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August 1, 2009 to September 29, 2009






SEPTEMBER 24, 2009



Thriving Ford leads national auto sales

Kristine Owram

Customer incentives gave many automakers a boost in sales in Canada last month, as several companies offered discounts for buyers who traded in their old clunkers for a new vehicle.

Ford Canada grew its market share for the 11th consecutive month in September as sales improved by 24 per cent to 16,159 compared to a year earlier.

It was also the fourth month in a row that Ford, the only one of the Detroit Three automakers to survive the economic downturn without a government bailout, has increased its Canadian sales year over year.

"We continue to deliver strong new products, particularly our cars. In fact, nearly 70 per cent of sales come from our new models," stated Ford Canada president and CEO David Mondragon. "We are encouraged by the continued momentum in the market."

Mondragon added that Ford's scrappage incentive program – which joined similar programs from Hyundai, Chrysler, General Motors and Volkswagen to offer rebates to customers who traded in old vehicles for new models – helped to boost sales.

Chrysler Canada also saw a positive month, with sales up 19 per cent from September 2008 to 15,857.

"You can't sell off of an empty wagon – we were finally able to replenish our depleted vehicle inventory levels, and it showed in our September results," stated Chrysler Canada president and CEO Reid Bigland.

Toyota Canada said its September sales were down 11.1 per cent to 16,065 despite a best-ever September for Toyota trucks, which sold 5,626 units, up 16.4 per cent.

Toyota's Lexus luxury brand sold 1,504 vehicles, up 11.3 per cent.

Honda Canada's September sales fell 12 per cent to 11,272 while its Acura division sold 1,127 units, down 45 per cent.

Among the Asian automakers, Hyundai Canada fared the best by far, with sales up 30 per cent to 9,282 units. September marked Hyundai's ninth consecutive month of sales increases. To date, the company said 2009 has been its best year of sales on record.

Nissan reported sales of 7,233, down 2.3 per cent year over year while Volkswagen said it sold 3,508 vehicles in September, down 4.2 per cent.

Meanwhile, Mercedes-Benz reported Canadian sales of 2,560, up 24.9 per cent to mark the company's best September ever.

Audi said its sales were up 17 per cent to 1,111.


Ford's U.S. sales drop 5.1 per cent

Bree Fowler and Kimberly Johnson

New York — The Associated Press Last updated on Thursday, Oct. 01, 2009 01:19PM EDT

Ford Motor Co.says its September auto sales fell 5.1 per cent, revealing a tough hangover from this summer's Cash for Clunkers buying spree.

Ford and other auto makers got a big lift in July and August from clunkers, which spurred sales of nearly 700,000 new cars and trucks. The government program's big discounts lured in many customers who otherwise would have waited until later in the year to walk into dealerships.

Now auto makers are starting to feel the effect. Ford sales of cars and light truck fell 5.1 per cent from a year ago to 114,241.

The September results fell 37.2 per cent from August totals. Two of the auto maker's vehicles – the Focus and Escape – were top sellers in the program.

Ford was the first of the auto maker to release its monthly U.S. sales numbers on Thursday. Others are expected to follow later in the day.

Sales of Ford's popular F-series trucks rose 3.5 per cent, while those of the new 2010 Taurus sedan increased more than 60 per cent. Sales of the Ford Focus fell 11.3 per cent in September from a year earlier. Escape sales eased 5.1 per cent Volvo, which Ford intends to sell, posted a 16.3 per cent increase.

Auto makers sold a combined 1.3 million vehicles in August for a seasonally adjusted sales rate, or SAAR, of 14.1 million. Many analysts expect a SAAR of 9.3 million for September.



Ford, CAW dig in their heels over size of footprint in Canada
Labour talks deadlocked amid calls for new vehicles

Greg Keenan

Globe and Mail Update Last updated on Monday, Sep. 28, 2009 07:27AM EDT

Ken Lewenza faces a set of stark choices in deadlocked negotiations between the Canadian Auto Workers and Ford Motor Co. of Canada Ltd. – so much so that the union president is calling this set of talks the toughest he has had with the Detroit Three this year.

The two sides agreed to reopen a contract originally signed last year after Ford said its manufacturing operations in Canada had been rendered uncompetitive by agreements the CAW union made with Chrysler Canada Inc. and General Motors of Canada Ltd. that shaved total hourly labour costs by about $19 to less than $60.

The talks have hit a stalemate, however, on the issue of the size of Ford's manufacturing footprint in Canada, which at this point is two vehicle assembly plants and two engine plants employing about 7,000 people and representing about 13 per cent of the North American manufacturing operations of U.S.-based parent Ford Motor Co.

The union says Ford is unwilling to make a commitment to maintaining that footprint by finding new vehicles for an assembly plant in St. Thomas, Ont., and new investment that would save one of two engine plants in Windsor, Ont.

“Under the production plan which it has presented to the union (which includes no production at St. Thomas after 2011, shrunken production in Windsor and two shifts only in Oakville) that footprint would fall to 8 or 9 per cent,” the union said in a bulletin distributed to workers last week.

If the auto maker agrees to maintain that footprint, the union will provide Ford with the same concessions it gave Chrysler and GM, which are reductions in benefits and time off, and more flexible work rules.

Ford spokeswoman Lauren More said the company does not comment publicly on the details of discussions with the CAW.

Among the choices for Mr. Lewenza: walk away from the talks and go back to the table in 2011; try to leverage new products for Oakville and the Windsor engine plant out of Ford; or simply ask his members to agree to the concessions without any promises from Ford.

None of those choices holds any charm.

It is “inconceivable” that Ford workers will vote for concessions if a deal includes the closing of the St. Thomas plant and no investment in the company's other operations, one high-ranking union source said.

Simply saying no to Ford and putting off a new contract until 2011 would leave the company at a competitive disadvantage for two years.

Officials with CAW local 707 in Oakville, Ont., have raised the spectre of Ford pulling out of Canada after 2011 if the union stands pat now.

When Joe Hinrichs, Ford's group vice-president of global manufacturing and labour affairs made a presentation to union leaders in July outlining the company's cost disadvantage after the Chrysler and GM agreements, he asked a simple question, Mr. Lewenza said.

“‘If you were making a product investment today or making a decision on any type of an investment today would you look at the Canadian operations as a choice?'” he recalls Mr. Hinrichs asking.

“And he asked the question implying that it would not be a choice, by him or the board of directors under the existing collective agreement. It was a subtle threat, but today, subtle threats can't be ignored.”

Without the cost reduction, Ford will be at a competitive disadvantage, said industry analyst Bill Pochiluk, president of consulting firm AutomotiveCompass LLC.

If labour costs in Canada are higher than those in the United States, the Edge, Flex and other crossover utility vehicles that come out of the Oakville plant will be more expensive than the Chevrolet Traverse and other GM models that compete directly with the Flex, Mr. Pochiluk said.

Sources said there is nothing in Ford's new product pipeline over the next few years that could be slotted into the Oakville plant to boost production there and thus provide at least some jobs to make up for the 1,500 that will be lost in St. Thomas.

The auto maker's success in staying out of bankruptcy protection and riding out the meltdown on its own without government help is an impediment to convincing workers in both Canada and the United States that they need to agree to concessions.

“Ford's hype about ‘we're doing great,' which they have to do if they're going to take advantage of the fact that they didn't go to the government … makes everybody in the plants think Ford is doing fine [so] ‘why would we do anything?'” said one veteran of several sets of negotiations.

UAW president Ron Gettelfinger, who is involved in his own set of talks with Ford, said: “The more successful the company is, the more difficult negotiations are.”

Ford posted a profit of $2.3-billion (U.S.) in the second quarter and paid down $10-billion of more than $20-billion in debt it took on in 2006 before the crisis hit.

With files from The Associated Press



St. Thomas jobs could be saved, CAW suggests

Sep 26, 2009 04:30 AM

The Canadian Auto Workers union says it might not oppose the closing of a southwestern Ontario auto plant if Ford will commit to creating jobs elsewhere in Canada.

