work sites.

There will be numerous markings throughout facilities to help maintain six feet of distance. There will be staggered start/stop times and lunch breaks to help prevent congestion in high-traffic areas.

Since it’s possible for high-velocity airstreams to move airborne droplets around if someone is infected and they cough or sneeze, GM is evaluating ventilation systems in all locations to manage and direct airflow.

Meanwhile, Ford officials did not provide a restart date for North American production, saying one has yet to be determined. But the timing likely will be dependent on when Michigan's stay-at-home order is lifted, because so many of Ford's suppliers for North America are based in Michigan.

Right now, the order is slated to end May 15, and industry sources familiar with the restart planning have told The Detroit News in recent days that automakers, suppliers and government officials are eyeing Monday, May 18, to restart production — though that could be postponed to better ensure production successfully resumes.

Ford, GM and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV halted North American auto production at the end of March to help stop the spread of COVID-19. The shutdown has dealt brutal blows to their bottom lines. Just this week, Ford reported a $2 billion net loss in the first quarter, and said it expects a $5 billion adjusted pretax earnings loss this quarter.

Ford's U.S. facilities will all come back online at once, rather than bringing some plants back before others, Farley said on a conference call: "The reality of our industrial system in the U.S. is it's completely intertwined. In the U.S., we've looked at it as a complete ecosystem, and we have to bring up the system all at once."

The automaker will not be able to make COVID-19 testing available to its entire workforce, officials said. However, the automaker has agreements in place with local hospitals and clinics to test employees who are experiencing symptoms of the disease or who believe they have been exposed to it.

"We will not have a reliable and scaleable testing solution for several weeks, and it may even be months, (but) this is a key priority for us," said Kiersten Robinson, Ford's chief human resources officer. "Hopefully in the coming weeks or months, that will be part of our protocol."

In southeast Michigan, the automaker has such an agreement with Beaumont Health.

United Auto Workers President Rory Gamble previously cited inadequate testing as a key reason why he opposed restarting auto production in early May, a timeline the Detroit Three abandoned after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer extended Michigan's statewide shutdown to May 15.

In a statement Thursday, Gamble said the UAW understands "the availability and accuracy of tests are fluid." The union wants to "employ as much testing as is possible at the current time" and for Ford to "commit to full testing as soon as it is available."

"We are also strongly advocating self-reporting and testing for those exposed to the virus or exhibiting symptoms at a minimum," he added, "and a stringent adherence to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization guidelines."

Gerald Johnson, head of global manufacturing for GM, previously told The News that testing the automaker's entire workforce would be "impractical." Instead, GM is working with testing labs and will administer test samples to employees who meet certain criteria.

“What we will do is identify people who are symptomatic or who have confirmed that they have been in contact with someone who is a confirmed case," he said. "We will have enough testing capacity to test them and get them feedback in 48 hours or less."

Changes are also being made within Ford facilities. Additional time will be scheduled between shifts to limit interaction between employees and to allow time for cleaning. Work spaces have been modified to allow physical distancing. Communal areas such as cafeterias and meeting rooms will be closed.

Ford's decision on when and how to return to work will be based on several key criteria, including direction from governments and data and analytics on COVID-19 cases. The automaker is tracking virus data, such as confirmed cases and death rates, on a daily basis, in some cases down to the level of city-specific numbers.

The return to work will be a "progressive and gradual ramp-up," Robinson said. For example, plants likely will begin operations with only a single shift. And, the company is not yet bringing back to work spaces the approximately 125,000 non-plant employees who have been working remotely until late June or early July.

In addition to input from the UAW and its in-house data and analytics team, the automaker is receiving guidance on its return-to-work strategy from outside medical experts. "Science and data are driving Ford's return to work, including close collaboration with experts in the field of infectious disease and epidemiology, to set safety standards we are confident will protect employees as they return to work," said Dr. Walter Talamonti, Ford's corporate medical director.

North American plants will not operate at full capacity for at least several weeks, if not months. In China, for example, where plants have been up and running for more than two months, facilities are at about 90% capacity, officials said.

One thing that will not change is line speeds, because it would be nearly impossible to do that, said Gary Johnson, Ford's chief manufacturing and labor affairs officer:  "The line speeds will stay the same ... but there may be certain areas where we have spaces or gaps in the schedule."

Ford is closely communicating with its supplier base to ensure its suppliers are ready to return to production when the automaker does. The company has surveyed more than 1,500 suppliers to gauge their readiness.

And meanwhile, the automaker is gearing up to bring its European facilities back online May 4. In North America, a "small number" of employees went back to work this week "to begin installing equipment and putting in place new safety protocols," the company said in a release.

"With our safety protocols in place with those core conditions," Robinson said, "when governments are ready, we're ready."


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

Daniel Howes,
The Detroit News
April 30, 2020

Now that Ford Motor Co. says it expects to lose another $5 billion in the second quarter courtesy of the economic shutdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, talk naturally turns cataclysmic for the Dearborn automaker — 'cuz that’s how we roll in this town when things get tough.

Ford apparently should be for sale, says Forbes. It must be, given its present predicament, caught between a once-in-century contagion, weak international markets and a years-long restructuring still unspooling amid the economic shock.

Or it’s ripe for a merger, a leading Wall Street analyst recently told Automotive News, presumably with the Germans at Volkswagen AG who, well, don’t have a knack for playing well with others. Never mind that such deals (can you say, "DaimlerChrysler"?) struggle to muster the staying power of two product cycles, much less prove exemplars of strategic brilliance.

And Ford's renovation of the Michigan Central Depot in Corktown? It's doomed, despite a ranking source insisting it's not, just barely after it started. Meaning the gap-toothed hulk looming over the western edge of downtown will remain a testament to overreach that failed to account for the ravages of the coronavirus and relentless global competition.

That’s all one way to look at this dire economic moment. But the guy whose name is on the building, whose great-grandfather founded the automaker nearly 117 years ago in Detroit, offered a different take when asked in an April 16 “global team huddle” about the possibility of Ford agreeing to a merger with a global rival:

“No,” Executive Chairman Bill Ford said, according to two sources who participated in the call. “As a matter of fact, hell no.”

For anyone who knows Bill Ford, or has spent more than a few minutes listening to him riff on the automaker, his family's deep connection to it, or the commitment of the many employees to a company often called "Ford's," that reaction is totally, unequivocally unsurprising.

That's not to say Detroit's No. 2 automaker doesn't face some enormous strategic challenges. It does. Its European operations, seemingly in continual restructuring mode, got whacked hard by COVID-19 even as it struggled to find its footing. Its business in China, also slammed by the virus, continues to seek stability after misjudging the domestic market there by producing vehicles consumers didn't much want.

And South America — no one from this continent seems capable of making much money there, even in the best of times. That's why pressure for Ford to exit chronically underperforming markets is likely to intensify amid the pandemic swoon. But surrender? I wouldn't bet on it, not yet.

There are no guarantees. Ford's financial resources are not bottomless; it's competitive position is not unassailable, especially outside the fat profit centers of full-size pickups and SUVs; and its challenges managing the interdependent traditional business and the Auto 2.0 spaces of mobility, autonomy and electrification are every bit as difficult as those its rivals face.

Ford and crosstown rival General Motors Co. are girding for their biggest battles since their parallel fights for survival during the Great Recession a dozen years ago. They're drawing down credit lines to raise billions in cash, suspending dividends (never popular among the Ford family diaspora), and the Blue Oval raised even more cash by issuing $8 billion in new debt.

Defensive? Sure. Surrender? No. Predicting the subjugation of a company like Ford to some foreign rival angling for control of arguably the most profitable vehicle program on the planet — the F-Series pickup lines — would be the triumph of the very German schadenfreude over the economic interests of Detroit, Michigan and industrial America.

"Now that Ford has effectively secured its balance sheet to survive the COVID-19 pandemic and market crisis, the focus becomes restarting/ramping production, right-sizing cost structure, and managing product portfolio," Bank of America wrote in a note analyzing Ford's first-quarter financials.

"We believe the unprecedented market pressure has likely catalyzed Ford’s planned restructuring and cost reduction efforts, while a renewed focus on higher mix and franchise product coming out of the sales/production trough will help support price and margin."

Deutsche Bank is less optimistic: "Ford’s steep losses and cash use since the beginning of the Covid-crisis, which management expects to get dramatically worse in Q2, are a sobering reminder of the main reasons we are staying on the sidelines of U.S. automakers' stocks: large fixed costs and considerable working capital unwind are resulting in eye-popping cash burn in the current production shutdown."

There's a familiar saying in Dearborn that applies here. Paraphrased: Ford and its people do their best work when their proverbial backs are against the wall. Now, we can debate the exact confluence of events — at least one big one is beyond the Blue Oval's control — that led the Blue Oval to this particular cul-de-sac. But it's here.

Bill Ford's "hell no" doesn't speak just for him or the Ford family writ large. It evokes a spirit embedded in the employees who walked back into plants to assemble masks, face shields and ventilators to help medical professionals care for sick patients. It channels the engineers who took three weeks to do what otherwise would take a year or more, everyday folks who did their part to help flatten the curve.

It exemplifies the grit that helped the allies win World War II, helped predecessors overcome competitive challenges and the dulling pall of mediocrity, helped states suppress COVID-19. Yup, hell no.


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

Jordyn Grzelewski,
The Detroit News
April 29, 2020

Dearborn — Ford Motor Co. is signaling just how costly the coronavirus pandemic is shaping up to be for global automakers, confirming it expects pretax losses to balloon at least another $5 billion in the second quarter.

The startling estimate framed the automaker's first-quarter financial results, released Tuesday, in which the Blue Oval confirmed a first-quarter net loss of $2 billion. Ford reported an adjusted pretax earnings loss of $632 million for the first three months of the year on revenue of $34 billion as it battled unprecedented headwinds from a sharp economic slowdown attributed to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The results reflect the crippling effects of the pandemic on automakers’ bottom lines, even though the ongoing North American production shutdown went into effect less than two weeks before the end of the quarter.

Results from the current quarter are sure to be even worse, Ford said, with no cars, trucks or SUVs rolling off North American assembly lines in April and Detroit automakers tentatively eyeing a mid-May restart date — roughly midway through the second quarter.

In a release, the company attributed the "significantly reduced" results to the pandemic, as it noted that "protecting people and helping society respond to the crisis became primary measures of current success alongside balance-sheet management and operational excellence."

"Ford people are keeping each other safe, limiting the spread of the virus, safeguarding health care workers and first responders, and taking care of customers," CEO Jim Hackett said in a statement. "The imagination, initiative and execution of our team is helping save lives today, and those qualities will allow Ford to emerge from this as a stronger company.”

In March, the automaker quickly shifted gears from assembling cars, trucks and SUVs to producing badly needed medical supplies. The company, along with the United Auto Workers and Ford's medical and manufacturing partners, has committed to producing hundreds of ambulances, millions of face shields, 50,000 ventilators and up to 100,000 respirators, among other products.

Ford shares closed up more than 4% Tuesday at the close of trading, ending the session at $5.38 per share. But year-to-date, shares in the Blue Oval are down more than 40% from $9.42 per share at the beginning of the year.

In the first quarter, adjusted earnings per share was negative 23 cents. In North America, the automaker's business operated at a 1.6% margin, down from 8.7% in the first quarter of 2019.

In the automaker's other global markets, the results were more dire. Profits of $346 million in North America were offset by losses in South America, Europe and China, where the businesses delivered negative margins 15.5%, 2.3% and 40.7%, respectively.

And, in another reflection of the pandemic's economic consequences, the automaker's sales dropped 12.5% in Q1. The decline was the largest of any of the Detroit Three, and was Ford's biggest quarterly decline in 11 years, according to Edmunds.com, an automotive information website.

"Last year, Ford confessed to issues with 'operational execution' and faced a significant amount of criticism over its botched Explorer launch," said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds' executive director of insights, in a pre-earnings release statement.

"2020 was supposed to be different: this should've been a promising year for the company, with exciting big-name launches such as the new Bronco and F-150. But the world has radically changed and model launches seem insignificant when compared to fighting a global pandemic."

One bright spot, she said, is that there have been "encouraging" signs about pickup truck sales, "and Ford has that in spades. Earnings will be far from ideal for the first half of the year but a strong truck business is somewhat softening the blow of a collapsed auto market."

Ford's truck sales were only down 5.4% in the first quarter from a year earlier, compared to 36% and 11% drops in car and SUV sales, respectively. And, Caldwell noted, Ford has strong trade-in loyalty, "mostly thanks to its devoted base of pickup truck owners."

On the heels of a disappointing 2019, Ford had released guidance saying it expected to post between $5.6 billion and $6.6 billion in earnings before interest and taxes in 2020. But because of the virus-induced shutdown, the automaker earlier this year withdrew all guidance for 2020. It also stopped paying dividends to shareholders.

But in Tuesday's release, Chief Financial Officer Tim Stone said while conditions remained "too ambiguous" to provide full-year guidance, he expects second-quarter adjusted pretax earnings to be a loss of more than $5 billion: "We believe we will see the largest impact of this crisis in the second quarter."

Were it not for the virus and the economic slowdown it has delivered, he added, Ford would have been on track to post adjusted pretax earnings of at least $1.4 billion.

Ford has taken several steps to preserve cash. Earlier this month, the company raised $8 billion by issuing bonds.

In March, Ford drew down more than $15 billion from two existing credit lines. Cash will be critical for automakers to weather the production shutdown and will be something analysts watch closely. On Tuesday, Stone said the automaker has enough cash to make it through the end of the year. As of Friday, Ford had $35 billion in cash and liquidity.

“Cash is king for industrial companies during a crisis, and we expect that the company’s cash burn will be the new point of focus for (Tuesday’s) release,” said David Kudla, CEO and chief investment strategist of Grand Blanc-based Mainstay Capital Management LLC, in a statement ahead of the earnings report.

In a note prior to the earnings release, J.P. Morgan estimated that Ford had a cash burn rate of approximately $4.5 billion in the first quarter: “We anticipate the bulk of the cash use to have been driven by working capital outflows as Ford began shutting down its domestic and European plants toward the back half of March. We will be looking for an update on the company’s cash position in addition to the company’s current deficit.”

Additionally, Ford is cutting costs by deferring merit-based salary increases, suspending overtime for salaried workers and freezing hiring of non-critical skill roles. And the company continues to look for new ways to reduce costs.

"We are looking at any and all expenditures that we make across our business to determine if we need to reduce them or defer them while still investing and making the right long-term choices for customers," Stone said.

"We have identified billions of dollars of opportunity thus far, and we are going to keep addressing opportunities to improve fitness and redesign the business so we come out of this more well-positioned than ever.”

Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr., asked in a recent "60 Minutes" interview about whether the automaker would need a government loan similar to what it received during the Great Recession, said he did not expect to ask for one.

"We think we can get through this ... but we’re in an unprecedented time, so I suppose you never say never. But that’s not our plan,” he said.

At that time in 2008, Ford posted its worst financial results in its history — a $14.6 billion loss that year. In the second quarter of 2008, Ford reported a net loss of $8.7 billion alone.

Meanwhile, the company is in the midst of an $11 billion global restructuring, an effort initiated by Hackett, who became CEO in 2017 and was tasked with implementing change at the 117-year-old company. Stone said Tuesday that restructuring remains "on track."

The automaker got off to a strong start in 2019, but results for the year took a hit due to Ford’s botched launch of its new Explorer SUV.  For 2019, the automaker reported net income of just $47 million, a 99% decline from 2018, The Detroit News previously reported.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV will release its earnings May 5 and General Motors Co. will release its earnings May 6.

None of the Detroit Three has publicly committed to a restart date. FCA had planned to restart Monday, but said this week it was "re-evaluating" after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer extended the state's stay-at-home order through May 15.

Discussions between Ford, GM, FCA and the state of Michigan are coalescing around May 18 as a possible resumption date, said one person familiar with the situation that was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

But that depends on complex coordination by automakers with suppliers, conflicting stay-at-home policies in various states and the political and public health agendas of at least three national governments: Mexico, Canada and the United States.

Ford said Tuesday it plans to restart, in phases, auto production at most of its European facilities May 4. And executives said the North American restart would model protocols to be used in Europe that already have been used in China.

In China, for example, the company developed air freight capacity to deliver parts and personal protective equipment, and used a logistics portal to manage its supply chain, said Chief Operating Officer Jim Farley: "The actions we took in China became best practice for us. What we learned in China is, you've got to make sure your suppliers are ready."

Additionally, Farley said the company is moving forward with several long-planned product launches, including the revival of the eagerly anticipated Bronco SUV. The company did not have any launch dates to announce Tuesday.


Ontario unveils broad outline for
reopening economy in three stages

Automotive Canada
April 28, 2020

TORONTO — Ontario says its plan to ease restrictions introduced because of the COVID-19 pandemic will happen in three stages, though the steps unveiled today contain few specifics or timelines.

Stage one in the framework published today could include opening select workplaces that can modify operations, such as providing curbside pickup or delivery; opening parks; allowing for more people at certain events such as funerals; and having hospitals resume some non-urgent surgeries.

Stage two could include opening more businesses, such as service, retail or office workplaces; opening more outdoor spaces; and allowing some larger public gatherings.

Stage three would include having all workplaces open and further relaxing rules on public gatherings — though large ones such as sports events and concerts would still be restricted.

None of the stages specifically mentions the auto industry or manufacturing.

The framework says each of the three stages will last about two to four weeks, though it does not provide any specific dates.

At the end of each period, the chief medical officer could advise staying in that stage longer, moving onto the next stage or reintroducing certain restrictions to prevent new outbreaks.

Dr. David Williams will take various factors into account for those decisions, the framework states, including seeing a consistent, two-to-four week decrease in the number of new cases and a decrease in cases that can't be traced back to a source.

Williams would also need to see fewer new hospitalizations and enough acute and critical care capacity in hospitals, including access to ventilators and a good supply of personal protective equipment.

The gradual reopening will continue until the pandemic has passed or a vaccine is available, the framework says.

Businesses that are reopening will be given guidelines by the government on how to do so safely, including hygiene and sanitation standards and physical distancing measures.

The province recently extended a state of emergency in place since mid-March to mid-May. Public gatherings of more than five people are banned and all non-essential businesses have been closed, as have child-care centres and outdoor recreational amenities.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced Sunday that publicly funded schools will stay closed until at least May 31.

Ontario reported 424 new COVID-19 cases Monday and 57 new deaths.

That brings the total of cases in the province to 14,856, a 2.9 per cent increase over Sunday's total, continuing several days of falling growth rates.

Ontario's total number of cases includes 892 deaths and 8,525 resolved cases. That means more than 57 per cent of Ontario's confirmed cases are already resolved.


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

Greg Layson
Automotive Canada
April 27, 2020

General Motors Canada says it will use its idled assembly plant in Oshawa, Ont., to manufacture face masks for health-care workers battling the COVID-19 pandemic.

The automaker says it is preparing portions of the factory to produce approximately one million masks per month. The production will be based on the model already being used at GM plants in Michigan.

“The project still requires completion of additional work with our governments and our Unifor partners and we will provide updates as we get ready to begin production,” GM Canada said in a statement Friday afternoon.

About 140 people currently work on two shifts producing surgical masks and more robust N95 masks at a pace of about 1.5 million masks a month in Michigan, Joe Mizzi, the GM manager who launched and oversees the operation, told Reuters on Friday.

GM Canada says it will have about 50 employees making masks at cost for the federal government. The masks will not be of the N95 variety.

"N95 masks represent about five per cent of the need in Canada. These masks we will make in Oshawa are for both health care workers and Canadians where there is a greater need," GM Canada spokeswoman Jennifer Wright said in an email to Automotive News Canada.

Unifor President Jerry Dias said in a statement that his members are willing to "make whatever our country needs."

“The fact that Unifor members will help GM produce as many as a million fabric masks a month, for Health Canada at cost, is an example of what we can do when we work together," Dias said.

The modern Oshawa assembly plant that produced its last vehicle on Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2019, dates back to 1953 and has produced everything from the Chevrolet Bel Air to the Chevrolet Silverado. 

The plant has been reduced to a stamping operation, building parts for discontinued models. However, GM Canada says that work had not started yet. However, until the pandemic struck, it had been stamping parts for the CAMI plant in Ingersoll, Ont., where the automaker builds the Chevrolet Equinox.

The program gives the plant a lease on life, albeit one that employs just 300 or so people, instead of the 2,600 that had been assembling cars and trucks for years. Each aftermarket part produced there will be built for 10 years, according to GM, giving remaining workers a sense of stability. 


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

John Irwin
April 24, 2020
Automotive Canada

Unifor President Jerry Dias on Thursday said he is “cautiously optimistic” that Canadian plants will be able to re-open on the early May timetable much of the industry is aiming for.

“We will give the green light at the end of the day if our local union leadership feels comfortable with that,” Dias told Automotive News Canada. “I’m going to have another call tomorrow with the heads of all of our locals at the auto plants to make sure things are still moving properly. But as of now, we haven’t heard this big outcry saying, ‘Don’t do it, it’s too early.’ We haven’t heard any of that.”

His comments come after Rory Gamble, president of the United Auto Workers in the United States, said it would be “too risky” for workers and their families if auto plants restarted in early May. Auto factories in Canada and the U.S. have been shut down since mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and companies and unions in North America have been grappling in recent weeks with finding ways to safely restart production while preventing the spread of the virus.

Dias said he understands why the UAW would oppose the early May production start-up because the United States has been hit harder by the pandemic than Canada has. The U.S. has more than 861,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 46,300 deaths, the most in the world. That compares with more than 42,000 cases and more than 2,000 deaths in Canada, according to Health Canada.

“The impact that we have had has been significant, but we haven’t had the types of deaths and realities that they’ve had to deal with, especially in Michigan,” said Dias, whose union represents 14,500 hourly workers at Ford, General Motors and FCA plants.

Michigan, home to Detroit and the UAW’s headquarters, has the third-highest death count and seventh-highest total case count among the 50 U.S. states, according to the New York Times. In the U.S., more than 20 workers for the Detroit automakers have died, according to a count by Automotive News.

In Canada, meanwhile, auto industry cases have been kept to “a handful,” Dias said.

“We dodged a major bullet here, for sure,” he said. “The UAW has had a hell of a lot more confirmed cases of COVID-19 and have had deaths, and we haven’t had the deaths or anywhere near the numbers.”

FCA Canada spokeswoman LouAnn Gosselin said on Thursday that “a very small number” of Canadian workers have contracted the virus, but declined to disclose how many or where they work.

FCA, which has two assembly plants in Ontario, is aiming to begin restarting its U.S. and Canadian factories on May 4. Automotive News, citing a webinar FCA hosted with suppliers this month, reported on April 16 that the company planned to re-open the Brampton, Ont., plant on May 4, followed two weeks later by the Windsor, Ont., plant on May 18.

In statements earlier this week, GM Canada and Ford of Canada both declined to commit to a firm restart date, though Automotive News reported that information given to employees and suppliers indicated that Ford Motor Co. and General Motors were considering a similar time frame.

“As of now, we’re proceeding” with the proposed timelines, Dias said. “But that could change at any minute.

Dias said Unifor and the Detroit Three remain in “constant communication” about safety standards and new protocols. Automotive News Canada reported on Wednesday that protocols being discussed include mandatory temperature checks and dividers being installed between work stations that are in close proximity.

Similar discussions were taking place between the UAW and automakers in the U.S. While Gamble, the UAW president, said the union was “happy with the auto companies’ response and cooperation” on drawing up health protocols, he said it would be unwise to return to work in early May.

"At this point in time, the UAW does not believe the scientific data is conclusive that it is safe to have our members back in the workplace," Gamble said in a statement. "We have not done enough testing to really understand the threat our members face. We want to make sure the scientific data is supportive and every possible health protocols and enhanced protections are in place before UAW members walk into the workplace."

A UAW spokesman said the union has agreed to voluntary assignments for its members as long as safety protocols are in place, as has been the case during the shutdown at plants where automakers are building medical equipment and protective gear.

When asked if the union would keep workers home should the automakers reopen their plants May 4, the spokesman said: "We continue to have dialogue with the Detroit Three."

Michael Martinez contributed to this report.


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

John Irwin
Canadian Automotive
April 23, 2020

FCA Canada and Unifor are discussing implementing new safety protocols including mandatory temperature checks and dividers installed between work stations in close proximity to each other as the automaker eyes restarting U.S. and Canadian manufacturing beginning May 4, according to a local union official.

“In the end, we want to make sure that our members are well protected if they are going to go back,” said Jaspal Brar, president of Unifor Local 1285, which represents workers at the FCA assembly plant in Brampton, Ont. “We need to make sure all proper safeguards are taken and to ensure as much safety as possible.”

Brar said plans currently call for the Brampton plant, which builds the Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger and Dodge Challenger, to come back online as a one-shift operation to allow for production to ramp back up and to make it easier to adjust safety protocols if needed. Brampton Assembly, like FCA’s Windsor, Ont., plant, has been closed since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In an email to Automotive News Canada, FCA Canada spokeswoman LouAnn Gosselin would only say that FCA plans to “progressively restart” Canadian and American manufacturing on May 4, with its “restart cadence” being confirmed “at the appropriate time.”

The automaker was working with Unifor and government officials to “implement new procedures to certify the daily wellness of our workforce while also redesigning work stations to maintain proper social distancing and expanding the already extensive cleaning protocols at all locations,” she said.

According to Brar, measures being discussed include taking employees’ temperatures before they enter the building, workers being given personal protective equipment such as gloves and facemasks and dividers being installed between stations that require workers to be close to one another. Work stations and common areas such as eating areas and restrooms would undergo frequent deep cleaning, he said.

Brar said the discussions about the Brampton plant are taking place with the May 4 restart date in mind, though he cautioned that the date could change if it’s determined it would be unsafe to reopen then.

“It is the 4th at the moment, but it’s changed twice already in the past. If and when that comes around, then we’ll see,” Brar said. “We understand that people need to work, and so do the employers. They want to start up their businesses. But this isn’t something where we just want to rush in until people are safeguarded.”

Automotive News reported on April 16 that FCA aimed to reopen the Windsor minivan plant on May 18, two weeks after a projected start date for Brampton.

Unifor Local 444 President Dave Cassidy, who represents workers at the Windsor plant, said in Facebook post Wednesday afternoon that he is schedule to have a conference call with company executives on Thursday evening.

The safety discussions between FCA and Unifor come as the Detroit Three automakers and the United Auto Workers union discuss how to safely re-open plants in the United States. Discussions in the U.S. have revolved around similar safety procedures as those discussed in Canada, in addition to local unions pushing for paid sick leave, according to a Reuters report.


It was not immediately known what conversations between Unifor and General Motors and Ford Motor Co. have entailed, though the Canadian CEOs of all three Detroit automakers and union president Jerry Dias sit on a task force charged with implementing enhanced safety measures at their plants.

In a statement emailed to Automotive News Canada, GM Canada spokeswoman Jennifer Wright said the automaker has yet to announce a “firm date” to restart North American production and is “evaluating the situation regularly.”

“When we do resume production, we will be following safety procedures developed to support ventilator and mask production in the U.S., as well as the guidelines from the World Health Organization and the Public Health Agency of Canada, including extensive screening and cleaning, along with the use of masks,” Wright said.

Lauren More, a spokeswoman for Ford of Canada, wrote in a statement that the company would continue to “assess public health conditions, government guidelines and supplier readiness to determine when the time is right to resume production in our North American plants.”

Voicemails left for Dias and other Unifor officials were not returned.


Ontario premier approaches auto
industry's restart with caution

Greg Layson
Canadian Automotive
April 22, 2020

Ontario Premier Doug Ford doesn’t want automakers in his province to resume production too quickly.

His province is home to seven assembly plants operated by by five automakers.

FCA, which has two factories in Ontario, plans to fire up its Brampton, Ont., plant May 4 and its Windsor, Ont., facility May 18.

Canada’s biggest parts supplier Magna International says it plans to resume North American operations on May 4.

But the premier was cautiously optimistic Monday when asked when the province might reopen for business.

“I know – I think — the automotive industry in North America, they're opening up roughly around May 4th I hear. So, let's just see each sector, how it goes,” Ford said at his daily briefing in Toronto. “I just do not want to put a date on this. I really don't, because this could bite us from the backside in about 10 seconds. 

“It could come up with a second wave again. I'm very, very concerned about fall, the flu season in fall, and we just have to keep an eye on everything. 

“There's no one, there's nothing out there, that wants to open up the economy more than I do. But…we have to hold off for a bit.”

Toyota, which has assembly plants in Woodstock, Ont., and Cambridge, Ont., is aiming to resume production May 4, said spokesman Michael Bouliane.

"Some essential work must be done to ensure our facility is functional and safe for our employees when we eventually return to production," he said in an email statement to CBC News late last week. “For this reason, some of our team leaders and maintenance staff have been asked to return to the facilities.”

Ford, General Motors and Honda haven’t said when they hope to restart their lines.

New modelling released Monday predicts there will be fewer than 20,000 COVID-19 cases during the “first wave” of the pandemic in Ontario — much less than the previous forecast of 80,000 — and with a peak earlier than the previously anticipated one of May.