"It's all about jobs – it's not in isolation about location, it's about jobs," union president Ken Lewenza said yesterday.

Ford has said it will stop producing vehicles in 2011 at its plant in St. Thomas, which has 1,600 employees. The issue has become a major "stumbling block" in contract negotiations between Ford and its workers, Lewenza said.

He said the union's primary goal is to keep the St. Thomas plant producing cars but, if that is impossible, it's willing to consider other options.

"Is there any possibility to convert the St. Thomas plant into a components facility?" he said.

The CAW has said it is willing to help Ford reduce its labour costs to a level competitive with General Motors and Chrysler, but it wants the company to guarantee it will keep its current Canadian manufacturing presence – between 12 and 13 per cent of total North American production.

The Canadian Press


Ford to slash Canadian
operations: CAW

Sep 26, 2009

Kristine Owram

Ford Canada intends to slash its Canadian manufacturing presence from 13 per cent to eight per cent of total North American production despite requests from its union to the contrary, the Canadian Auto Workers says.

Ford and the union have been negotiating a new labour contract since Sept. 8, but the two sides have reached an impasse over how much production the company intends to keep in Canada.

Currently, Ford manufactures approximately 13 per cent of its overall North American production in Canada. The union is asking the company to maintain that percentage if it wants concessions from workers.

However, CAW economist Jim Stanford said Ford's current plans will see that number drop to eight per cent by 2013.

Numbers from independent industry adviser AutomotiveCompass show a similar decline, with Canadian production shrinking to 8.6 per cent of the North American total in 2013, and 8.2 per cent in 2014.

Ford Canada spokeswoman Lauren More said Ford doesn't discuss future production or product plans for competitive reasons.

Stanford said Ford wants the same concessions the union gave General Motors and Chrysler in negotiations earlier this year, but isn't willing to make the same promises in return.

Chrysler committed to maintaining 20 per cent of its assembly operations in Canada, while GM promised to keep 18 per cent of its operations here.

"So Ford is starting from a smaller position, but the most troubling aspect is they're looking at significant shrinkage in what is already the smallest footprint of any of the automakers in Canada," Stanford said.

"Ford has to live up to the same standard in terms of maintaining its presence if they expect us to live up to the same contract."

He said the company's plans for its southern Ontario operations include closing a plant in St. Thomas by 2011, permanently shrinking production in Oakville from three shifts to two, and cutting back the workforce at an engine plant in Windsor.

Ford asked the CAW to renegotiate its current labour contract, which doesn't expire until 2011, after the union gave substantial concessions to GM and Chrysler as a condition for the broader bailout by the federal and Ontario governments earlier this year.

Stanford said it's "ludicrous" to expect workers to ratify a new contract that asks them to give concessions without providing job guarantees.

"If you have a situation in St. Thomas where they're allowed to vote on this contract, are you really going to go to a bunch of workers whose plant is doomed and say, 'By the way, give us an extra few dollars an hour between now and the time your plant dies?"' he asked.

"That is an absolute non-starter, and Ford knows it."

The manufacturing presence issue has become a major "stumbling block" in contract negotiations between the company and its workers, particularly the future of the St. Thomas plant, CAW president Ken Lewenza said.

Lewenza said the union's primary goal is to keep the St. Thomas plant producing cars but, if that's impossible, it's willing to consider other options.

"It's all about jobs – it's not in isolation about location, it's about jobs," Lewenza said.

The union leader suggested the company could turn the St. Thomas plant into a parts assembly operation.

"We don't manufacture transmissions here – is it possible to manufacture transmissions here? Is it possible to do some modular components in the Ford St. Thomas plant? What else can we do to utilize the space and give workers an opportunity to work?" Lewenza said.

Currently, the 1,600-employee plant builds the Ford Crown Victoria, the Lincoln Town Car and the Mercury Grand Marquis – all full-sized cars, demand for which is limited to niche markets. The Crown Victoria is only included in sales of fleets, such as those run by police departments and taxi companies.

Auto industry analyst Bill Pochiluk said it's likely CAW members at St. Thomas would vote down any contract that will see Ford eliminate their jobs, and it will be nearly impossible for the union and the company to reach an agreement unless one or the other is willing to compromise.

"For Lewenza, this is a tougher problem than both GM and Chrysler," he said.

Ford employs about 7,000 hourly workers in Canada and more than 70,000 in North America. Its North American workforce has shrunk by more than 40 per cent since late 2006, when it employed more than 112,000 workers.


Ford on track for 2011 profitability

Chinese sales to help automaker return to black

Sep 25, 2009 07:11 AM
Fang Yan
Jacqueline Wong Reuters News Agency

SHANGHAI–Ford Motor Co said it expects to return to the black in 2011, as it expanded ties with the fast-growing and lucrative China market with plans to build a new $490 million (U.S.) plant there.

The U.S. automaker, which competes with General Motors and others globally, produces the Focus, Mondeo and other sedan models in China in a tie-up with Chongqing Changan Automobile Co and Japan's Mazda Motor.

The plant, to be based in the southwestern city of Chongqing, will have an initial annual production capacity of 150,000 units, increasing annual capacity at Ford's joint venture plants to 600,000 by 2012, according to a joint venture statement on Friday.

The 3.34 billion yuan Chongqing plant marks the latest connection for Ford in the country, which surpassed the United States in January to become the world's biggest automobile market.

When asked if Ford can return to profitability in 2011, chief executive officer Alan Mulally, attending a ground-breaking ceremony for the new plant, told Reuters: "Absolutely, we are on plan."

He said Ford expects to have around 16 per cent market share in its U.S. market in 2009, where it expects to sell up to 11 million vehicles for the full year.

"We think that the market is probably going to be about 10.5 to 11 million units (in the United States). We are around 16 per cent of market share," Mulally said.

Ford posted about $30 billion in net losses from 2006 and 2008 and has been restructuring its operations in the past four years, including job cuts, plant closure and sales of several brands from its former luxury division.

In July, it booked a $2.3 billion quarterly net profit, mainly due to gains from a $10 billion debt reduction plan, and said it was on track to at least break even in 2011.


Ford, the only Detroit automaker that has steered clear of emergency federal funding and bankruptcy, is a relatively late comer to China, where GM and Volkswagen AG lead.

The new plant in China will make Ford's next-generation Focus sedan when it starts operation in 2012, according to Ford and Changan executives.

Changan Ford Mazda, Ford's China car venture aims to have 5 per cent of auto market in the country by 2014, up from less than 3 per cent currently, Zou Wenchao, executive vice president of the venture told reporters.

"Ford has been talking a rather prudent approach in China over the past years. But the new car assembly plant is obvious a sign that it is speeding up expansion in a market that is too important to miss," said Huang Zherui, an analyst with CSM Worldwide, a global consultancy.

The U.S. automaker will introduce four new vehicles in China over the next three years, Mulally and other Ford executives said.

When asked about Ford's plans for the sale of its Swedish unit Volvo, Mulally said "We are progressing with our conversation with potential buyers." He declined to name any potential buyers.

Chinese automaker, Geely Group Holdings, China's largest private automaker, has said it is interested in buying Volvo.

Geely executives have said they would like to buy the company, with media reports putting the price tag at around $2.5 billion.

China has been a leading bright spot in the struggling global auto industry as Beijing's stimulus package bolstered consumer confidence.

Many global car makers, from GM to Hyundai Motor Co are either building greenfield plants or teaming up with new partners to ride on the wave of explosive sales growth since April.

Ford's announcement of the new China plant comes two days after it unveiled plans to launch a new small car in India, another fast growing market.

Ford plans to product the Figo beginning early next year, aimed at the India market and for export in the Asia Pacific region.

September 25, 2009

Workers at CAMI Approve New Contract

CAW Local 88 members employed at CAMI in Ingersoll, Ontario have ratified a new contract by nearly two thirds. The ratification meetings were September 20 in London.

Production workers approved the contract by 61 per cent, while Skilled Trades workers ratified the deal by 89 per cent.

“Our members recognized the importance of long term stability, and although no-one wanted these contract changes, I believe stability is what we achieved with this new agreement,” said Mike Van Boekel, CAMI Chairperson.

The new three year agreement is similar to those reached at both Chrysler and General Motors earlier this past spring in that it freezes wages and pensions, trims benefits, introduces a monthly health care contribution and reduces break times. The agreement also reduces the traditional two year lag between CAMI and General Motors and puts in place base wage parity with GM, for the first time ever. Much of the agreement will come into effect in September 2010, following the expiration of the existing agreement.

A crucial part of this agreement was the commitment of a replacement product for the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain in 2014, said CAW President Ken Lewenza. “While these contract changes are difficult for our members, I hope they will help usher in a decade of prosperity for the CAMI facility, which will guarantee good jobs well into the future.”

The union is still in negotiations with Ford Motor Company. As  CONTACT went to press, Ford was still refusing to make a commitment to a manufacturing footprint, as was accomplished at Chrysler, General Motors and now CAMI.

Strike at Lexus Toyota Dealership Ends with First Agreement

Workers at Erin Park Lexus Toyota overwhelmingly ratified their first collective agreement on September 18 ending a nearly two month long strike at the car dealership located in Mississauga, Ontario.

The workers, represented by CAW Local 252, voted 94 per cent in favour of the new deal, which provides substantial wage increases, provisions for guaranteed work hours, new seniority and layoff rules, benefit improvements and a new wage progression for apprentices.

“This first agreement provides a solid foundation for our members moving forward,” said CAW President Ken Lewenza. “These workers fought long and hard to win important contract gains that will improve their standard of living. Our goal now is to keep up the momentum and to continue making progress at the bargaining table in the years to come.”

Despite the success of these talks, this was not an easy round of negotiations, said CAW/Erin Park Lexus Toyota bargaining committee chairperson Tony Sinopoli.

“The employer did everything in their power to stall progress on talks and break our resolve to join the union,” Sinopoli said. “But our members proved that they were determined to reach a fair and equitable deal, and weren’t going to be intimidated.”

The workers set up picket lines on July 23 after talks had broken down, and staged a mass demonstration at Toyota headquarters in Scarborough, Ontario on September 3.  

Retired Workers Keep Up the Fight

More than 170 delegates, spouses and guests took part in the 2009 Retired Workers Council and Conference at the CAW’s Port Elgin Family Education Centre.

Throughout the September 6- to-11 conference, delegates from BC, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec debated 50 resolutions on issues such as pensions, health care, E.I. reform and the environment.

Jenny Ahn, Director of the CAW Retired Workers Department, gave the opening address and thanked the retirees for their participation in the many rallies and fight back campaigns that have been held across the country.
The annual Labour Day parade was a major success with more than 2,000 people marching down the main street of Port Elgin. Former CAW Presidents Bob White and Buzz Hargrove joined the Retired Workers Advisory Executive at the front of the parade, which also attracted participants from Grey Bruce Labour Council affiliates.

After the parade Hargrove delivered the Labour Day message back at the centre during a BBQ lunch. Hargrove talked about the crisis in the auto sector and the need for government action to limit the number of imports coming into Canada.

CAW President Ken Lewenza addressed the delegates and updated them on all of the sectors within the CAW.   He thanked the retirees for their commitment to the union and their respective communities. Now more than ever the retirees will be called upon to support worker fight backs and protect the past gains retirees have made.

CAW health care director Katha Fortier spoke about the CAW Health Care campaigns and introduced the video “CAW Health Care Workers Speak Up!”

The recipient of the 2009 Outstanding Retired Worker of the Year Award was CAW Local 114 member Ernie Bayer. This was the first time the award was presented to a member outside of Ontario.

Taking Stock of Gendered Violence and Women’s Inequality

On the eve of the 20th anniversary of the Montreal Massacre, more than 200 women, teens and children gathered for the annual women’s conference in Port Elgin, Ontario August 30 to September 2.

With the theme of examining the link between violence against women and women’s inequality, women had the opportunity to take part in workshops, “knowledge cafes” (a new concept of informal knowledge sharing workshops pioneered at the Education Conference in August) and listen to guest speakers and panel discussions.

Guest speakers included Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour President Lana Payne and CAW President Ken Lewenza.

In her keynote address on the opening evening of the conference, Payne told delegates that although the work of ending violence is not easy, it is urgent and a fight that can be fought on several different fronts, including in politics. She said that during the recession the World Health Organization estimates that violence against women continues to worsen yet Canadian policy makers and politicians have been silent on this issue.

“This may have something to do with the deplorable lack of women, and I would add feminists, elected to Parliament in Canada. As you know, just 22% of elected MPs are women – about where we were a decade ago,” said Payne.

Julie White, director of CAW Women’s Programs, said that this year’s theme is especially poignant as the 20th anniversary of the Montreal Massacre is quickly approaching and with that we need to take a very critical look at why violence against women continues unrelentingly.

“Today violence against women remains the world’s largest and most persistent human rights violation, and Canada is no exception,” said White. “The federal government estimates that the cost of violence against women at $1.1 billion per year in direct medical costs, rising to $4 billion a year after we factor in costs of criminal justice, social services and lost productivity.”

The conference also introduced the upcoming “20 Days, 20 Ways” Canadian Labour Congress postcard campaign, urging government to take dramatic action to end violence against women. For each day, there is a different issue that needs to be addressed for gendered violence to be stopped. The issues range from funding for shelters, improved pensions, accessibility for women with disabilities and affordable housing to name a few. The campaign will kick off on November 16 in communities across the country.

For more information on the campaign in the coming weeks, please visit: www.caw.ca
To read Lana Payne’s full speech, please visit: http://www.caw.ca/en/7813.htm

Building a Stronger Canadian Shipbuilding Industry

Federal government naval and coastguard procurement requirements of up to $50 billion over the next 30 years will provide direct stimulus for the Canadian shipbuilding and marine industry.

This recommitment to the Canadian industry has the full support of the CAW/MWF, states a recent CAW/Marine Workers Federation submission to a multistakeholder Shipbuilding Consultation process.

But CAW Atlantic area director Les Holloway says the CAW, industry and other stakeholders must work closely to consider how to move ahead with the tendering process in selecting the appropriate shipyards to build and refit the required ships.

“The process in determining the build and repair/refit yards is one that has to be inclusive of all shipyards with expressed interest and those unions representing the workers,” said Holloway.
In addition, Transport Canada must ensure that federal and provincial governments use Canadian made ferries and stop leasing and/or buying vessels from other countries, Holloway said.

The Canadian shipbuilding industry has faced years of neglect due to lack of government procurement and policy initiatives that would allow the industry to compete fairly for our own domestic shipbuilding needs. Ensuring the Canadian industry has work that will sustain it will encourage the industry to invest, Holloway said.

To ensure the Canadian industry can compete for our own domestic, commercial shipbuilding needs requires the federal government to enact policies that provide the industry with the ability to compete on a level playing field with other nations.

“A critical issue in developing a viable and sustainable shipbuilding industry is to ensure that Canada’s shipbuilding industry can compete for our own domestic commercial shipbuilding needs, which the federal government has yet to act on, but must,” said Karl Risser, president the CAW Marine Council and president of CAW/MWF Local 1. 

Cross Country Support for Striking Zellers Workers

CAW members from B.C.'s lower mainland came out to support striking Scarborough, Ontario Zellers workers in a rally at the local Zellers warehouse in B.C. on September 17. The rally was part of a number of simultaneous demonstrations that took place in Toronto, Pointe Claire, Quebec and B.C., demanding that Zellers parent company HBC get back to the bargaining table to negotiate a fair deal. The Zellers distribution centre workers in Scarborough, Ontario have been on strike since July 16.
"Hopefully our solidarity will give a boost to our brothers and sisters in Scarborough and will show the company that this is a national campaign and get them back to the table," said Susan Spratt, B.C. area director.
New Agreement at Transport Company Buckley Cartage

CAW Local 4268 members at Buckley Cartage based in Mississauga, Ontario have ratified by 80 per cent a new three-year collective agreement.