The restrictions that have closed schools and non-essential businesses, banned public gatherings and encouraged people to stay home as much as possible have led to the better outcome, government officials said.

Ford said Ontario has avoided the worst-case scenario, but the province isn't out of the woods yet.

“Today we saw new modelling that shows there's some light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “The numbers clearly show that the steps we have taken as a province are working and they're working because of you.”

Ivana Yelich , Ford’s press secretary, told Automotive News Canada on Monday that “it’s too early to say” when the province’s auto sector will return to work.

“It’s important we remain vigilant to avoid additional surges or waves,” Yelich said. “Our focus is on ensuring Ontarians follow the public health measures in place. Ontarians have done a good job so far and that evidence will be clear in today’s data. 

“Our health experts are looking at how measures can be scaled back and reduced post-peak. That is part of our forward planning.

“But as always, we will continue to rely on our Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Williams. His advice and guidance, along with our Command Table are going to be critical in getting this right.”

Officials from Unifor and the Detroit Three automakers have formed a task force focusing on implementing measures designed to ensure the health and safety of autoworkers once plants re-open.

Yelich said businesses should put in place protocols for physical distancing and regular hand-washing in order to protect the health and safety of employees and the general public. Some recommendations for employers to keep workplaces safe during the COVID-19 outbreak include:

  • Allowing employees to work from home if possible.
  • Staggering staff breaks at different times to avoid large groups.
  • Ensuring all high-touch tools and surfaces are cleaned regularly.
  • Reducing the number of passengers in elevators, stairwells, hoists, trailers and other tight spaces.
  • Supporting physical distancing where possible (for example, work two meters apart).
  • Provide a means for hand hygiene such as soap and water to ensure workers can keep hands clean.
  • Ensuring workers are using any required personal protective equipment appropriately.

South of the border, the Detroit Three automakers and the United Auto Workers union are in talks about safely restarting U.S. production halted by the coronavirus pandemic, but local union leaders said on Monday any workers who feel sick must be allowed to self quarantine without losing pay.

The Canadian Press contributed to this report.


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

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
April 21, 2020

On dozens of occasions, Ford Motor Co. illicitly used songs from a digital music catalog owned by a prominent composer, according to a federal lawsuit seeking millions of dollars in damages.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday on behalf of Freeplay Music LLC, alleges that the Dearborn automaker used 54 songs to which FPM owns the copyright, in at least 74 promotional and video advertisements over the course of several years — without paying FPM for the right to use them.

"This is an action for willful copyright infringement by a multibillion dollar company too cheap to secure licensing before commercially using registered works owned by another company," says the lawsuit filed by Howard Hertz and Richard Busch on behalf of FPM.

Arguing it has lost profits and licensing fees, FPM is seeking the maximum amount of damages allowed for willful copyright infringement under the Copyright Act: $150,000 per infringement, an amount the plaintiff deems necessary because anything less "would not get the attention of a multibillion dollar corporation that continues to commit widespread infringement."

In total, the plaintiff estimates damages could total at least $8.1 million. Through a spokeswoman, Ford declined to comment on pending litigation.

New York-based FPM, an online library of more than 50,000 works, is owned by Scott Schreer, described in the filing as "one of America's most prolific and performed TV composers and producers." Among numerous other credits, Schreer wrote the NFL on Fox theme song.

Hertz, whose Hertz Schram PC firm is based in Bloomfield Hills, is a well-known entertainment lawyer who over several decades has represented many high-profile clients, including record labels, songwriters, and recording artists. Busch, a principal at King & Ballow Entertainment Law in Nashville, has litigated a number of copyright infringement cases, including one in which he successfully represented Marvin Gaye's estate against the creators of the song "Blurred Lines."

FPM tracked down instances of copyright infringement using Schreer's software platform, TuneSat, which found Ford had used FPM's copyrighted works in at least 74 different videos and ads, according to the filing. TuneSat notified Ford of its unauthorized use of FPM's work starting in April 2017, at which point Ford "was unable to provide proof of licensing." FPM claims Ford continued to use songs without permission, until as recently as Thursday.

"Finding these infringements is akin to finding a needle in a haystack. (Ford) apparently counted on the difficulty of being caught in deciding to engage in this massive willful copyright infringement," attorneys wrote.

Further, the filing states that FPM's website clearly spells out the requirement to obtain licensing, as well as the fees it charges.

FPM has requested a jury trial. Additionally, FPM is seeking an award of attorneys' fees and costs, interest, and a permanent injunction "prohibiting future infringement, reproduction, distribution, sale, public performance, other use, or exploitation of FPM's registered works."


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

April 20, 2020

DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co.  projected a first-quarter net loss of $2 billion (all figures USD) and said it would tap debt markets to shore up cash reserves as the coronavirus outbreak halted production and curbed vehicles sales.

The automaker has already suspended its dividend and drawn down more than $15 billion to ride out the damage to its business from the pandemic.

In a regulatory filing Friday, Ford also said it had filed for a debt offering but did not disclose the amount. The company had about $30 billion in cash on its balance sheet as of April 9.

The disclosures provide a more-complete picture of what Ford will report on April 28, when first-quarter financials will be released. On Monday, the company said it expects to post a pretax loss of about $600 million for the quarter.

"We believe we have sufficient cash today to get us through at least the end of the third quarter with no incremental vehicle production and wholesales or financing actions," CFO Tim Stone said then.

Ford's U.S. vehicle sales fell 12 per cent in the first quarter, with most of the damage coming in late March as the pandemic swept across the U.S.

In response, Ford joined other automakers in shuttering plants in North America and Europe.

The U.S. market, with its highly profitable pickup truck and SUV segments, generates the overwhelming majority of Ford’s profits.

Ford shares rose 4.7 per cent to $5.18 in midday trading on Wall Street.


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

Jordyn Grzelewski,
The Detroit News
April 17, 2020

Ford Motor Co. and partner GE Healthcare this week inked a $336 million contract with the federal government to build 50,000 ventilators by July 13, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said Thursday.

The deal is the latest in a series of federal contracts, including one with General Motors Co. announced last week, that fall under the Defense Production Act. President Donald Trump on April 2 instructed HHS Secretary Alex Azar to invoke the act to accelerate the production of the devices needed for the care of seriously ill COVID-19 patients.

"HHS's use of the DPA at the direction of President Trump is helping get critical materials into the hands of American companies like GE to initiate and scale up ventilator production," Azar said in a statement Thursday, noting the president's March 27 vow that the U.S. would produce 100,000 new ventilators by early July.

HHS now has contracts in place to produce more than 117,000 ventilators by then, and expects more than 187,000 to be built by the end of the year. Under current contracts, HHS expects 41,000 ventilators will be available by the end of May.

"These companies and their incredibly dedicated workers will ensure that our country can provide our hospitals and healthcare providers with the ventilators needed to sustain and save lives during this pandemic," Azar said. "The thousands of ventilators delivered to the Strategic National Stockpile starting this month, continuing through the spring and summer, will mean we have more capacity to respond to the pandemic as it evolves."

Even before the contract was finalized, Ford and GE had publicly committed to building 50,000 ventilators. The ventilator they will build is a $7,000 device designed by Florida-based Airon Corp. Production is slated to start next week at Ford's Rawsonville Plant in Ypsilanti.

"We appreciate the federal government's action and will continue to work closely with the administration to meet the immediate needs of coronavirus patients," Ford said in a statement.

General Motors this week began production on ventilators at its Kokomo Operations in Indiana. In partnership with Washington-based ventilator manufacturer Ventec Life Systems, GM is set to produce 30,000 ventilators by the end of August under a $489.4 million contract with HHS, The Detroit News reported. The automaker will deliver 6,132 of them by June 1.

Ventilator production is just one way U.S. automakers, which have shut down auto production to help stop the spread of COVID-19, have stepped up to produce medical equipment and personal protective gear that is urgently needed by hospitals and workers on the front lines of the pandemic. Earlier this week, for example, Ford announced new initiatives to boost production of respirators, face masks, gowns and COVID-19 test kits.

As of Thursday, the respiratory disease that has hit the Metro Detroit area particularly hard, was confirmed to have infected more than 2 million people and killed nearly 140,000 worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University.


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

April 16, 2020

Canadian auto supplier Magna International Inc. is planning for a return to production in North America on May 4, with a subsequent gradual increase in output as the industry recovers from the shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic, a top executive said on Wednesday.

Most U.S. states have stay-at-home orders in place through the end of April, but many automakers and suppliers hope evidence of an easing in the COVID-19 infection rate will lead to a reopening of factories. President Donald Trump has expressed a desire to get Americans back to work soon.

"As we stand today, we have everything in place as if the plants are coming back on May 4," Magna President Swamy Kotagiri said in a telephone interview.

The auto industry has already reopened in China, where Magna has some plants back at 80 per cent capacity, and is just now restarting operations in Europe. In the U.S., General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and other companies are waiting for the go-ahead from various governors but are aiming for an early May restart.

Kotagiri said there is "no written playbook" for the pandemic and understands production could be further delayed, but he is ready if that happens. What would worry him more would be restarting and then having to stop again.

"The most important thing is, how can we as an industry coordinate and minimize the start-stops?" he said.

"If someone comes and says, 'It's not May 4, it's May 10.' That's OK. It's easy to deal with," said Kotagiri, who was promoted to president in January. "But if somebody comes and says to start on the 4th and we stop again on the 12th, that's a bigger problem."

Magna, which makes parts such as body structures, chassis and powertrain for customers including Ford and Volkswagen, has about 70 employees globally recovering from COVID-19 and has seen three in North America die from the virus.

Last month, Magna withdrew its financial outlook, citing the pandemic, but said its liquidity was strong. After increasing a revolving credit facility on Tuesday, Magna has US$1 billion in cash and US$3.7 billion in available credit lines.

As for the restart, Magna is planning heavily for it, including drawing up an almost 60-page "Smart Start Playbook" to help with the transition, talking about best practices, and details like disinfecting guidelines, the use of personal protective equipment like masks and face shields, as well as treating and tracing infected employees.


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

Jordyn Grzelewski,
The Detroit News
April 15, 2020

Ford Motor Co. is “considering a scenario” to restart its manufacturing plants as early as next month even as it expects to post a $600 million adjusted earnings loss for the first quarter. First-quarter financial results are set to be released April 28.

The Dearborn automaker says it has enough cash on hand to  make it through at least the third quarter — even without restarting production — but said it is considering “additional financing actions” to shore up its balance sheet. Along with General Motors Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, Ford suspended production March 19 at its plants in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, to help stop the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

“We continue to opportunistically assess all funding options to further strengthen our balance sheet and increase liquidity to optimize our financial flexibility,” Tim Stone, Ford’s chief financial officer, said in a statement. “We also are identifying additional operation actions to enhance our cash position.”

The grim earnings forecast was not unexpected. "We know the quarter is going to be dreadful for everyone," said Michelle Krebs, executive analyst at Cox Automotive. "[Ford] putting out preliminary results is probably a smart idea, [because it] stops the speculation."

As of April 9, Ford had about $30 billion in cash on its balance sheet, including $15.4 billion borrowed in March against two of its existing credit lines. Also in March, the automaker suspended its regular quarterly dividend and stock buybacks, a move aimed at preserving cash. It also withdrew all guidance for its 2020 financial performance.

When production does restart, even though changes in consumer behavior may be unknown, it would make sense for Ford to focus on producing reliable moneymakers, such as pick-up trucks and commercial vans, to quickly raise much-needed cash, Krebs said.

Financial results for the first quarter are not yet finalized. But as of Monday, Ford said it expected to report revenue of about $34 billion and an adjusted earnings loss, before interest and taxes, of $600 million.

The company is looking at ways to phase in a restart at its manufacturing plants in the second quarter. A restart would come with “enhanced safety standards” for workers, and the decision would be made in cooperation with unions, suppliers and dealers, the automaker said.

A phased-in restart makes sense, Krebs said, because automakers won't be able to simply "flip the switch" and produce at full capacity. Plus, they will have to take into account their inventory levels, how consumer behavior may have shifted amid an economic downturn, and how they can reconfigure plants to keep workers safe.

"I'm assuming they'll bring back maybe one shift, and certainly not up to full production speed. Protocols will have to change," she said. "We've restarted plants when they've been down for a long time, but not because of this kind of situation."


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

Rob Bostelaar
Automotive News
April 14, 2020

A fast-growing part of Canada’s auto industry is at risk unless the federal government broadens financial aid in the Covid-19 pandemic, a trade group has warned.

“What we see is that daily, companies are dropping. And once they drop they're gone,” Suzanne Grant, CEO of the Ottawa-based Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA) told Automotive News Canada.

Of some 12,000 small tech companies that collectively employ 85,000 in Canada, a significant if uncharted number, focus on transportation, from autonomous driving to hydrogen fuel cells and electric-car batteries.

On April 5 CATA urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to establish a $3.6-billion emergency fund for the tech sector and release $200 million in backlogged claims for scientific research and experimental development incentives.

The aid could mean survival for start-ups that have yet to show a profit and thus don’t qualify for government wage subsidies announced in March, or whose founders are unable to meet bank demands to personally guarantee up to 20 per cent of loans otherwise backed by government in the new Business Credit Availability Program.

“Those entrepreneurs may have already leveraged everything to get a company off the ground, and they just may not have that available to them,” said Grant.

CATA has since been in talks with the Prime Minister’s Office and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada. So far there’s been no commitment from a government scrambling to meet the COVID-19 crisis on multiple fronts.

Without help, Grant fears a loss of crucial momentum in a tech sector starting to show the fruits of $36 billion in annual investment spread between universities, research institutes and programs to commercialize intellectual property. Already, multinational giants better able to withstand a COVID-19 shutdown are scooping up engineers and developers laid off by start-ups, she said.

Colin Dhillon, chief technical officer at the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association, said he has yet to hear concerns from the group’s high-tech members, some of which have pivoted to help in efforts to supply needed medical supplies in Canada.

He urged any company that is struggling to contact the Business Development Bank of Canada or Export Development Canada, which are overseeing federal relief efforts for business.


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

Hannah Elliott and Kyle Stock,
April 12, 2020

At least three years and about $1 billion. That’s roughly what it takes to make a new vehicle, from drafting table to dealerships.

Car companies live and die by that long-range gamble — but every once in a while, the bet coincides with an economic disaster. The coronavirus pandemic and its attendant recession may be the worst time to launch a car since, well, since we’ve had cars. Selling a Model A was a tough task during the Great Depression, but at least dealerships were open and some assembly lines still humming.

The global auto industry of 2020 is witnessing an unprecedented, near-instantaneous drop in demand as potential customers steer clear of car lots, and dealers close up shop to comply with public health mandates. Volkswagen, Honda, Hyundai and Mazda each reported a more than 40% decline in U.S. sales last month. For the year, S&P expects global auto sales to plummet almost 15%.

In a normal economy, the first few months for any shiny new machine are relative magic. Overeager customers clamor for the fanciest, most profitable versions, and dealers seldom have to offer discounts or incentives. Now, every sale (done online or over the phone) will be considered a coup.

With would-be buyers now focused on the grave crisis at hand, this is less a preview of automaker glory than a wistful look at what might have been.


The much-anticipated new Land Rover Defender launches this year with the historic brand’s manufacturing sites shuttered. While the vehicle’s release remains on schedule, the first media test drives planned for April were predictably canceled. The good news for the British automaker: The Defender’s official debut took place at the 2019 Los Angeles Auto Show.

Along with the Defender, the reborn Ford Bronco is one of the most hyped vehicles in years. In 1996, Ford parked the Bronco name (which dates to the mid-1960s) after O.J. Simpson provided the worst kind of publicity. In subsequent years, the seminal SUV became a design icon and collector’s item. We were supposed to see the new Bronco on April 2, but its debut has been delayed.

Crosstown rival Chevrolet has turned to Trailblazer, a nameplate that’s been defunct in the U.S. since 2009, to carry its newest, small crossover with an optional three-cylinder engine and a sticker price below $20,000. Kia is aiming for the just-right-size SUV market with its new Seltos. For now, the machine is coming from factories in Korea, which are still running.

Aston Martin is still hoping to deliver its first SUV, the DBX, in late summer. The automaker first showed the 542-horsepower DBX at the L.A. Auto Show in 2019; media drives were planned for May. Those have been postponed and production at all the company’s manufacturing sites halted.

Electric vehicles

Tesla’s all-electric flatbed Cybertruck that almost broke the internet when it debuted last year. The Blade Runner-style vehicle boasts driving range estimates of up to 500 miles and a zero-to-60 mph sprint of 2.9 seconds. Production is tentatively slated to begin in 2021, and Tesla is already taking deposits, but all this could change.

That shutdown also applies to Tesla’s Model Y, a compact SUV the company started delivering to customers in March.

Rivian Motors in Plymouth promises its R1S will be able to travel 400 miles on a charge, drive through three feet of water and zip up to 60 mph in three seconds, all with Costco-capable cargo space. But at the moment its facilities are shuttered.

Ford has also been hustling to finish its Mustang Mach-E, an all-electric vehicle whose November debut won broad praise. Now, dozens of early versions are cycling among the homes of Ford engineers, who disinfect each before continuing work.

The fastback Polestar 2, Polestar’s second vehicle and first all-electric car, started production on March 23 in Luqiao, China. The Polestar 2 produces 408 horsepower with an estimated range of 292 miles. It remains unclear, though, how many units will be produced or when deliveries might begin.

Last month, BMW “e-revealed” the BMW i4 Concept. It’s expected to be an all-electric sedan that uses an 80-kilowatt-hour battery to get 530 horsepower and 372 miles of driving range. Despite the closure of production plants, the i4 is expected to start selling toward the end of 2021.

Sports cars

Porsche had big plans to roll out the 640-horsepower 911 Turbo S version of its franchise machine with group media drives. Instead, the company delivered the machines one by one via fleet drivers. Porsche’s German manufacturing plants in Zuffenhausen and Leipzig have been silent since March 21.

Ferrari is hoping it can eventually add factory shifts to help deliver its all-new Roma on time.

The $225,000 supercar debuted in November, but a total Ferrari production halt on March 14 included production of the 611-horsepower, V8 Roma, which was supposed to roll into dealerships toward the end of the year.

Finally, Lotus is trying to piece together its first new vehicle in more than a decade. The machine, dubbed Evija, is stunning — and costs $2.1 million.

Shaped like a spaceship with trimmed sides and massive wheels, it boasts nearly 2,000 horsepower generated from four electric motors. Only 130 will be built; as for when, that will be determined later. Production has halted at Lotus’ Norwich headquarters while engineers continue tweaking designs from home.


FCA Canada implements
temperature taking protocol
for workers

Automotive Canada
Greg Layson
April 10, 2020

As automakers eye a return to production, FCA Canada says it is taking steps to keep its factory employees safe on the shop floor.

Some employees are currently working at the automaker’s Ontario assembly plants in Windsor and Brampton. They’re deep cleaning the facilities and tweaking job stations to make room for social distancing. But those that arrive for work each day no longer simply swipe their time card and walk into the factory as they used to.

FCA Canada spokeswoman LouAnn Gosselin told Automotive News Canada that employees are now required to wear face masks and gloves.

“Employees also will be asked to complete a wellness self-assessment at home each day before reporting to work. This includes taking their temperature and answering five survey questions,” Gosselin said in an email.

FCA on Monday said said that it “intends to progressively restart its U.S. and Canadian manufacturing facilities beginning May 4.”

“During this current production pause, we are working with government officials and our unions to implement new procedures to certify the daily wellness of our workforce while also redesigning work stations to maintain proper social distancing and expanding the already extensive cleaning protocols at all locations,” the automaker said in a statement April 6. “As a result of these actions, we will only restart operations with safe, secure and sanitized workplaces to protect all of our employees.”

FCA Canada currently builds the Chrysler Pacifica and Voyager and Dodge Grand Caravan minivans in Windsor. In Brampton, just outside of Toronto, it builds the Dodge Charger and Challenger cars and Chrysler 300 sedan.

Reuters on Thursday reported that safety measures differ from manufacturer to manufacturer. For example, Ferrari said on Wednesday it would offer voluntary blood tests to employees who wanted to know if they had been exposed to the virus.

Most automakers, including FCA Canada, are converging on a consensus that temperature screening, daily health questionnaires, assembly lines redesigned to keep workers three to six feet (0.9 m to 1.8 m) apart, and lots of masks and gloves can enable large-scale factories to operate safely.

At General Motors’ ventilator assembly plant in Kokomo, Ind., workers and managers have been fine-tuning details such as when employees are handed masks, and when they step in front of a temperature screening device.

Initially, ventilator assemblers in training at Kokomo walked down a hall before getting a mask, said Debby Hollis, one of the UAW-represented workers. Last week, she said, "They met us at the door and had us get in the masks there."

The time workers spend putting on extra protective gear, the time spent doing extra cleaning, and spreading workers out on assembly lines designed to have one vehicle roll off the end every 60 seconds could undercut productivity.

"If we can protect employees, we can get work done," said Johnson, the GM manufacturing chief. "The magnitude of the incremental cost is irrelevant. Costs will be managed."


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

Stephanie Wallcraft
Automotive News
April 9, 2020

TORONTO – Ontario dealers are being warned to no longer offer test drives, including those conducted at customers’ homes, or risk being in contravention of the province’s most recent COVID-19 Emergency Order released on April 3.

Dealers who continue to offer them will be subject to administrative action up to and including a proposal to revoke registration, said spokesman Terry O’Keefe, spokesman for the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council (OMVIC)

“Failing to comply with the province’s Emergency Order may result in administrative action by OMVIC, ranging from a discipline hearing to the issuance of a proposal to revoke registration,” O’Keefe told Automotive News Canada. “Since dealers were ordered closed by Ontario’s Emergency Order [except for online sales], it is OMVIC’s opinion that taking a vehicle to a customer’s home for the purpose of a test drive violates the Emergency Order and its intention to protect the health of all Ontarians and lessen the spread of Covid-19.”

Ontario’s most recent order also declared dealer showrooms to be non-essential businesses and forced them to close. O’Keefe says that violating the order in any capacity would be viewed as being in violation of its Code of Ethics.

“Ontario’s Emergency Order is in place to save lives – ignoring it, or seeking ‘work arounds’, is illegal and/or unethical,” he said. “The [Motor Vehicle Dealers Act] requires dealers to conduct themselves with honesty, integrity and in accordance with the law, and the Code of Ethics requires registrants not engage in any act or omission that, having regard to all of the circumstances, would reasonably be regarded as disgraceful, dishonourable, unprofessional or unbecoming of a registrant.

“OMVIC is confident the vast majority of registrants agree that protecting Ontarians must be our number priority.”

The Trillium Automobile Dealers Association, which represents more than 1,000 new-vehicle dealers across the province, supports OMVIC’s position, said Frank Notte, director of government relations.

“We are in lockstep with OMVIC that test drives should not be undertaken,” Notte said. “Our legal analysis of the Emergency Order also does not permit test drives at this time. Furthermore, test drives are not conducive to social distancing, which is a top directive from all public health organizations and governments as the world fights COVID-19.”

OMVIC suggests that dealers include cancellation clauses in sales contracts while customers are unable to assess vehicles with test drives, said O’Keefe.

“To help protect consumers and to ensure confidence and trust in the online purchase process, OMVIC encourages dealers to provide remote customers with a contract cancellation period,” O’Keefe said.


Ford to make 100K face shields
in Windsor, Ont., to aid
in COVID-19 fight

Unifor Local 200 President John D'Agnolo displays one of the face shields his members are making Ford's engine plant in Windsor, Ont.

Canadian Automotive
Greg Layson
April 8, 2020

Ford Motor Company of Canada Ltd. says it has started production of 100,000 face shields in Windsor, Ont., in an effort to help protect Canadian medical personnel and first responders on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The automaker said in a news release late Monday that it is working closely with the Ontario and federal governments to distribute the face shields throughout the province, and across Canada. Shipments are scheduled to start this week.

“Ford of Canada has a long history of supporting Canada and its communities in times of need,” Dean Stoneley, president and CEO, Ford Motor Co., of Canada Ltd., said a joint statement with the union, Unifor. “By repurposing our production facilities in Windsor to meet the urgent demand for face shields, we can help protect the lives of our heroic health-care professionals and first responders as they continue to treat the most vulnerable among us.”

A Ford spokesperson said the "initial donation of 100,000 face shields" will be made at the Windsor Engine plant, which normally produces 6.8-litre V10 two-valve and three-valve engines.

Neither Ford of the union said how many employees will be needed to make the shields.

“I am incredibly grateful to our members at Ford in Windsor for doing a tremendous service for their community and their country during this national emergency,” Unifor President Jerry Dias said in the statement. “I commend Ford for working with Unifor to ensure that strict health and safety protocols are in place that will ensure our members can manufacture badly needed medical supplies and return home safely to their homes and families.”

The automaker said that at the advice of government and health officials, Unifor and Ford of Canada remain in continuous communication at the national and plant level to ensure all safety actions and precautions are taken to help keep workers and their families protected.


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

Zi-Ann Lum
April 7, 2010

OTTAWA — Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland shared a moving message to Canada’s seniors at a daily press conference with public health officials on the coronavirus pandemic Friday.  

“I’ve been thinking about you a lot,” Freeland said in a sparsely populated room in Parliament’s West Block. “You raised us. You built our amazing country. Now you are staying inside and you are physically separated from your loved ones.” 

She said she knows the situation is hard for many people.

“I want you to know that we love you very much. And we are doing everything in our power to keep you safe.”

Freeland’s message comes a day after a leading health columnist, The Globe and Mail’s André Picard, warned people to pull their relatives from seniors’ homes if they can.

Citing how COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in at least 600 seniors’ residences across the country, Picard warned, “This is a wildfire that could soon grow far worse.”

Pinecrest Nursing Home, a long-term care home in Bobcaygeon, Ont., has become a case study in how fast the highly contagious respiratory disease can spread. As of Friday, 20 residents have died at the 65-bed facility in just over two weeks. The virus also claimed the life of Jean Pollock, who wasn’t a resident at the facility. 

Pollock visited her 91-year-old husband, a resident at Pinecrest, every day and volunteered at the nursing home, according to CBC News.

There are 11,747 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Canada as of Friday morning, according to Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam. At least 152 deaths have been linked to the disease.

Symptoms include cough, fever, difficulty breathing, and pneumonia in both lungs. The disease is spread through the respiratory droplets from an infected person. 

Enhanced testing coming, Ontario health minister says

Canadians have been told to respect physical distancing, from staying at home as much as possible to keeping a two-metre distance from people in public. Crowd control measures have also been widely adopted across the country, from bans on public gatherings to limits on the number of people who can shop in grocery stores at one time.  

Public health officials have said a majority of people who get COVID-19 recover and do not need hospitalization. But because the prevalence of pre-existing conditions is higher among seniors, they are considered at a higher risk of contracting potentially life-threatening pneumonia associated with the disease.

In Ontario, there have been 1,047 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among people over age 60 since January 15, according to statistics released by the province. The case fatality rate of those who contract the disease is significantly higher for people over 80.

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott told reporters Friday it’s not realistic that every long-term care home resident will be released into their care of family.

“Most people will remain in homes,” she said.

The health minister offered reassurance saying that the province is taking the situation facing seniors very seriously. “We are really trying to build that iron ring of protection around them.”

Enhanced testing measures are coming, Elliott said, adding that incoming strict no-visitor rules may be difficult for some family members to accept. 


Detroit's auto industry steps
up against COVID-19

Pat Tucker, 55, of Roseville makes face shields at the Troy Design Manufacturing facility in Plymouth. (Photo: Courtesy Ford Motor Company, The Detroit News)

Breana Noble and
Kalea Hall,
The Detroit News
April 6, 2020

Pat Tucker could have waited it out when Ford Motor Co. shut down North American manufacturing. Instead, she's helping to make thousands of face shields a day for health care workers and first responders.

"If it’s to help, then I’m in," the 55-year-old employee of Ford subsidiary, Troy Design & Manufacturing Co. in Plymouth, recalled saying when asked about the opportunity. "Because something has got to be done. We are working 12 hours a day now. The more we can get out the better. We have so many people emailing and needing them. We are

Hundreds of autoworkers and engineers and thousands of global suppliers are answering the call for help with remarkable speed in an effort becoming known as the "Arsenal of Health," a reference to Detroit's military production surge during World War II.

In a matter of days to weeks, Detroit's three automakers and key suppliers have gone from producing parts and vehicles to preparing facilities to make equipment desperately needed to save lives of severely sick patients and protect front-line workers combating the COVID-19 pandemic.

General Motors Co. CEO Mary Barra told the company task force created for the effort: "Every day we slow down is a day someone's life is at risk," Shilpan Amin, GM's vice president of global purchasing and supply chain, recalled from the meeting. "We didn't have any experience in doing this. In our minds, we didn't know it couldn't be done, so we made it happen."

Scaling up

The pace of progress is unlike anything Troy Design President Todd Jaranowski, a more than 30-year Ford veteran, has seen. The face shield project took over 200,000 square feet of the Plymouth facility on Tuesday, March 24.