“It was a difficult time to be in bargaining as freight volumes have dropped and everything is extremely competitive in the transportation sector right now,” said CAW national representative Len Poirier.

The agreement includes basic wage increases of two per cent in both the second and third years of the collective agreement. As well, there are slight gains in pension contributions in each year of the agreement.

The agreement provides some short term modifications in hours of work to increase flexibility of scheduling in years one and two.

“It was clear we did not want to be in a position of modifying our hourly wage or rolling back anything in our benefit package,” said Local 4268 President Russ Lucking.

The CAW represents 50 transport drivers at Buckley Cartage, who ratified the new agreement on September 12.
Tweet, Tweet! Picket line support needed for blockade . . .

Ever wish you could get CAW News updates as they happen? Now you can! The CAW has joined Twitter. Look for CAWCommunicate at: www.twitter.com

New Members
► Aeroplan; Montreal, Quebec – 600 new members in Local 2002;

► Beachcomber Hot Tubs, Surrey, BC – 125 new members in Local 114;

► Victorian Order of Nurses for Canada, Thunder Bay, Ontario – 3 new members in Local 229;


To find out how you can support striking Zellers distribution centre workers, pleas visit http://www.caw.ca/en/7689.htm


Ford seeks to buy time
on pension shortfall

Asks for 10 years, not 5, to pay $1.8 billion deficit

Sep 24, 2009 04:30 AM
Tony Van Alphen
Business Reporter

Ford says it won't ask the Ontario government for help to address a pension shortfall, but the automaker wants to ease the burden by funding the deficit over a decade instead of five years.

The company confirmed yesterday that it has sent letters to employees, retirees and surviving spouses in two plans seeking permission for the relief under Ontario pension law so it can deal with a shortfall of about $1.8 billion.

It is also pushing the Canadian Auto Workers for contract changes that hourly-rated employees have accepted at General Motors and Chrysler to reduce pressure on their plans. There has been little progress in negotiations.

GM and Chrysler have received more than $14 billion in rescue packages from the federal and Ontario governments. GM used about $4 million of provincial money to keep two plans afloat.

The Ontario government recently introduced new regulations to pension legislation that allow firms to fund a deficit over 10 years rather than five. Companies can get the extension if less than a third of plan members object in each group of workers and retirees.

Ford has sent letters advising members and former members of the plan that it would like to participate in the solvency relief under the new regulations.

Industry experts say they expect many other companies to apply for the relief because of increasing deficits since the huge decline in investment values during 2008.

Spokeswoman Lauren More said Ford remains in full compliance with its obligations under the Ontario Pension Benefits Act.

Ford has 6,000 workers, retirees and surviving spouses in one plan and 22,000 in another for unionized workers and beneficiaries.


St. Thomas plant's future in doubt

With no plans for new Ford models `it doesn't look good,' Lewenza says

Sep 24, 2009 04:30 AM
Tony Van Alphen
Business Reporter

Hopes are fading that Ford will keep its sputtering assembly plant in St.Thomas open and avert job losses for about 1,500 workers in 2011, their union leader says.

Ken Lewenza, president of the Canadian Auto Workers, said yesterday Ford has no new models on the drawing board that it would build in St.Thomas and the only chance of survival would be the temporary extension of production of two aging full-size passenger cars and a Lincoln luxury vehicle.

"It certainly doesn't look good but we're going to keep trying and we're not giving up," Lewenza said in an interview. "We're going to keep pushing. A lot can happen between now and then."

Ford has also told the union that the company has excess production capacity in the U.S. that is easier and more efficient to fill than the St.Thomas plant.

But Lewenza noted Ford has had some success in the past year and if that continues, the company may need more production capacity.

"We also think they need to do more due diligence on finding a solution for St.Thomas," he added.

Ford reiterated its position of no future production plans for the St.Thomas plant during recent talks with the union. The company is seeking concessions that would match similar cuts earlier this year at General Motors and Chrysler.

The union has said GM and Chrysler made future commitments for production in exchange for the concessions, and it wants similar assurances from Ford.

CAW insiders say the issue of product commitments is a tricky one for the union because without them, workers in St.Thomas would have no reason to vote for concessions and changes to their contract, which expires in 2011.

The St.Thomas plant, which opened in 1967, employs about 1,500 workers who assemble the Ford Crown Victoria and Mercury Grand Marquis models and the luxury Lincoln Town Car vehicle on one shift.


Fusion shows the progress
Ford has made
Ford Fusion

Although four-cylinder family sedan is not the fuel economy leader in its class, it comes at a brilliant price, feature for feature


Globe and Mail Thursday, Sep. 24, 2009

Ford is betting its future on what company types like to call a "rally around fuel economy."

Ford and fuel economy? This from the auto maker that made the fuel-swilling Explorer and Expedition household SUV names in the 1990s? Apparently, leopards can change their spots.

A key to Ford's bid to become an industry leader in fuel efficiency is the 2010 Fusion mid-size sedan.

The updated Fusion went on sale earlier this year and since then sales have been seriously on the upswing. Yes, Ford has been pushing some Fusions into fleets to drive up the numbers. Nonetheless, overall Fusion sales spiked 48 per cent in July in Canada. Ford Canada was also the top-selling auto maker in the country in June and July, although it slipped to second place in August.The point is, Canadians are buying Fords as they turn away from other brands, namely Ford's Detroit-based rivals.

The fuel economy piece is really all about long-term growth, not merely marketing spin or a tactic to - in Survivor-speak - outwit, outsmart and outplay General Motors and Chrysler. Ford officials really want to take on Toyota and Honda where they live.

And that means going after leadership in fuel economy, reliability, durability and safety. To be successful, says Derrick Kuzak, Ford vice-president of global product development, the 2010 Fusion must beat the competition in every important way.

Fuel economy is part of that, but so is everything else. Ford's promise is that its cars will sip fuel with the best of them and they will not break down. You'll like driving Fords more than Toyotas and Hondas and Chevys, too. And you'll be safe.

If you believe the research from the likes of Consumer Reports and J.D. Power and Associates and others, Ford has clearly turned the corner on quality. The vast majority of its vehicles are "recommended" picks by CR. J.D. Power's long-term dependability study also ranks Ford above average.

The U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says Ford has more Top Safety Picks than any other manufacturer, too. However, the 2010 Fusion, the least expensive four-cylinder version listed at $22,799, is not as fuel-efficient as the 2010 Toyota Camry four-banger ($24,900 base) nor the base four-cylinder 2009 Honda Accord ($25,290).

The 175-hp Fusion is more powerful than the 169-hp Camry, but a hair behind the Accord at 177 hp. Truly, the differences in horsepower and fuel economy among these three front-drive sedans are pretty insignificant. Nonetheless, Ford needs to do a bit more rallying around economy at the fuel pump if it wants to own mid-size cars.

Then there is the matter of residual values or resale value. Ford vehicles are ranked below average among mainstream brands. Four-year-old Fords hold on average 32.6 per cent of their original value, while Honda is No. 1 at 40.4 per cent and Toyota is No. 2 at 39.4 per cent.

Obviously there is work yet to be done at Ford. But at the very least the 2010 Fusion shows how much progress Ford has made in just the last 2½ years. Products - cars in particular - clearly now matter.

For the record, Ford offers three different engines with the 2010 Fusion and all-wheel-drive is also available, unlike all the competition save the Subaru Legacy.

The performance Fusion is the Sport with its 263-hp, 3.5-litre V-6. There is also a 3.0-litre V-6 (240 hp), but it's the least desirable among this power plant trio. Seven out of 10 Canadians, perhaps more, are most likely to get the four-banger and it's a solid choice.