"We ran like 1,000 units and then ramped up to 4,000," Jaranowski said, "and then by Thursday, we ran 25,000."

Elastic for the shields' head bands were in short supply from the start. But a Ford supplier, which the company declined to name, opened its doors and its parts bins at 4 a.m. to provide weather stripping to supplement, Howard Lew, Ford vehicle components and system engineering strategy and initiatives manager, said in a statement.

The electric staplers being used, however, weren't cutting through the rubber tube. But Ford found a non-latex rubber band that worked, and it made a "very automotive request to a very un-automotive supplier" to provide 200,000 bands in about 48 hours, Lew said. The supplier had them ready in 26.

Meanwhile, Doug Randlett, Troy Design engineering supervisor, learned something: instead of stapling the weather stripping to the shields, the company could use common push pins used all over vehicles to fasten parts.

"Doug hit such a grand slam we named it 'The Dougie,'" Lew said. "We had three viable designs for the face shield. ... Based on available supply, it looked like we had design solutions that could be produced anywhere in the world if needed."

Now, about 1.2 million face shields have been shipped to medical workers across the country to Detroit, California, Florida and New York. The goal is to make 1 million a week — but, Jaranowski said, there's demand for 9 million.

Likewise, the United States needs ventilators, devices that help patients with the respiratory illness to breathe in severe cases. In mid-March, the Society of Critical Care Medicine estimated that 960,000 U.S. COVID-19 patients would need ventilators with only about 200,000 available. Medical equipment manufacturers are scampering to increase production exponentially.

"The biggest challenge is taking a product that just over two a day is made or 10 a week and scaling that to over 7,000 a week in the future as we ramp up," said Adrian Price, director of Ford's global manufacturing core engineering division.

The Blue Oval plans to produce by Independence Day 50,000 copies of Florida-based Airon Corp.'s simple, approximately $7,000 air-powered ventilator at its Rawsonville Components Plant in Ypsilanti. Ford will provide the devices to GE Healthcare.

The request echoes the historic "Arsenal of Democracy" transformation by GM, Ford and Chrysler Corp. during World War II when they converted plants to make bombers, tanks and trucks. They simplified the machines and put assembly lines to work. Instead of taking one month to build one plane, Ford by 1944 was making one per hour at its Willow Run plant. In the 1940s, Ford also developed a portable baby incubator and an "iron lung" for polio patients.

Ford's Airon ventilator project is part of the Trump administration's goal of producing 100,000 ventilators in 100 days. President Donald Trump also called on GM to contribute, last month taking action under the Korean War-era Defense Production Act. He signed a presidential memorandum ordering GM to make ventilators for the government — despite the Detroit automaker hours earlier saying it was moving forward with building the devices for Washington-based Ventec Life Systems at its Kokomo Operations electric components plant in Indiana.

“We could not be prouder of the UAW members that have volunteered to make such a difference at this critical time in our history," UAW Vice President Gerald Kariem said in a statement. "These UAW Ford Members have sacrificed beyond themselves for all of us."

Trump later changed his tone, saying GM was doing a "fantastic job." But the automakers' efforts began well before the president called upon the companies to help.

'Project V'

On March 17, GM's Barra took a phone call from Kenneth Chenault, a former American Express Co. CEO who founded StoptheSpread.org to activate companies to help combat COVID-19. Their chat led to a conversation with Ventec the next day. On Thursday, a GM team flew to Seattle to figure out how to boost Ventec's production from a couple hundred to several thousand a month.

By the evening of March 20, GM had organized a conference call with its suppliers to ask for their help with an effort dubbed "Project V." Barra tasked Amin's team to determine within 48 hours where all 419 of the ventilator's parts, as well as their thousands of sub-assemblies, could be acquired.

"It was kind of a call to action: Are you in, or are you out?" recalled Dan Kennedy, executive director of sales for Illinois-based Flex-N-Gate, which makes metals, plastics and other parts for GM. He texted the company's executives: "'You can't imagine the call I am on right now.' Literally within seconds, they were responding, 'We're in.' You don't know what you are in for, you just know we are in."

Ventec had FedExed one of its devices to Michigan. GM disassembled it, laying the pieces on a conference room table inside the idled Warren Transmission Plant. The company disinfected the space between teams of suppliers — each donning masks and gloves — taking photos and measuring the parts to determine what the companies could make. 

Each of GM's 120-member purchasing team became the "CEO" of at least one part with the responsibility for coordinating manufacturing, logistics and quality, Amin said. Some were more complex: One circuit board has 1,200 components sourced from companies in India and Malaysia, deep in the supply chain.

"These are where one of the biggest bottlenecks are happening," Amin said. "We built incremental capacity based on our suppliers' capabilities, and it starts opening the doors across the ventilator production industry."

After 48 hours, 95% of the parts were sourced. The last 5% was secured by the early afternoon the following day. Starting this week, Flex-N-Gate will begin manufacturing seven injection molds for each device in Grand Rapids with its presses. Illinois-based Tenneco Inc.'s headlights wire harnesses will light up the ventilators; it sent sample parts to Kokomo on Wednesday.

"It's been a blur," said Mike Bugbee, Tenneco's global customer director for GM and lighting product line general manager. "That fast decision-making, decisiveness is what really got us here."

GM last week began training the 1,000 paid volunteers in Kokomo who eventually will build 10,000 of the devices per month with shipments starting in mid-April.



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

Henry Payne,
The Detroit News
April 5, 2020

Ford Motor Co.'s sales fell 12.5% in the first three months of the year, the automaker said Thursday, following the dismal results of other carmakers who reported their numbers the previous day, as the pandemic closes dealerships across many parts of the country.

The sales drop was the largest of the Detroit Three automakers with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles down 10% for the quarter and General Motors Co. off 7% as government-mandated stay-at-home orders and a souring economy slowed buyer traffic to a crawl.

But the Detroit truck wars raged on, with Ford maintaining its crown as best-selling truck brand.

Other bright spots included Lincoln and the Mustang, which both gained sales ahead of what is sure to be a harrowing April. With most of the country anticipated to be in lockdown against the coronavirus storm, analysts expect auto sales to erode by 80%.

"Our Ford team is working around the clock on everything from building healthcare equipment, assisting our dealership network and providing our customers peace of mind through deferred vehicle payments," said U.S. Ford marketing chief Mark LaNeve. 

Dealer incentives were a big reason that Ford's overall pickup sales were off only 5.4% as J.D. Power reported that automakers shoveled truckloads of incentives, including no-interest loans, to maintain volume in their most profitable segment. Ford's truck line includes F-Series and Ranger pickups, medium- and heavy-duty trucks, Transit vans, Transit Connect and E-Series vans.

Though even the mighty F-series was not immune to COVID-19's effects with sales off 13.1%, it maintained its status as America's best-selling vehicle with 186,562 units sold. Chevy SIlverado sales were 143,698 while Ram clocked in at 128,805.

Overall, GM, FCA, and Ford gained a whopping 11 points in U.S. market share thanks to healthy pickup sales.

Another Ford icon, the Mustang, also continued to dominate sales in the muscle car segment. With the twin GT350/Shelby GT500 performance snakes in the showroom for the first time ever, Mustang sales gained 6.8% to 18,069 vehicles, outdistancing second-place Dodge Challenger at 12,138.

Mustang's success has inspired a sub-brand that is moving full speed ahead despite the coronavirus. The first-ever electric car, the Mustang Mach E, is due later this year.

Lincoln sales jump of 6.9% bodes well for Ford’s resurgent luxury brand for when markets return to normal. The gain came in the face of deep luxury sales losses from Lexus, BMW, and Audi as key premium markets like California and New York shuttered (although they are still permitted to do online sales, unlike Michigan). New York alone accounts for 14% of U.S. luxury sales.

Lincoln has recast itself as an SUV-oriented brand with the all-new, mid-size Aviator and compact Corsair lifting sales. Once a geriatric brand, Lincoln's fastest rate of growth for Q1 came from the 35-44 year old demographic.

Analysts cautioned, however, that luxury and performance cars are likely to see the steepest falls in the current climate, putting more pressure on automakers like Ford to incentivize the sales of meat-and-potatoes trucks and vans.

“As the situation wears on, we may see that buyers in the next weeks will be interested in more practical automotive purchases, along with many buyers opting to delay planned purchases," said IHS Markit analyst Stephanie Brinley. "The delay could impact discretionary vehicle purchases, like sporty cars and sedans or high-performance cars and utilities, even more sharply than daily-use vehicles." 


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

Breana Noble,
The Detroit News
April 4, 2020

Ford Motor Co. CEO Jim Hackett in 2019 received $17.36 million in total compensation, the Dearborn automaker reported in a Friday filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Hackett's income last year, his second full year as CEO, fell 2.2% from the $17.75 million the chief executive was paid in 2018. While Hackett's base salary was steady at $1.8 million and his stock awards were up 3.5% at $13.19 million, incentive bonuses fell 32% to $1.75 million.

Ford's $6.379 billion in earnings before interest and taxes in 2019 missed the lowered guidance the automaker set of between $6.5 billion and $7 billion. The start of production of the company's redesigned Explorer SUV faced manufacturing problems, resulting in delays and fallen sales.

Hackett's compensation was 157 times more than the median employee compensation of $110,706, which was up from $64,316 in 2018 because of increased pension contributions.

The annual report filed Friday with the SEC details the pay for Ford's top executives.

Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr. made $16.76 million in 2019. That's more than the $13.83 million total compensation he received in 2018 mostly from a $2.65 million change in pension value and deferred compensation earnings. Ford's base salary in 2019 was $1.7 million, the same as in 2018.

Jim Farley, Ford's former president of new businesses, technology and strategy who became chief operating officer last month, made a total of $8.36 million in 2019, down from $5.86 million in 2018. Farley's base salary in 2019 was $1.1 million, up from $1.07 million in 2018. Farley received a discretionary bonus that valued $185,600.

In his new role, Farley's compensation includes a $1.4 million base salary, a performance-based incentive bonus target of $1.89 million and an annual stock grant of $5 million, the automaker recently disclosed.

Joe Hinrichs, Ford's former president of automotive, received $11.02 million in total compensation in 2019. That was more than the $5.81 million he made in 2018 when he received a $97,920 bonus. Although Hinrichs did not receive a bonus in 2019, he received more in stock awards valued at $6.09 million and $2.65 million from a chance in pension value and deferred compensation earnings. Hinrichs' base salary last year was $1.3 million, up slightly from $1.1 million in 2018. Hinrichs retired last month after Ford reported its disappointing 2019 earnings results.

Tim Stone, Ford's chief financial officer, received $8.32 million for the first year the automaker publicly reported his compensation. That included a $783,338 base salary, a $1.48 million discretionary bonus, $4.3 million in stock awards and $742,500 in incentives.

Bob Shanks, Ford's former chief financial officer, was paid $8.32 million in total compensation in 2019, down from $8.42 million in 2018. His base salary was $1 million, up from $971,250 in 2018.

All of Ford's top executives had to meet performance goals in quality; automotive-segment operating cash flow and operating margin; Ford Credit pre-tax profit; and automotive revenue to receive the bonuses included in their total pay. These incentive bonuses ranged from $1.75 million for Hackett to $486,000 for Bill Ford.

Farley's was $742,5000, Hinrichs' was $850,500, Stone's bonus was $742,500 and Shanks' was $675,000.

Ford also paid $419,275 for Bill Ford's personal use of company aircraft and $899,219 for security. The company paid $91,523 for Hackett's use of the aircraft. Stone received $692,652 to relocate from California.

Hackett's compensation in 2019 tops that of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV CEO Mike Manley, who received $12.46 million. GM has not yet reported 2019 salaries.

The Detroit automaker typically releases its annual report in April. GM CEO Mary Barra was the highest-paid executive of Detroit's three automakers in 2018, earning $21.87 million.

Tesla Inc. also has not filed its proxy statement. In 2018, Elon Musk, CEO of the Silicon Valley electric-vehicle maker, received $2.28 billion in total compensation — the most by far, according to The New York Times, of the largest 200 publicly traded corporations in the United States.


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

John Irwin
Automotive News
April 2, 2020

Unifor President Jerry Dias said he anticipates assembly plants coming back online will do so initially as one-shift operations whenever it is determined that they can safely re-open.

“Even if they open up, it’s not going to be business as usual for quite a while,” Dias said. “They’ll ease into it based off of parts [availability] and based off the cleanliness of the facilities. They’ll likely rotate shifts and have groups at home. There’s going to have to be extended periods of time for cleaning.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has rattled the North American auto industry this month, virtually shutting down manufacturing in a matter of days and sending new-vehicle demand plummeting. All of Canada’s auto assembly plants have been temporarily shuttered as government and health officials urge people to stay home.

It remains unknown when automakers will restart their factories. Ford Motor Co., announced on Tuesday it was indefinitely delaying the restart of North American vehicle production, after previously saying it would ramp some of its factories back up starting April 6.

General Motors, after initially offering a reopening date of March 30, told Automotive News it does not have “firm return-to-work dates,” while Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said its shutdowns would last until at least April 14, “dependent upon the various state stay-in-place orders and the readiness of each facility to return to production.”

Dias, whose union represents workers at the four Canadian Detroit Three vehicle assembly plants, said Ford was being “incredibly optimistic” with its prior return timetable. He cautioned that more shutdowns are possible even after plants restart.

“The bottom line is this is going to be based on the virus, and the scary part of this is that the [health] professionals are saying we’re going through the first episode and that there’s quite likely to be a second episode,” Dias said.

He said how quickly plants can restart after it’s determined to be safe to do so will depend in large part on how easily the automakers are able to source parts. Due to the regional and global nature of the supply chain, that means how quickly Canadian plants come back online would be determined in part on how quickly the United States can get the virus under control, he said.

“I’m more concerned about the United States than I am with Canada because I think the Canadian government got off the mark a hell of a lot faster than the U.S. government,” Dias said.

With more than 180,000 confirmed cases as of Wednesday morning, the United States has more COVID-19 cases than any other country, according to a count by National Public Radio in the U.S. The New York Times, meanwhile, reported that several epidemiological models studied by the White House show that the pandemic “is likely to ravage the country over the next several months, killing close to 100,000 Americans and infecting millions more.”

According to Health Canada, there are 8,548 confirmed cases as of yesterday.


Ford delays restarting
production indefinitely

Breana Noble,
The Detroit News
March 31, 2020

Ford Motor Co. on Tuesday said it will further delay restarting production at its North American plants as the COVID-19 outbreak continues to spread in the United States.