In all the Fusions, Ford has reduced wind and road noise, improved ride and handling and reduced body roll. The four-cylinder and 3.0-litre V-6 versions have electronic power-assisted steering. This shrinks the turning radius and helps fuel economy. Steering feel isn't bad, either, especially for electric steering. It's not heavy nor is it numb.

The six-speed manual transmission had a precise and easy motion, while the automatic was smooth and quick. Brake feel is solid, also.

The car looks pretty good, too, though the design changes are not dramatic; this Fusion is clearly recognizable as the successor to the old one.

Ford restyled the Fusion's front end in search of a sportier look and improved aerodynamics. All the exterior sheet metal, except for the roof and doors, was changed, though not dramatically. I like it, though a more striking design would grab more eyeballs.

The cabin strives for a high-tech look. What is most obvious is the quality of the materials, the graining and colour-matching of the plastics and the overall tight fit of all the pieces.

Every interior surface is now covered in high-quality soft-touch materials. Tasteful, lighter-coloured accents dress things up. On top of that, there is nothing confusing here, no oddball electronic controllers to mystify and frustrate you.

The seats aren't bad at all, either. The padding is good enough, though with all Detroit-based models I'd argue for firmer foam. Sit in a mainstream Volkswagen and you'll know exactly where Ford needs to go. At the very rear, trunk space is adequate, though the rear opening could be wider.

New features for 2010 range from the latest-generation Sync system Ford developed with Microsoft. This gizmo works as advertised. It delivers hands-free control of mobile phones, iPods and other audio knick-knacks. You'll want this now that many Canadian provinces, including Ontario, are banning the use of hand-held mobile phones.

On top of that, Ford has added a voice-controlled navigation system that functions as well as what most luxury brands offer. The Fusion also now offers blind-spot alert and an ultrasonic rear parking assist. Huh? This goodie peeks around the corner when you back out of a parking space to warn of oncoming cross traffic.

The original Fusion went on sale about three years ago and since then it has always been among the best-handling family sedans. The Camry, by comparison, feels heavy and sluggish. The ride is comfy even when the roads are lumpy and the handling comes close to being downright entertaining.

Most of all, keep in mind that the Fusion has a price advantage over the Camrys and Accords of the world.

So even though the four-cylinder Fusion is not the fuel economy leader in its class of base four-banger family sedans, it comes at a brilliant price, feature for feature. Ford's in the game now, no question.



Type: Mid-size family sedan

Base price: $22,799

Engine: 2.5-litre, inline-four-cylinder


175 hp/172 lb-ft

Transmission: Six-speed manual or six-speed automatic ($1,200)

Drive: Front-wheel-drive

Fuel economy (litres/100 km):

9.4 city/6.9 highway; regular gas

Alternatives: Honda Accord, Mitsubishi Gallant, Subaru Legacy, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Magentis, Volkswagen Passat, Chevrolet Malibu, Saturn Aura, Nissan Altima, Dodge Avenger, Chrysler Sebring, Mazda6, Toyota Camry



Excellent Sync system makes for hands-free use of cell phones and vehicle systems

Among the more fun-to-drive mainstream family cars

Cabin design and materials are first-rate

Ford's drive to deliver safe and reliable vehicles is reflected positively in the consumer research


Don't like

Despite all the fuel-economy cheerleading, rival cars still nip the Fusion at the pump

Ford's below-average residual values

Rear trunk opening could be bigger


CAW breaks off Ford
talks over plant closure
A line of Ford trucks at a dealership is shown in this file photo. The St. Thomas Ford plant, which opened in 1967 and employs 1,500, is slated to close in 2011.

Decision would throw more than 1,500 out of work in St. Thomas

Sep 23, 2009 12:17 PM
Tony Van Alphen
Business Reporter

The union representing Ford workers says contract talks have been broken off due to Ford's unwillingness to keep a southern Ontario plant open.

The Canadian Auto Workers has asked Ford to maintain its manufacturing footprint in Canada, in exchange for concessions from workers.

But Ford says it has no plans to manufacture vehicles at its St. Thomas plant beyond 2011.

Ford has asked the CAW for similar concessions to those the union gave Chrysler and General Motors earlier this year. The company says the concessions will allow it to cut costs and remain competitive.

Ford remains firm the company will close its sputtering St.Thomas plant and hopes are fading that workers can reverse the plan, says their union leader.

"If we make sacrifices, St.Thomas somehow has to be part of the solution," said Ken Lewenza, CAW president.

Lewenza said today Ford has no new models on the drawing board it can build in St.Thomas and the only hope is temporarily extending the lifeline of aging full-size passenger cars and a Lincoln luxury vehicle again at the operation.

"It certainly doesn't look good but we're going to keep trying and we're not giving up," Lewenza said in an interview. "We're going to keep pushing. A lot can happen between now and then."

Lewenza noted Ford has experienced some success in the last year and that if it continues, the company may need more production capacity.

"We also think they need to do more due dilligence on finding a solution for St.Thomas," he said.

The plant, which opened in 1967, employs about 1,500 workers on one shift. It has dodged several closure announcements by Ford in recent years as the company shuts down operations because of declining market share in North America.

Ford has shown signs of reversing that course but it still has excess capacity in the U.S.

With files from The Canadian Press


Massive pension shortfall hits Ford

Ford employees work on an assembly line in Oakville, Ont. Simon Hayter/Getty Images

Greg Keenan

Globe and Mail Sep. 23, 2009

Ford Motor Co. of Canada Ltd. is facing a $1.8-billion shortfall in its pension plan – a demonstration that the healthiest of the Detroit Three auto makers in Canada has been unable to avoid one of the biggest financial problems that caused its closest competitors to seek government financial help.

While Ford and its parent Ford Motor Co. did not seek a bailout by taxpayers in either Canada or the United States, the Oakville, Ont.-based company wants the Canadian Auto Workers union to provide it with the same pension relief it gave to the Canadian units of General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC.

“Prudent management of Ford's pension plans is important to the future success of Ford in Canada and cash conservation is more important than ever,” Ford said in a letter to employees and retirees.

The pension plan held assets of $2.91-billion as of Dec. 31, 2008, which would cover just 62 per cent of the liabilities if the plan were wound up, the letter said. Those figures mean the liabilities in the plan are about $4.7-billion.

While rising stock markets will help shrink the deficit, the pension shortfalls faced by Ford and many other industrial companies highlight a risk to the recovery in the manufacturing sector – the cash drain of paying benefits to a big contingent of older and retired workers.

Ford wants to take advantage of a change in Ontario law that extends the period for addressing shortfalls to 10 years from five, but can't do so without approval of two-thirds of employees and retirees.

“We've talked about it in bargaining,” CAW president Ken Lewenza said in an interview.

The pension issue is now part of overall contract negotiations between the union and Ford, whose parent stayed out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, unlike the parents of Chrysler Canada Inc. and General Motors of Canada Ltd.

The federal and Ontario governments contributed about $14-billion to those two auto makers to help keep them afloat and guarantee that some jobs and vehicle production would stay in Canada.

The Ford pension shortfall was identified in a valuation of the plan done on Dec. 31, 2008, which was at the end of a year when pension assets were shredded by the collapse in global stock markets amid the credit crisis and the failure of large Wall Street investment houses.

Ford described the windup of the plan as unlikely.

“It's important to note that Ford of Canada's pension plans are funded in compliance with the Ontario Pension Benefits Act,” spokeswoman Lauren More said Tuesday.

The changes to the pension are among several concessions Ford is seeking in its talks with the union, arguing that its manufacturing operations in Canada won't be competitive with Chrysler and GM if it isn't granted the same deal.

The deal made with Chrysler and GM and now being sought by Ford requires new employees to contribute $1 an hour for every hour worked to their own pensions, the first direct contributions auto workers will make to their own pensions. The contributions amount to about $1,600 a year based on about 1,600 hours of work at auto makers' plants annually.

It's unlikely the CAW will urge its members to oppose stretching payments to 10 years, Mr. Lewenza said.

But the union insists Ford commit to maintaining 13 per cent of its North American production in Canada, similar to commitments Chrysler and GM made to keep about 20 and 15 per cent, respectively, of their production here. So far, Ford has refused to agree to that demand, Mr. Lewenza said. Such a commitment by Ford would require it to keep open its plant in St. Thomas, Ont., which has no new vehicles to replace the gas-guzzling, full-sized sedans that are scheduled to go out of production in 2011.

While Ford and the union debate the pension issue, GM Canada contributed $4-billion to its pension plans on Sept. 2. GM's plans had a shortfall of $4.5-billion as of November, 2007, before the stock market collapse. The auto maker will also make five annual payments of $200-million, beginning later this month.

The contributions will significantly improve the funded status of the plans, GM Canada spokesman Stew Low said Tuesday. “Given market volatility, it is difficult to accurately predict future funded levels,” Mr. Low said. “However, GM Canada has committed to fund the plans on a solvency basis like other Ontario companies.”


Ford to produce small car in India
Ford Figo (Ford)

September 23, 2009
Alisa Priddle / The Detroit News

Ford Motor Co. Chief Executive Alan Mulally is expected to announce in India today that the automaker will build a new small car there, the Ford Figo, for sale in India and for export within the Asia-Pacific region and to Africa.

On Friday, Mulally will be in China to break ground for Ford's third factory in that country.

The moves reflect Ford's growing commitment to two of the fastest-growing auto markets.

Ford had said it would build a new small car in India, but had not identified the model. The Figo, a four-door hatchback, will be built in Ford facilities near Chennai. A $500 million expansion to support the Figo doubled capacity to 200,000 annually and added engine-building capability.

India will be the sole source of the Figo. Ford already builds the Ford Ikon there, the Fusion (a smaller hatchback designed for India), the previous-generation Fiesta and the Endeavor SUV, plus diesel engines for the vehicles.

Ford of India was established as a joint venture with Mahindra & Mahindra in 1995 to build the Ford Escort. Ford wants to establish the Chennai plant as a regional center of excellence for small-car engineering and production. Small cars represent 70 percent of auto sales in India, which is marked by congested urban driving conditions.

The Ford Figo "shows how serious we are about India," Mulally said in a statement. "It reflects our commitment to compete with great products in all segments of this car market."

The Figo shares some underpinnings with the Fiesta, but is slightly smaller, said Ford spokesman Todd Nissen. Although the Figo's design was to be unveiled in Delhi today, Ford is keeping many details under wraps until closer to the car's production launch early next year. One detail being shared: Figo means "cool" in colloquial Italian.

The Chennai plant introduces green techniques such as a new paint process that applies primer, base and clear coats without curing until the end, reducing emissions by about 20 percent.

A second engine plant is under construction to build gasoline and diesel engines for vehicles sold in India, Asia Pacific and Africa. Production will begin later this year, giving Chennai the capacity to build 250,000 engines annually.



Clement praises autoworkers for wage, pension concessions

Sep 22, 2009
Richard J. Brennan

OTTAWA – Industry Minister Tony Clement is praising autoworkers for helping make Canada's struggling auto industry more competitive.

Clement's comments come after workers at Ingersoll's CAMI plant — a joint venture between GM and Suzuki Motor Co. — agreed to freeze their wages for four years and their pensions for almost eight years.

"The (Canadian Auto Workers union) has come to the table and has made meaningful concessions and it will allow these plants to be cost-competitive. You've got to give credit where it is due, because it is always tough to either freeze (wages) or take away benefits," he told the Toronto Star today.

It's a far cry from the criticism levelled at autoworkers by the Conservative government when GM and Chrysler appeared on the verge of bankruptcy this spring. (The parents of both companies went into bankruptcy protection in the U.S.)

Clement said Ottawa and Ontario made it clear from the outset in this country's $3.3 billion auto-bailout package that wages had to come down so the companies could compete with foreign-based competitors such as Toyota and Honda.

CAW President Ken Lewenza said it's nice to hear but he's not sure Clement is being honest in his praise.

"I don't think he means it," he said, adding that wages were never the issue when it came to the viability of the two companies.

"We have proven to them (the federal government) that you could actually work for nothing and the situation would have been the same," he said.

More than 2,500 workers make the popular Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain crossover vehicles at the CAMI plant. The company will recall about 350 laid-off workers and start a third shift next month.

Assembly line technicians earn $34.20 an hour, including a cost-of-living allowance, while trades people receive $40.30. That has put them at the same level as GM workers for the first time. However, wages and benefits are still somewhat higher than those at Honda or Toyota.

"The wage deals that came out of the government of Canada rescue plan definitely are enough to get that cost competitiveness ... in place," Clement said, noting that the CAMI plant is simply coming in line with the other GM plants.

NDP Leader Jack Layton said Clement's underlying message is "that the workers were somehow responsible when the companies simply refused to change tack and produce the kind of more green efficient cars that people wanted."

Layton said governments and corporations have wrongly tried to lay the recession at the feet of Canada's workers and "some corporations have actually taken advantage of the recession to squeeze the middle class."

Clement said management at the two companies must continue to do its part.

"The companies have cut several layers of management and have capped senior management compensation. This, too, is necessary to restore the companies' fortunes," he told the Star.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Stephen Harper today announced in Guelph up to $54.8 million in repayable loans to auto parts manufacturer Linamar Corp. for its green and fuel-efficient powertrain projects.

The projects will develop and market a wide range of engines, transmissions and drive trains with less weight and higher quality.



CAMI workers back pay,
pension freeze
The CAMI assembly plant in Ingersoll: 350 laid-off workers will be recalled at the booming plant and a third shift begins in October 2009.

64% in Ingersoll say yes to concessions in new
contract that guarantees production for years

Sep 21, 2009 04:30 AM
Tony Van Alphen
Business Reporter

Workers at the booming CAMI auto assembly plant in Ingersoll have accepted a new contract that will freeze wages for almost four years and pensions for eight years but assure production until late into the next decade.

Sixty-four per cent of members of Canadian Auto Workers Local 88 voted yesterday in favour of some concessions to their current contract that expires in 2010 and a new deal that will contain other changes until the fall of 2013 and beyond for retirees.

Union leaders said the freeze on wage and pension increases and several other cuts are similar to concessions that workers at General Motors of Canada accepted earlier this year in a shorter-term deal.

But CAW national president Ken Lewenza and Local 88 plant chairman Mike Van Boekel stressed that workers retained their current wages and pensions and commitments from the company for new models in 2014.

"That provides Local 88 members with a degree of job security that most other auto workers in North America can only dream of," said Lewenza.

"Our members recognized the importance of long-term stability, and although no-one wanted these contract changes, I believe stability is what we achieved with this new agreement," added Van Boekel.

CAW members at North American-based automakers usually ratify contracts by higher margins but union officials said the plant's recent jump in output and reinstatement of full salaries to GM staff triggered strong opposition.

About 2,500 workers currently produce the hot-selling Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain crossover vehicles at the plant, a joint venture between GM and Suzuki Motor Co. The company will recall about 350 laid-off workers and start a third shift next month.

Assembly line technicians earn $34.20 an hour including a cost of living allowance, while trades people receive $40.30. That has put them at the same level as GM workers for the first time.

However CAMI wage rates will remain frozen until 2013. Cost of living allowance payments to protect workers against inflation will resume in June 2012.

Retirees will get an increase next month but then won't receive any improvements, including inflation protection, until 2017 as GM works to reduce a massive pension deficit. Any new workers will also contribute $1 an hour in wages to their pension plan.

Those CAMI workers, like any new GM employees, will start at about 70 per cent of full pay and receive annual increases of 5 per cent so they achieve top rates in six years.

Under the current practice at CAMI, they get 85 per cent and move up to full pay in two years.

The new deal will reduce some benefits to workers and retirees, such as prescription drugs and hospital coverage, during the next two years.