The Dearborn automaker last week had shared its intentions to begin manufacturing again at Hermosillo Assembly in Mexico starting next Monday and at select U.S. plants, including Dearborn Truck, on April 14. The plants will remain idled indefinitely.

“The health and safety of our workforce, dealers, customers, partners and communities remains our highest priority,” Kumar Galhotra, Ford president of North America, said in a statement. “We are working very closely with union leaders — especially at the UAW — to develop additional health and safety procedures aimed at helping keep our workforce safe and healthy.”

The decision comes after the Trump administration this week extended federal social distancing guidelines through end of April as medical consultants said the United States could see more than 100,000 deaths from the COVID-19 outbreak. And Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday indicated Michigan could be weeks away from a peak in cases.

Unlike Ford, General Motors Co. has not announced a restart date for production since extending its shutdown beyond this past Monday. Some employees, however, have been told to file for unemployment until as late as May 1 in states that require an end date to make the request.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV last week also said its U.S. and Canadian plants would remain closed through April 13, though it is continuing to monitor the situation.

Industry experts have said it is unlikely most plants will restart before May, not only to keep workers safe but because of declines in demand as stay-at-home orders keep people from buying cars and close non-essential businesses, putting people out of work.

But as of Monday, foreign-owned automakers were holding onto plans to restart production in April. Toyota Corp.'s North American plants are set to open April 17 with production resuming April 20. Volkswagen AG intends to restart production at its Tennessee plant at 10 p.m. April 5. Honda Motor Co. Ltd.'s 12 manufacturing facilities, Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.'s Mississippi and Tennessee plants and Subaru Corp.'s Indiana plant are closed through April 6. Hyundai Motor Co. has suspended production in Alabama until April 10.

The United Auto Workers had expressed "great concern and caution" over Ford and Fiat Chrysler's plans to restart production in the coming weeks.

“Today’s decision by Ford is the right decision for our members, their families and our nation,” UAW President Rory Gamble said in a statement. “Under Vice President Gerald Kariem, the UAW Ford Department continues to work closely with our local unions and Ford to make sure that as we return to production all members are safe, and our communities are protected from this spreading pandemic.”

Ford's decision does not affect the automaker's plans to build ventilators at its Rawsonville Components Plant in Ypsilanti starting the week of April 20. Three shifts of 500 total paid UAW volunteers will work to produce 50,000 ventilators in the next 100 days.

The volunteers will have to self-certify online every day. Work stations will be six feet apart, and shifts will be scheduled so the workers from different shifts have no contact. Other high-tech solutions, Ford added, are in the works, as well.


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

Vince Bond Jr.
Automotive News
March 30, 2020

DETROIT — Whenever Fiat Chrysler Automobiles restarts North America production, the UAW members working the lines will have to cope with the grim reality that COVID-19 has claimed the lives of several colleagues.

While it hasn’t been reported that an autoworker is among the dead in Ontario, Unifor is skeptical about a quick return to work.

The rising U.S. death count from the global coronavirus pandemic is personal for UAW members now. It includes familiar faces who walked the same halls and toiled on the same factory floors they did.

Clocking in won't be the same for Aric Holloway, a longtime worker at FCA's Warren Truck Assembly Plant north of Detroit. A co-worker who would greet people at the door died Wednesday, March 25.

"He would usually be there in the morning when you come in the front door, shaking your hand and telling you, 'Thanks for coming to work.' It was a joke that we" had, Holloway told Automotive News. "He would be in front of the plant every morning."

These deaths loom as automakers plot their courses of action. Mid-April appears to be the earliest that most North America production could come back on line. Ford Motor Co. last week said it planned to restart operations April 6 at one assembly plant in Mexico before reviving several U.S. factories April 14.

FCA said its production suspension will last until April 14, "dependent upon the various state stay-in-place orders and the readiness of each facility to return to production."

General Motors, after initially aiming to reopen its plants Monday, March 30, said last week, "The situation is fluid and can change week to week. We don't have firm return-to-work dates at this time."

Previewing what could be a battle over when workers should come back, UAW President Rory Gamble said the union was reviewing "with great caution and concern decisions being made about restarting workplaces, especially at advanced dates." Gamble said automaker executives must be guided by one simple question: "Would I send my family — my own son or daughter — into that plant and be 100 percent certain they are safe?"

In Canada, one local Unifor president said last week his members will take the lead from health agencies, not automotive executives.

“We’re going to go with what the medical professionals say. There’s a lot of things that need to be put in place,” Unifor Local 444 President David Cassidy said.

He represents about 4,500 workers at FCA’s Windsor, Ont., assembly plant, which produces the automaker’s minivans.

His members walked off the job nearly two weeks ago in fear of the virus after they found out one member was self-isolating after possibly secondhand contact with an infected person.

“We’ll play this by ear. The safety of our membership is No. 1,” Cassidy said.

Unifor Local 200 President John D'Agnolo, who represents workers at Ford’s engine plants in Windsor, Ont., told the CBC on March 25 that he wants to make sure his members are safe before returning to work.

"Right now, we're going to be going back to work as of April 20," he told the public broadcaster. "They haven't given us any more details after that.

“"They're ordering more supplies, like masks, like shields, to protect people that are going to be working within a six-foot radius. But that doesn't mean that they will be entirely safe. That's the dynamic we have right now."


In picking dates to restart idled factories across North America, automakers are attempting to balance worker safety with financial stability. They book revenue as vehicles are produced, and their cash reserves shrink with each day plants remain dark. But whenever production resumes, fear of COVID-19 could still linger among the work force.

The decisions are becoming even more difficult as the number of blue-collar workers who test positive for the virus — and die from it — grows.

"There is going to be some risk/reward calculation about when we go back to work, how we go back to work and what changes about that work," said Kristin Dziczek, vice president of industry, labor and economics at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich. "It would be really hard to go back into a plant when you know someone who contracted the disease and died."

Plants are like small cities where word travels fast. Workers could be shunned if colleagues find out they've been exposed to the virus.

"What happens when word spreads [that] your co-worker's spouse, or someone in their family that they live with, has COVID-19?" asked one former auto executive who asked to remain anonymous. "That is going to spread like wildfire through the plant. No one is going to want to work near that person."

The former executive also wondered how workers with medical conditions will feel about returning. He said automakers will need a plan to deal with worker uneasiness.

Companies, for instance, may need to back off on some disciplinary measures for absenteeism and try to loosen restrictions on the number of temporary employees they can use at a given time to make up for absences. Panicked workers could end up on short-term disability leave because of stress instead of going into the plants during this uncertain time.

Companies will need to "recognize that certain people just would rather not have the money, or have a reduced amount of money, and not be exposed to it," the former executive said. "How many deaths is it going to take before they shut the plant down once it gets going? It's more of a moral thing. What's acceptable?"

Through last week, at least four FCA union workers — three in Michigan and one in Indiana — had died in connection with COVID-19, as had two Ford workers in Michigan, according to the UAW.

A nonunion technical support worker at FCA's technology center in Auburn Hills, Mich., also died, two Detroit newspapers reported, prompting the postponement of work associated with its test laboratories and pilot plants there. FCA declined to comment on employee health matters, citing privacy restrictions.

The automakers face dire economic forecasts.

The Detroit 3 have borrowed billions of dollars in recent weeks to help weather the crisis. Ford and GM each withdrew their financial guidance for the year.

"Automakers have done all kinds of planning and girding their balance sheet for a recession, but no one planned for things to go down this quickly, and no one planned for zero production," Dziczek said. "Automakers are only making money when they're making vehicles. They're going to try and be down for the least amount of time necessary."

Jeff Schuster, president of Americas operations and global vehicle forecasts at LMC Automotive, said any extended downtime would significantly hurt margins and upcoming vehicle launches.

"It's like a strike, in a lot of ways, across the entire industry," he said.

While the ultimate cost of the current plant downtime is unknown, GM said it lost nearly $4 billion over the course of the 40-day UAW strike last fall during contract negotiations.


Whenever assembly lines start to move again, automakers face another potential problem: excess inventory as a result of low demand. Unemployment claims soared last week, and most consumers still working are more focused on buying groceries and other essentials right now and thus are liable to put off a big purchase such as a new vehicle.

LMC predicts full-year U.S. auto sales will fall to 14.2 million units, a 17 percent drop from 2019.

Art Wheaton, a professor of labor at Cornell University, said automakers could try to ease into production by running fewer shifts at first.

"I think there's going to be people who will take the sick days, or take the vacation days, and try to exercise the time off," Wheaton said. "But there's also a lot of people that [could say], 'I'm ready to go back to work. This is what we're paid to do. Let's go and make money so we can have a profit-sharing check and we can take care of [our] families in the future.' "

Of course, the longer the plants are down, the smaller next year's profit-sharing checks will be.


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

Automotive News
Michael Martinez
March 27, 2020

Ford Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. on Thursday updated plans to resume North American light-vehicle output. Here’s the latest:


Ford Motor Co.will restart production at some of idled North American plants in early April.

It expects to reopen a Hermosillo assembly plant in Mexico with one shift on April 6 and plans to restart production April 14 at Dearborn Truck, Kentucky Truck, Kansas City Assembly and Ohio Assembly.

Ford did not offer restart dates for Chicago Assembly, Flat Rock Assembly, Michigan Assembly, Louisville Assembly, Cuautitlan Assembly in Mexico or Oakville Assembly in Canada.

The company's plans raised more concerns at the UAW, which has pressed the Detroit Three to shutter plants to protect workers. Several FCA hourly workers have died of COVID-19, the disease caused by exposure to the coronavirus.

"We are reviewing with great concern and caution today's announcement," the UAW said in a statement Thursday. "Our priority is the health and safety of our members, their families and the American public."

The Hermosillo plant builds sedans: The Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ, although both vehicles will be discontinued in coming years. The four U.S. assembly plants slated to restart production all build Ford’s most profitable vehicles; F-Series pickups, vans and full-size SUVs.

Dearborn Truck produces the F-150 pickup, Kansas City builds the F-150 and Transit vans, Kentucky Truck builds Super Duty pickups, Expedition and Lincoln Navigator SUVs, and Ohio Assembly builds larger pickups and E-Series cutaway and stripped chassis vans.

The automaker said a number of other operations also are scheduled to restart April 14 to support the assembly plants. Those are Dearborn Stamping, Dearborn Diversified Manufacturing, integrated stamping plants inside Kansas City Assembly and Kentucky Truck, Sharonville Transmission and portions of Van Dyke Transmission, Lima Engine and Rawsonville Components.

"We will continue to assess public health conditions as well as supplier readiness and will adjust plans if necessary," Kumar Galhotra, Ford's president of North America, said in a statement.

The automaker's North American plants have been down since March 20. Ford originally planned to restart production March 30 but pushed back the deadline after many states, including Michigan, issued stay-at-home orders that extend beyond those dates.

Michigan's order ends April 13. In Ontario, Premier Doug Ford ordered all non-essential businesses to close for 14 days. They can reopen April 8.


Toyota, citing a decline in vehicle demand, said it will extend the shutdown of all light-vehicle and components plants in North America, including Canada and Mexico, through April 17, with output to resume April 20.

The company planned to restart plants on April 6.

"Our service parts operations and finished vehicle logistics centers will continue to operate in order to continue meeting the needs of our customers," the company said. "We will continue to monitor the situation and take appropriate action in a timely manner."


Honda Motor Co. will extend the shutdown of U.S. and Canada plants by a week, resuming production April 7, as the coronavirus saps consumer demand for cars and light trucks. The company's suspension was originally scheduled for March 23-30.

Honda operates four vehicle assembly plants in the U.S. and one in Ontario. It also manufactures engines, transmissions and other components.

The company, in a statement Thursday, said it will continue to provide opportunities for workers to be paid, including providing full pay for some nonproduction days and pulling ahead vacation for others.


FCA plants across the U.S. and Canada, as well as headquarters operations and construction projects, are intended to remain closed until April 14, dependent upon the various states' [and provinces'] stay-in-place orders and the readiness of each facility to return to production.

FCA had originally said its plants would shut down through the end of March.



Retiree Harry Chadwick
Passes Away
March 23, 2020

Harry Chadwick

November 13, 1930 - March 23, 2020

Retired May 1, 1992

Harry was President of Local 584 in the Early 80's and also
served as Alderman for the city of Brampton and
as a Member of Parliment from 1988 to 1993

Our sincerest condolences go out to his family.

Harry Chadwick will be buried in Collingwood on April 8th. 
Brampton will be lowering the flag at City Hall
and will recognize his passing at the next City
Council meeting on April 8th



Harry Posting Chadwick
November 13, 1927 – March 23, 2020

Harry was married to Shirley from 1953 until she passed away in 1992. He was the loving dad of Kenneth and Donna, devoted and adoring grandpa to Shawn, Karen, Shelby and Jeffrey. He was their hero with his amazing strength and abundance of love. They are all so proud of him and of his many accomplishments.

Harry will be dearly missed by Ruth Lowther and her family; his good friend Elizabeth Gibson; the congregation at Wasaga Beach Community Presbyterian Church and the many friends and political colleagues from his years of campaigning and canvassing.

Harry served in a public capacity for 10 years as an Alderman for the City of Brampton and for 5 years as a Member of Parliament for Bramlea-Gore-Malton. He was also the president of his local C.A.W. while he was employed at Ford Bramlea Parts Distribution Centre. Harry retired to Wasaga Beach in 2003 and was still active in politics.

Harry fought with all he had to beat the cancer that would eventually take him from all of us. As an expression of sympathy memorial donations can be made to a hospital or medical care facility of your choice. Harry received the best care at the Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre in Barrie as well as wonderful homecare provided by the personal support workers from St. Elizabeth Health Care; Colleen in particular was Harry’s superstar.

Due to the ongoing public health crisis there will be a small private funeral service for the family and a Celebration of Harry’s life will be held at a later date.



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

The Associated Press
March 26, 2020

Detroit – Ford is recalling more than 268,000 cars in North America to fix doors that could open unexpectedly or may not close.

The recall covers the 2014 through 2016 Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ, and the 2014 and 2015 Ford Fiesta. Cars in Mexico, U.S. territories and 16 states with high temperatures are affected.

Ford says a lever in the door latch can crack and fail. Typically doors won’t close when it fails, but customers may be able to latch it after repeated attempts. If that happens, the doors could open while the cars are in motion.

Ford says it’s not aware of any crashes or injuries caused by the problem.

Dealers will replace the side door latches. Owners will be notified starting May 4.

Vehicles that are or have been registered in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Washington are affected.


Ford Works With 3M, GE, UAW
to Speed Production of Respirators
for Healthcare Workers, Ventilators
for Coronavirus Patients

Mar 25, 2020 | DEARBORN, Mich.