It will also introduce a monthly health-care fee of $30 for workers and young retirees and a $15 cost for pensioners over 65.

In 2011, workers will lose the equivalent of two weeks in time off the job.

Tuition refunds and some other benefits will also disappear. Rest periods will also decline next month from 46 minutes a shift to 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, the CAW and Ford Motor Co. of Canada are still trying to negotiate revisions to lower labour costs in an existing contract that would match earlier concession deals at struggling GM and Chrysler.

The two sides exchanged extensive information last week and the union will likely respond during the next few days.

Ford is pushing for labour concessions similar to those GM and Chrysler gained earlier this year, but the union is insisting on the future production assurances that the two rivals provided in exchange.

The union wants to save a sputtering Ford assembly plant in St. Thomas that has no production schedule beyond 2011 and gain more work at engine operations in Windsor.


Lincoln MKS ignites commute
Lincoln MKS

Scott Burgess - Det News
September 19, 2009

I love the band Cracker (most of whom first played in Camper Van Beethoven for those in the know).

I use their greatest hits album to test stereos in cars: Who wouldn't want to ride the "Big Dipper" and lose some "Teen Angst" during a single commute to downtown Detroit?

The 2010 Lincoln MKS with the its premium THX stereo and deathly silent interior makes for the perfect listening room. I know a car's stereo is good if I can hear the rasp in David Lowery's cigarette- and carrot juice-tuned voice.

And now, the MKS comes with the 3.5-liter direct-injection twin turbocharged V-6, a 355-horsepower engine that blows the doors off the average V-8.

During a week of testing a nicely loaded MKS, I noticed my commute to work kept taking less time, though the trip never got any shorter.

Somewhere between finding the zone with the music and driving, I was shaving minutes off of my daily drive. Certain songs can do that to a driver: Try going slow while listening to Cracker's "Been Around the World" or the B52's "Planet Claire."

I'm lucky I didn't jump the River Rouge.

Maybe EcoBoost, the name Ford gave its turbocharged engine lineup, was designed to save people time instead of money. (Though the all-wheel drive EcoBoost MKS provides better gas mileage than the front-wheel drive MKS with the larger 3.7-liter naturally aspirated V-6. Go figure.)

But that's the fun of the MKS. The ride feels a little heavy compared with many sport sedans, but this Lincoln was created as a family-hauling flagship, not a hill-carving sports sedan. However, between the suspension and the electric power steering (a trick carmakers use to boost gas mileage but Ford uses to help the car park itself), the MKS handles the power under the hood very well.

Full of surprises

The ride is more luxurious than sporty, but I don't imagine most MKS customers line up at a dealership because they want to spend their weekends at Milan Dragway. But if they get this particular Lincoln, they may end up winning a few of their neighbors' pink slips.

It can sneak up on any car with its sleeper looks. The front end, complete with the big vertical grille and sweeping head lights, gives it a regal look, but not a fast one. Many people would underestimate it. Then when they see the EcoBoost badges on it, they'd assume it has a little four-cylinder with a CVT instead of the twin turbos and a six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters.

While the paddle shifters work great, allowing you to push the engine's rpm, Lincoln could have spent a few more dollars to make them out of metal instead of plastic. Better yet, Lincoln should have mounted them on the steering column instead of the steering wheel.

But the transmission, whether operated manually or left in automatic mode, never has a problem finding the exact gear nearly instantaneously to respond to your needs. On the highway, the MKS transforms from sedate sedan to fire-breathing passer in seconds. Hit the gas, feel it fly.

Sync keeps growing

Then turn up the stereo. The THX II premium stereo will let you blast all 14 speakers so clear you'll want to bump up the volume just a little bit more.

Of course, the stereo is tied to Ford's Sync system, which continues to grow in features and capabilities. It includes Bluetooth connectivity to your phone (and downloads your phone book), and allows for easy voice recognition at the touch of a button. The system also will read your iPhone, iPod, Zune and just about any other music player (and let you operate it with your voice). Simple, easy and exact, the way an infotainment system should be.

This year Sync added turn-by-turn directions, personalized traffic reports and updated information, such as sports scores, business listings and weather. The system's Sirius Travel Link also keeps you connected to movie theaters, gas stations and other places. For example, if you're searching for a gas station, Travel Link can tell you where the gas stations are, how much gas will cost at each station and then give you directions to the one you select. Try that on your PDA.

Lincoln also added Active Park Assist to the MKS, which lets the car parallel park for you, and it works extremely well. It uses ultrasonic sensors to measure out the space and move quickly into the space without nudging the vehicles in front or behind it. (A nudge override button might be handy in some cities such as New York or Chicago, though owners of other cars might disagree.)

There are loads of other premium features such as adaptive cruise control (it adjusts the car's speed to the traffic ahead of it) and the Collision Warning with Brake Support. This system actually helped me avoid an accident.

Once, I dropped my phone and was trying to pick it up while cruising down the road. My eyes were off the road only for a second, but the car in front of me slowed down and I didn't know it.

The stereo volume instantly shut off and a loud beep sounded. It makes you almost instantly touch the brake -- which were already charged and ready. A bright red line appears on the windshield as an additional warning as if to scold you to not do that again.

It works so well, I wouldn't be surprised to see a lot more carmakers include it or the federal government require it.

While I would like to assume my cat-like reflexes and driving skills would have helped prevent an accident and that I don't need a warning system, I can say it doesn't hurt. It's not obtrusive and it's nice to know the MKS was looking out for me, even when I wasn't.

Pricey package

Now, all of this technology does come with a price, and the MKS has a steep one. The 2010 Lincoln MKS with EcoBoost starts at $47,460, and my test model, which included a dual-panel moon roof, the EocBoost appearance package, active park assist and adaptive cruise control, had a sticker price of $56,920. That figure would make me think twice about buying this car, especially if I could by the 2010 Taurus SHO with the same engine for a lot less. Furthermore, some serious imports, such as the Audi A6, are priced lower (though it may not have the twin turbos).

But all those tools on the MKS do make it easy and fun to drive. And the EcoBoost engine is a phenomenal piece of engineering that can ignite a daily commute and leave you sitting at work a few minutes earlier than you'd expect.

That just means you have a few more minutes to sit in the parking lot and turn up the volume and feel like royalty wrapped in leather.

Then all you have to do is hit the command button on the steering wheel, wait for Sync to respond with "USB, bing" and say the following: "Play track, I Want Everything."


    2010 Lincoln MKS

    Type: Five-passenger, large sedan with front-wheel or all-wheel drive
    Price: $47,460
    Engine :
    3.7-liter V-6
    3.5-liter direct-injection twin turbocharged V-6
    3.7-liter: 273 hp
    3.5-liter: 355 hp
    3.7-liter: 270 pound-feet
    3.5-liter: 350 pound-feet
    Recommended fuel: 87 octane
    EPA gas mileage:
    3.7-liter (FWD): 17 mpg city / 24 mpg highway
    3.5-liter (AWD): 17 mpg city / 25 mpg highway
    Transmission: Six-speed with manual override
    Front: MacPherson strut and rear-facing L-shaped lower control arm with isolated sub-frame and 26 mm stabilizer bar
    Rear: Independent multi-link suspension coil-over shocks; stamped steel lower control arm and cast upper control arm
    Power rack and pinion (electric power steering on Ecoboost models)
    Steering column: Power tilt/telescope
    Turning circle: 39.1 feet
    Wheels: 18-inch to 20 inch
    Dimensions (inches):
    Wheelbase: 112.9
    Length: 204.1
    Width: 75.9
    Height: 61.6
    Curb weight : 4,127 pounds
    Interior dimensions (inches)
    Headroom: 39.7/38.5
    Legroom: 41.9/38.6
    Shoulder room: 58.6/57.4
    Hip room: 55.3/55.3
    Trunk space : 18.7 cubic feet
    Towing capacity : 1,000 pounds




Hot-selling Escape helps
Ford set records
You can probably still find a few '09 models left at the dealerships as the new '10 models roll in

Petrina Gentile

Friday, Sep. 18, 2009

There's more good news at Ford: For a third straight month, Ford marked record sales growth in Canada. Vehicle sales in August increased 7 per cent compared with August of last year.