  • Ford is working with 3M to manufacture at scale Powered Air-Purifying Respirators (PAPRs). Ford and 3M are collaborating on the new design leveraging parts from both companies to meet urgent demand for first responders and health care workers; Ford is exploring production of the new PAPR in a Ford facility in addition to 3M production
  • Ford and GE Healthcare are working together to expand production of a simplified version of GE Healthcare’s existing ventilator design to support patients with respiratory failure or difficulty breathing
  • Ford, in cooperation with the UAW, will assemble more than 100,000 critically needed plastic face shields per week at a Ford manufacturing site to help medical professionals, factory workers and store clerks; Ford also will leverage its in-house 3D printing capability to produce components for use in personal protective equipment

DEARBORN, Mich., March 25, 2020 – Ford Motor Company, joining forces with firms including 3M and GE Healthcare, is lending its manufacturing and engineering expertise to quickly expand production of urgently needed medical equipment and supplies for healthcare workers, first responders and patients fighting coronavirus.

In addition, Ford plans to assemble more than 100,000 face shields per week and leverage its in-house 3D printing capability to produce components for use in personal protective equipment.

“This is such a critical time for America and the world. It is a time for action and cooperation. By coming together across multiple industries, we can make a real difference for people in need and for those on the front lines of this crisis,” said Bill Ford, Ford’s executive chairman. “At Ford, we feel a deep obligation to step up and contribute in times of need, just as we always have through the 117-year history of our company.”

Powered Air-Purifying Respirators

Ford team members are working with 3M to increase the manufacturing capacity of their powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR) designs and working jointly to develop a new design leveraging parts from both companies to meet the surge demand for first responders and health care workers. This new respirator could be produced in a Ford facility by UAW workers.

To go as fast as possible, the Ford and 3M teams have been resourcefully locating off-the-shelf parts like fans from the Ford F-150’s cooled seats for airflow, 3M HEPA air filters to filter airborne contaminants such as droplets that carry virus particles and portable tool battery packs to power these respirators for up to eight hours.

Ford is looking at how it might produce these new-generation PAPRs in one of its Michigan manufacturing facilities, helping 3M boost production potentially tenfold.

“Working with 3M and GE, we have empowered our teams of engineers and designers to be scrappy and creative to quickly help scale up production of this vital equipment,” said Jim Hackett, Ford’s president and CEO. “We’ve been in regular dialogue with federal, state and local officials to understand the areas of greatest needs. We are focusing our efforts to help increase the supply of respirators, face shields and ventilators that can help assist health care workers, first responders, critical workers as well as those who have been infected by the virus.”

“We’re exploring all available opportunities to further expand 3M’s capacity and get healthcare supplies as quickly as possible to where they’re needed most – which includes partnering with other great companies like Ford,” said Mike Roman, 3M chairman of the board and chief executive officer. “It’s crucial that we mobilize all resources to protect lives and defeat this disease, and I’m incredibly grateful to Ford and their employees for this partnership.”


In addition, Ford and GE Healthcare are working together to expand production of a simplified version of GE Healthcare’s existing ventilator design to support patients with respiratory failure or difficulty breathing caused by COVID-19. These ventilators could be produced at a Ford manufacturing site in addition to a GE location.  

“We are encouraged by how quickly companies from across industries have mobilized to address the growing challenge we collectively face from COVID-19,” said GE Healthcare President & CEO Kieran Murphy. “We are proud to bring our clinical and technical expertise to this collaboration with Ford, working together to serve unprecedented demand for this life-saving technology and urgently support customers as they meet patient needs.”

Work on this initiative ties to a request for help from U.S. government officials.

Respirators and Face Shields

Meanwhile, Ford’s U.S. design team also is quickly creating and starting to test transparent full-face shields for medical workers and first responders. The face shields fully block the face and eyes from accidental contact with liquids and when paired with N95 respirators can be a more effective way to limit potential exposure to coronavirus than N95 respirators alone.

The first 1,000 face shields will be tested this week at Detroit Mercy, Henry Ford Health Systems and Detroit Medical Center Sinai-Grace Hospitals. Roughly 75,000 of these shields are expected to be finished this week and more than 100,000 face shields per week will be produced at Ford subsidiary Troy Design and Manufacturing’s facilities in Plymouth, Mich.

Ford is leveraging its Advanced Manufacturing Center in Redford, Mich., and in-house 3D printing capabilities to manufacture components and subassemblies for use in personal protective equipment.

Ford is evaluating a separate effort not involving GE Healthcare with the U.K. government to produce additional venitlators.

In China, Ford of China joint venture partner Jiangling Motors also has donated 10 specially equipped Transit ambulance vans to hospitals in Wuhan, where the coronavirus outbreak began. Ford is also reacquiring 165,000 N95 respirators from China that were originally sent by Ford to China earlier this year to help combat coronavirus.

Ford has also kicked off a working team to help hospitals locate and secure urgently needed surgical and N95 respirators. Ford has so far committed sending Henry Ford Health Systems 40,000 surgical masks while it locates additional supplies.

Additional companies and individuals who are interested in contributing to this effort can submit their information here at www.fordnewideas.com.

Ford, along with the companies it is supporting, will provide additional updates as these special projects progress. 


Ontario dealers can complete
sales via email during
coronavirus pandemic

John Irwin
Automotive News
Sept 20, 2010

Ontario dealers can complete sales via email during coronavirus pandemic

Ontario’s regulations prohibiting the signing of contracts off of a dealership’s property remain in effect during the coronavirus pandemic, although there are legal workarounds for dealers, according to a new bulletin by the province’s vehicle-sales regulator.

Today’s Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council (OMVIC) bulletin said all trading — including buying, selling and leasing vehicles — still must take place either entirely on a dealership’s physical premises or completely online. And dealers still cannot take a contract to a customer’s home for a signature, as “that would constitute trading off-premises,” according to OMVIC.

However, a dealer can email contracts to customers for them to sign at home before scanning and emailing the contract back to the dealership. Alternatively, e-signatures are allowed. Once the contract is signed, a dealer can deliver the vehicle directly to the consumer’s home.

The bulletin comes as dealers in Canada’s largest province are scrambling to adjust their businesses in the wake of the pandemic as more consumers stay home and limit physical contact with others. Many dealers have indicated they would be looking into ways to increase remote offerings to prop up sales and service while customers choose to stay home.

“The bulletin was sent in response to inquiries and to address some confusion in the dealer community regarding these issues,” OMVIC spokesman Terry O’Keefe wrote in an email.

O’Keefe said OMVIC has received numerous inquiries from dealers about what is or is not allowed. He said that no regulations have changed as a result of the pandemic, as rules are set by the Ontario legislature.

The OMVIC bulletin said sales to remote customers “may be allowed if appropriate measures are enabled to comply with the [Motor Vehicle Dealers Act] and ensure consumer protection.” Examples of those measures include explaining contract terms to customers and ensuring that any vehicle sold is “fit for purpose,” according to the regulator.

“To help facilitate consumer protection, some dealers have agreed to terms and conditions of registration that provide remote customers with a contract cancellation period,” the bulletin reads.

OMVIC said dealers are allowed to take a vehicle to a customer’s home or elsewhere for a test drive, on the condition that the person delivering the vehicle is a registered salesperson. Additionally, the test drive should be “offered solely for evaluating a vehicle’s performance, suitability and/or condition prior to purchase or lease,” and for no other reason, OMVIC said.

In the event that a vehicle is sold to a customer who has not seen the vehicle in person, OMVIC said it requires dealers give them “full, clear and comprehensible disclosures” and to give those customers the chance to drive the vehicle and cancel the contract if it is “not suitable or not as represented.”


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

Greg Layson
Automotive News
March 19, 2020

North American auto production and dealer inventory shouldn’t be affected by the mutually agreed upon decision by Canada and the United States to close its border, say industry stakeholders.

However, it might not matter if automakers continue to shutter plants during the pandemic. Ford, Honda and General Motors have all stopped production to some extent in North America.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Donald Trump agreed Wednesday morning to close the border to non-essential traffic in both directions.

Trump first posted the news on Twitter just after stock markets opened.

“We will be, by mutual consent, temporarily closing our Northern Border with Canada to non-essential traffic. Trade will not be affected. Details to follow!” Trump tweeted, the morning after CNN first reported a closure was coming.

Trudeau then confirmed the news at a news conference in Ottawa.

“Travellers will no longer be permitted to cross the border for recreation and tourism,” Trudeau said.

The prime minister said it was “critical to maintain supply chains” that link the two countries.

Neither leader made it clear when the restrictions would go into effect.

About $2 billion dollars worth of goods crosses the border in bilateral every day, according to the Canadian government.

Trudeau said the policy ensures “the smooth flow of goods” and essential materials” as well as medical supplies as the two countries continue to try and contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.

Trudeau said “supply chains are critical” and promised “trucking will not be affected.”

David Adams, president of the Global Automakers of Canada, which represents the interests of overseas automotive companies who do business in Canada, says the announcement was not unexpected.

“I think both Trump and Trudeau have been clear that trade and commerce between the two nations will continue,” he said in an email to Automotive News Canada. “I do not see any immediate impact on the membership or in the integrated North American automative industry.”

Flavio Volpe, head of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association in Canada, agreed.

He said his association has been in constant contact “all day long” with the federal government “for about week now.” He said policy makers consulted with his association before they made any decision on the border.

Volpe said the closure “might thicken the border” as screening for non-essential travel ramps up.

“But with the demand for cars declining, it balances out,” Volpe said.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average took another tumble early Wednesday morning, a day after modest gains. The Toronto Stock Exchange was also down early Wednesday.

Volpe said parts from the United States destined for assembly plants in Canada and parts from Canada destined for the United States will all still flow.

“That’s the intention, anyway,” Volpe said.

David Worts, spokesman for the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association of Canada doesn’t believe production at Honda and Toyota plants in Ontario will be affected.

“This should not impact just-in-time manufacturing,” he said. “The temporary closure of the Canada/US border ‎will still allow trade in goods which is essential given the deeply integrated auto industry supply chains, particularly between Canada and the U.S.”

Volpe essentially said it will be business as usual, for as long as possible.

“The core principal is that business continue as long as it doesn’t affect health and safety,” he said. “Sending people home and stopping pay is going to be a bigger problem than anything we’ve seen so far.”


Detroit carmakers will close plants due to coronavirus concerns

Breana Noble and Kalea Hall,
The Detroit News
March 18, 2020

Detroit — Ford Motor Co. will close all of its plants in North America starting Thursday evening through March 30, the Detroit automaker said Wednesday.

All of Detroit's three automakers have agreed to close plants due to worker fears about the coronavirus, according to two sources familiar with the talks. It wasn't immediately clear how long plants would be closed or the number of them.

“We’re continuing to work closely with union leaders, especially the United Auto Workers, to find ways to help keep our workforce healthy and safe – even as we look at solutions for continuing to provide the vehicles customers really want and need, Kumar Galhotra, Ford’s president of North America, said in a statement. “In these unprecedented times, we’re exploring unique and creative solutions to support our workforce, customers, dealers, suppliers and communities.”

UAW and Ford leaders say they will work together on how to best structure plant restart plans.

“Today’s action is the prudent thing to do. By taking a shutdown and working through next steps, we protect UAW members, their families and the community,” said Rory Gamble, president of the UAW. “We have time to review best practices when the plants reopen, and we prevent the possible spread of this pandemic. We commend Ford for working with us and taking this bold step.”

The other automakers are expected to release details of their closures later Wednesday. The United Auto Workers union has been pushing for factories to close because workers are fearful of coming into contact with the virus.

The Detroit automakers' decision to close plants comes after Honda Motor Co. said Wednesday it would suspend production at its plants in North America for six days beginning Monday, with current plans to return to production on March 31. Honda has U.S. plants in Ohio, Indiana and Alabama.

The 27,600 Honda workers affected by this will continue to receive full pay. The company says it will use the down-time to continue deep-cleaning of its production facilities and common areas.

Multiple Michigan auto assembly plants shut down Wednesday amid positive cases of coronavirus among workers and just one day after rejecting union calls for broader two-week plant closures.

Ford on Wednesday temporarily closed its Michigan Assembly Plant final-assembly building in Wayne, Michigan building after one of the employees there tested positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Stamping and the body shop operations are still running, Ford said.

Michigan Assembly employs about 3,000 workers who make the Ford Ranger pickup truck; about 2,800 of those are hourly employees.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles earlier Wednesday suspended production at its Sterling Heights Assembly Plant a second time in less than 12 hours after an employee there tested positive for coronavirus.

The shutdowns came after a task force made of officials with the United Auto Workers and Detroit's three automakers met into the evening Tuesday about how to continue production amid the pandemic. Although the UAW earlier this week had pushed for a two-week shutdown, the group agreed the companies would schedule rotation shifts that would partially close plants and allow for greater space between workers.

FCA sent home the first shift at Sterling Heights and directed the second shift to not show up for work at the plant that produces the Ram 1500 pickup trucks. Fiat Chrysler also had shut down the plant the evening prior, Tinson confirmed.

"Out of an abundance of caution for the health and welfare of the employees at the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant, FCA is suspending production on Wednesday," company spokeswoman Jodi Tinson said in a statement. "The company is working to align the plant’s shift pattern with yesterday’s announced agreement with the UAW."

"Employees did not walk out," she added, following some reports that they had. "They were released so the plant could be deep cleaned."

The sick hourly employee at Sterling Heights had not been in the plant for a week, according to Fiat Chrysler, and was receiving medical attention. The company's medical team was contacting colleagues who may have come into contact with the individual and were recommending self-quarantine. The employee's workstation was sanitized.

The case was the second COVID-19 case in one of Fiat Chrysler's plants after a salaried worker in Indiana's Kokomo Transmission Plant tested positive last week.

Autoworkers have contacted media and government officials over their concerns about the cleanliness of the plants and the resources available to ensure their health and safety. Last week, 17 paint shop employees at Fiat Chrysler's Warren Truck plant walked off the job, though operations there resumed shortly thereafter and production was not impeded, according to the company.

While experts say the automakers could make up production volumes from a two-week shutdown, the companies continue to receive orders for new vehicles. That is unlike in Europe, where many dealers' sales operations have closed and demand almost has disappeared. Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler have joined other automakers in shutting down plants there.

A salaried employee at General Motors Co.'s Cole Engineering Center on its Warren Technical Center campus tested positive, the automaker said Tuesday. Co-workers were being contacted about possible exposure. A salaried employee at Ford Motor Co.'s Building 5 in its Dearborn product development campus also tested positive. The individual, however, had been exposed to the virus after leaving the facility and had not returned since, the company said.

GM and Ford N.A. plants to
shutter through March 30

DETROIT – Ford Motor Co. and General Motors said that all manufacturing sites in the United States, Mexico and Canada will close through at least March 30 as the automakers battle the coronavirus epidemic. 

GM said it will begin cutting production today in a cadence. 

“We’re continuing to work closely with union leaders, especially the United Auto Workers, to find ways to help keep our workforce healthy and safe – even as we look at solutions for continuing to provide the vehicles customers really want and need,” Kumar Galhotra, Ford’s president of North America, said in a statement. “In these unprecedented times, we’re exploring unique and creative solutions to support our workforce, customers, dealers, suppliers and communities.”

Ford said it would work with the UAW on plans to restart U.S. production. 

“Today’s action is the prudent thing to do. By taking a shutdown and working through next steps, we protect UAW members, their families and the community,” Rory Gamble, president of the UAW, said in a statement. “We have time to review best practices when the plants reopen, and we prevent the possible spread of this pandemic. We commend Ford for working with us and taking this bold step.”

A Ford spokeswoman said Ford’s parts distribution facilities will remain open so they  can supply parts to customers. 

Earlier Wednesday, a source told Automotive News that the Detroit 3 automakers have agreed to shut down their U.S. manufacturing facilities due to the spread of the novel coronavirus.

FCA did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The status of FCA’s Canadian plants remained in limbo.

Unifor officials told Automotive News Canada at 1 p.m. ET they were in talks with FCA.



Unifor, Detroit 3 form
coronavirus task force

John Irwin, Greg Layson
Automotive News
March 18, 2020

The Detroit Three and Unifor said late Tuesday they are forming a joint task force to implement enhanced protections for manufacturing and warehouse employees at all three companies during the global coronavirus pandemic.

It’s similar to the task force created by the automakers and the United Auto Workers union in the United States.

The announcement came just hours after Unifor Local 88 called for a two-week shutdown of General Motors’ CAMI plant in Ingersoll, Ont., where members assemble the Chevrolet Equinox. Local 88 Unit 1 chairperson Mike Van Boekel told Automotive News Canada that he called on GM to put the roughly 2,500 workers at the CAMI plant on layoff beginning March 23 for a minimum of two weeks.

"This may be the first time any union official has asked for a layoff of their entire membership, but these are not normal times," Van Boekel said.

Last week, members of Unifor Local 444 in Windsor, Ont., refused to work at FCA's minivan plant there after it became aware one of its members had come into what the company called "secondary contact" with a person who was being tested for COVID-19.

The task force consists of:

Jerry Dias, president, Unifor

Scott Bell, president and managing director, GM Canada

Dean Stoneley, president and CEO, Ford of Canada

David Buckingham, chairman, president and CEO, FCA Canada

In a joint news release, the automakers said that preventative actions currently under review at the three companies’ Canadian auto facilities include visitor screening, increased cleaning and sanitizing of common areas and touch points, safety protocols for people with potential exposure and those who exhibit flu-like symptoms.

“The task force members today discussed progress with additional safety practices and actions including break and cleaning schedules, health and safety education, health screening, food service and any other areas designed to improve protections for employees,” GM Canada said in the statement. “Unifor and the three Canadian automakers are in continuous communication at the national and plant levels to ensure they take appropriate actions and continue to follow the advice of medical staff and experts to help keep workers and their families protected from the COVID-19 virus. They are also maintaining ongoing communication with government and health officials at all levels.”

Van Boekel declined to comment on the task force, but said he still wants GM Canada to shut down the Ingersoll plant.

The local's call for a two-week layoff came as automakers and suppliers prepared for the fallout from the global coronavirus pandemic, which is expected to lead to a downturn in new-vehicle sales as people are forced to stay home or are at risk of losing their jobs.

“Everyone is likely very aware that vehicle sales across North America are likely slowing down tremendously during this period and I believe this may cause down weeks in the future once the field stock builds up,” Van Boekel wrote in a letter to General Motors Canada on March 15.

According to Van Boekel’s letter, there were two employees in self-quarantine as of Sunday. He said GM has paid those workers full wages and has acted “in good faith” on the issue. Asked today if that figure has changed, he said it was be difficult to say as workers and their families return from travel and are asked to stay home.

“It’s time to get home now, so most are getting home,” he said.

GM Canada says it has taken safety precautions at its Ontario facilities.

“These include an ongoing focus on production plans, break and cleaning schedules, social distancing, health and safety education, health screening, food service and any other areas that have the potential to improve protections for employees,” GM Canada’s Jennifer Wright said previously.


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

Breana Noble and Kalea Hall
The Detroit News
March 16, 2020

Detroit — Production at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV's Windsor Assembly Plant restarted at 3 p.m. Friday after coming to a standstill a day earlier when employees refused to work because a colleague was in self-quarantine amid the new coronavirus pandemic.

Work resumed at the minivan plant after Dave Cassidy, president of Local 444 for the Unifor Canadian labor union, urged members to stand down. The quarantined employee may have come into contact with an infected individual, but there were no confirmed cases of the virus in the plant, the automaker said.

"Folks, I know these are scary times but we need to take a breath," Cassidy wrote on Facebook. "We are currently not in a full-blown crisis here."

Vehicle assembly is a hands-on activity with thousands working in the same facility, often in close proximity to each other. Shutting down plants would be costly to automakers, though Ford Motor Co. has indicated it could shut down facilities for a day to clean if an employee there tests positive. General Motors Co. is adjusting production schedules to allow for cleaning.

The work stoppage in Windsor came as the United States and Canada were put on high-alert over preventing the spread. U.S. President Donald Trump called a national state of emergency, and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer banned gatherings of more than 250 people and shut down grade schools into April. The Detroit automakers escalated measures to protect employees, including allowing many to work from home.

Canada's Ministry of Labour on Thursday visited the Windsor plant to investigate and determined the work environment was safe.

Unifor's Cassidy said the union cannot dictate whether Fiat Chrysler closes its doors and that the union "has made it clear with our workplaces that we need to be kept up to date with their plans of actions and precautions they are taking to keep our members safe."

Windsor Assembly builds the Chrysler Pacifica, Chrysler Voyager and soon-to-be-discontinued Dodge Grand Caravan minivans. It employs more than 5,800 people, though the automaker is eliminating the 1,500-person third shift this summer. On Thursday, Fiat Chrysler extended the deadline to July 13 from June 29.

A Fiat Chrysler employee at the company's Kokomo Transmission Plant in Indiana tested positive for the coronavirus earlier this week, but production there "continued as normal," company spokeswoman Jodi Tinson said. The employee is the first known person in the United States employed by one of Detroit's three automakers to test positive for COVID-19.

The company has placed into home quarantine the Kokomo employee's immediate co-workers and others in the facility with whom he may have come into direct contact. While the United Auto Workers' contract with the automakers provides some paid sick leave to employees, the union is in discussions with "all sectors" about compensation for employees who cannot work because they are quarantined but not sick and other issues.

"The UAW and FCA are working together during this unprecedented and challenging situation to address issues on a case by case basis," Cindy Estrada, UAW vice president and FCA Department director, said in a statement. "The UAW feels strongly that no member should be disadvantaged in response to the COVID-19 process. Our first priority is to ensure the health and welfare of our members."

FCA's Tinson echoed Estrada's remarks, saying the company is working with the union on "how best to handle a number of issues."

GM and Ford did not have any known coronavirus cases in the United States, representatives said. GM, however, will pay quarantined employees — whether sick or exposed to someone who tests positive — the hours for which they were scheduled, spokesman Jim Cain said. At Ford, it has not been an issue to date, spokesman Mark Truby said Friday on a conference call.

The workspace of the infected FCA employee in Kokomo was sanitized, breaks were rescheduled to avoid crowding and distance was increased between employees, the automaker said. The company has taken similar measures at several plants, CEO Mike Manley wrote Thursday evening in an email to employees. Fiat Chrysler is stepping up cleaning and sanitization at all facilities and providing masks where deemed necessary.

Fiat Chrysler also is "accelerating the deployment of working remotely" that is being rolled out "department-by-department," Manley wrote. The practice already is the "new normal," he said, at offices in China, Korea, Japan and Italy.

GM on Friday followed with CEO Mary Barra sending a message to employees saying starting Monday the Detroit automaker was making a work-from-home allowance "if the nature of your work allows for it." The policy applies globally, though not in China, and will not halt production at GM's manufacturing facilities.

"These are important steps to lower the probability of spreading the coronavirus to coworkers, families and communities and to relieve the burden on public resources," Barra wrote. "It also helps conserve critical resources like cleaning crews, medical staff and supplies so they can be deployed where they are most needed."

GM also is increasing sanitization efforts at its plants and adjusting production schedules to do so. For example, it called off its third shift starting Saturday for the night at its Flint Assembly plant producing heavy-duty Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks.

Ford also starting Monday is permitting those who work in jobs that are not "business critical" to work remotely "for the foreseeable future" if they can perform their duties off-site, Truby said. The global policy does not apply to China, "where the conditions there are improving and more in a back-to-work mode." Manufacturing is not expected to be affected.

"Obviously we need to keep our factories moving," Truby said. "That's the goal. We're taking all the precautions we can to do extra sanitization and social distancing where possible."

Ford, however, will "close a specific facility where there was exposure to a confirmed coronavirus case for at least 24 hours so the building can be disinfected," CEO Jim Hackett wrote in a letter to employees.

Truby did not have an immediate figure of how many employees could be working from home, but said it would be "many thousands" and the "vast majority of our white-collar workforce outside of China." Ford also canceled the debut of its highly anticipated off-road Bronco SUV next week.

Fiat Chrysler is postponing or canceling "most company events," including large employee gatherings, auto shows and sponsored commercial events, Manley added.

The automakers have said they are working to ensure a consistent flow of parts and components to continue production. But experts say demand could be the greatest challenge. Auto sales dropped almost 80% year-over-year in February in China because of the virus. There has been some impact on showroom traffic in certain parts of the United States, Ford's Truby said.

Company leaders called on their employees to continue to perform at their best, despite the disruptions.

"Given the current drop in use of public transportation and extensive flight cancellations," GM's Barra wrote, "our customers are looking to us more than ever to ensure they have the vehicles, parts and services they need."


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

Greg Layson
Automotive News
March 12, 2020

The Ontario government is making it easier for thousands of laid-off autoworkers in that province to find a second career.

Ontario has loosened the rules governing the Second Career Program, which helps the unemployed pay for retraining costs, including tuition, books and even some transportation.

Effective April 1, laid-off manufacturing workers will no longer be required to search for a job for 26 weeks in order to qualify for the benefits of the Second Career Program. They will also be able to apply regardless of how long they had been working in the manufacturing or auto industry. Previously, applicants had to disclose where they worked before, for how long and what skills they needed for that work. That is no longer the case for those in the manufacturing sector.

The changes to Second Career will apply to manufacturing and auto workers who were permanently laid off on or after Jan. 1, 2019. All other laid-off workers will be able to apply for Second Career under the previously established eligibility rules.

That means approximately 4,700 workers who have recently lost their jobs — or soon will — at GM’s Oshawa plant, FCA’s Windsor factory, Ford’s Oakville facility and GM supplier Nemak in Windsor, are all eligible.

All those workers are represented by Unifor. Union officials weren’t immediately available for comment.

 "We're ensuring our manufacturing workers are given every opportunity to be successful in their career,"' said Vic Fedeli, minister of economic development, job creation and trade.

On average there were over 10,000 manufacturing workers per month in receipt of employment insurance across Ontario from January to November 2019, the province said.

According to the government, some of the most popular occupations that Second Career clients train for include transport truck driver, heavy equipment operator (except crane) and social and community service worker.


NY Auto Show postponed
due to coronavirus

March 11, 2020

The upcoming New York International Auto Show is being postponed because of coronavirus fears, organizers said on Tuesday.

The show tweeted: “The health and well-being of all those involved in this historic event is our top priority. We’ll be rescheduling this year’s #NYIAS to August 2020. Stay tuned to our social channels for more info in the coming weeks,"

Recently the 10-day event, which produces more than $330 million in economic benefit, was planning to go on as scheduled April 8, as organizers were working with the venue on measures to control the potential spread of the coronavirus.

The New York International Auto Show is among the largest in the world, with an annual attendance of approximately 1 million.

“We are taking this extraordinary step to help protect our attendees, exhibitors and all participants from the coronavirus,” said Mark Schienberg, president of the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association, the organization that owns and operates the New York Auto Show.

 “For 120 years, ‘the show must go on’ has been heavily embedded in our DNA, and while the decision to move the show dates didn’t come easy, our top priority remains with the health and well-being of all those involved in this historic event. We have already been in communication with many of our exhibitors and partners and are confident that the new dates for the 2020 Show will make for another successful event,” Schienberg added in a statement.

The virus has infected more than 800 people in the U.S. and killed at least 29, with one state after another recording its first infections in quick succession.

Worldwide about 118,000 have been infected and more than 4,200 have died.

For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. Most people recover in a matter of weeks, as has happened with three-quarters of those infected in China.


FCA-UAW bribery scheme 'targeted
and directly harmed' automaker

Breana Noble,
The Detroit News
March 10, 2020

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV executives accused of bribing United Auto Workers officials "targeted" General Motors Co. in an attempt to do it harm, the Detroit automaker claimed Monday in its rebuttal to FCA's request for the civil racketeering case against it be dismissed.

In November, GM filed an unprecedented civil racketeering lawsuit against the Italian American automaker. GM argued bribes offered by FCA executives to union officials corrupted three rounds of bargaining and cost the Detroit automaker "billions." Fiat Chrysler has called the allegations "meritless," and in January requested the suit be dismissed for not meeting RICO's requirement that the plaintiff be directly harmed by wrongdoing.

"Defendants assert that GM is suing for lost 'market share,' is a 'bystander,' has only been '“derivative[ly]" harmed, and that GM was only the 'third in line' victim of FCA’s bribery scheme (behind UAW members and the IRS)," GM attorneys Hariklia Karis and Jeffrey Lamb wrote. "None of these characterizations is remotely accurate. GM’s detailed allegations establish that FCA’s bribery scheme targeted and directly harmed GM for years by imposing higher costs on GM in at least the areas of workforce composition, manufacturing costs, and prescription drug costs."

The crosstown battle comes amid the continuing years-long federal investigation into UAW corruption that has convicted 13 union and FCA officials and charged a former UAW president. Payoffs from Fiat Chrysler executives to UAW officials, according to federal prosecutors, began within days of Chrysler Group LLC emerging in 2009 from bankruptcy with $12.5 billion in taxpayer money under the control of a foreign company, Italy's Fiat SpA.

GM says FCA's former CEO, the late Sergio Marchionne, schemed with UAW officials in an attempt to take ov