The brand's success rides on new products such as the Taurus and Fusion as well as existing best sellers like the Escape.

Introduced in 2001, the Escape is still a hot commodity. For 2010, the Escape family grows with the addition of a new Escape Hybrid Limited, available in 4x4 or 4x2 models. There's also a new 3.0-litre V-6 Flex Fuel engine that delivers 240 hp and 223 lb-ft of torque. A blind-spot mirror is standard while a rear-view camera and auto park system are also available for 2010.

For 2009, you can get an Escape XLT front-wheel-drive base trim for $23,999. The most expensive is the Limited 4WD model for $34,895. My tester is a 2009 Escape XLT 4WD, which starts at $27,499. But when you add extras like a power moon roof ($1,200), 17-inch chrome-clad wheels ($650) and a navigation system ($3,150), the price jumps to $36,429.

Under the hood of the XLT 4WD is a 2.5-litre, inline-four-cylinder engine that delivers 171 hp and 171 lb-ft of torque - it replaces last year's 2.3-litre engine.

Mated to the engine is a six-speed automatic transmission - which is a big improvement. On the up-shifts and downshifts, it's smooth and snappy.

I also prefer the fuel savings of the inline-four over the 3.0-litre V-6 engine. My Escape I-4 4WD tester is rated 10.9 litres/100 km in the city and 7.9 highway. The V-6 gets 12.1 city/8.3 highway. If you want better savings, splurge on the Escape Hybrid FWD - it is rated at 5.8 city/6.4 highway; the Hybrid AWD is 7.0 city/7.4 highway. But the Hybrid will cost you more - $32,399 for the FWD and $34,799 for the 4WD. The Ford Escape Hybrid also won the 2009 ecoEnergy award for Most Fuel Efficient Special Purpose vehicle by Natural Resources Canada. All trims take regular fuel.

The Escape's compact size makes it easy to drive and park. It feels like you're behind the wheel of a car. And the step-in is low to the ground so entering the cabin is easy.

Its road manners and ride quality are pleasant. But under hard acceleration, especially when passing slower-moving vehicles or merging onto the highway, the engine noise from the I-4 whines heavily. Wind and road noise are also noticeable.

The 4WD system provides great traction on rain-slicked roads. And the windshield wipers as well as the fluid cover the entire windshield when sprayed, providing excellent outward visibility.

From the outside, the Escape is plain and conservative, yet attractive. There's nothing dramatic or innovative about its design. For 2010, a few new colours will be added: gold leaf metallic, ingot silver metallic and steel blue metallic. Light sage metallic, brilliant silver metallic and light ice blue metallic will no longer be available.

The interior is roomy, but there's a lot of hard plastic in the cabin. The dashboard layout is functional and intuitive - everything is within the driver's reach. But some functions for the audio require multiple steps, but redundant audio controls simplify the task.



Volume 39, No. 31 – September 18, 2009

Harper’s New EI Plan is “Crumbs” for the Unemployed, CAW President says

The Harper government’s new EI plan provides crumbs to unemployed Canadians at a time when they are in need of a full loaf of bread, said CAW President Ken Lewenza. 

Lewenza was reacting to the Harper government’s proposal for EI reform released earlier this week and slated to be introduced in Parliament September 16.

The government’s proposal for additional weeks of EI for longer service workers will not help the vast majority of the country’s 1.6 million unemployed, including many CAW members, Lewenza said. Currently, only half of those people are receiving EI benefits.

Under the plan, workers who have received more than 35 weeks of EI over the past five years would not receive additional EI benefits.  “That’s discriminatory,” said Lewenza. “It’s no easier for someone who was previously laid off for 40 weeks to find a job than someone who was laid off for 20 weeks. When you’re unemployed, you’re unemployed.”

Lewenza also said that the Harper government’s plan is only temporary. 

“We need genuine reforms that fix the EI Hours System so that more workers qualify for benefits and those who do qualify get benefits for a longer period of time, at a decent benefit rate. The measures introduced by the Harper government won’t do that.”

The CAW action centres for laid off workers are reporting that existing EI programs for long tenured workers introduced earlier this year by the Harper government are not reaching the vast majority of unemployed Canadians.

“There’s no reason to expect these new reforms will work any better,” Lewenza said.

Protest Support for Striking Zellers Workers

CAW members took to the streets again September 17 in downtown Toronto to support striking Zellers distribution centre workers. CAW members, including members of CAW Local 1000 who have been on strike for two months (July 16), handed out leaflets outside the Hudson Bay Company head office (Zellers parent company), at the corner of Bay and Queen Street.

The picket is one of a number of events being held across the country in support of the 300 striking workers, who are employed at the company’s Scarborough warehouse. This will include a picket at the Zellers in Pointe-Claire, Quebec where Zellers distribution centre workers from Scarborough will speak about the ongoing labour dispute.

The CAW is urging HBC to get back to the bargaining table. Talks fell apart in July after the company refused to remove their demands for drastic wage and benefit cuts. There has been little willingness to negotiate since then, said CAW President Ken Lewenza. 

“This workforce is predominantly made up of new Canadians and workers of colour, all of whom who have worked hard to make a living and contributed to the company’s success,” said Lewenza. “It is completely ridiculous to demand that these workers should have to drop their wages by $8 – effective immediately. HBC must get serious about reaching an agreement.”

The strike began exactly one year after HBC was acquired by NRDC, a U.S.-based private equity firm. Prior to the new ownership, there had never been a labour dispute.

CAW Continues Negotiations with Ford, Presses ‘Footprint’

Talks between the CAW and Ford Motor Company continue in downtown Toronto, in an effort to reach an agreement that lowers costs while securing production in Canada. 

CAW President Ken Lewenza voiced his frustration at the lagging pace of negotiations with Ford.

So far, the company has refused to commit to a manufacturing footprint here in Canada which has stalled the negotiations, said Lewenza. This was a critical component of the agreements reached with General Motors and Chrysler this past spring, according to Lewenza. The union is pressing Ford to maintain its current Canadian production levels, as a percentage of its overall North American production.

“If Ford wants the pattern reached with both Chrysler and General Motors, the company must live up to its part of the CAW GM-Chrysler pattern agreement,” said Lewenza. “We are prepared to reach an agreement with Ford that reduces costs here in Canada, but negotiations cannot be one-sided.”

Negotiations began on Tuesday, September 8.
“We cannot get an agreement with Ford without a clear commitment by the company to continue building a fair share of vehicles and engines here in Canada,” said CAW-Ford Master Bargaining Committee Chairperson and Local 200 President Mike Vince.

“Our members at Ford have already suffered through disproportionate job loss as the company aggressively cut its Canadian operations, much earlier than other producers,” said Vince. 

Ford already has the smallest presence of any automaker manufacturing in Canada. It employs 7,400 CAW members in Oakville, St. Thomas, Windsor and the auto parts depot in Brampton with more than 1,000 on indefinite lay-off.

“If Ford closes the St. Thomas assembly plant, which it’s threatening to do, this means employment will fall below 5,000 people. Only four years ago, Ford employed more than 11,600 people,” said Vince.

CAW Employee and Family Assistance Conference

EFAP Conference Delegates:

More than 60 delegates took part in the CAW Employee and Family Assistance Conference Sept. 11 to 13 at the CAW Family Education Centre in Port Elgin, Ontario.

Julie While, CAW Women's Department Director spoke on the CAW Women's' Advocate Program and the CAW campaign to end violence against women. Other presenters included Jason Smith of the Fusion Youth Centre in Ingersoll, Ontario; Bill Baleka on Dual Disorders; Deborah Gatenby, House of Sophrosyne, a residential treatment and specialized resource for women with substance abuse issues, and Tom Gabriel of TRG Counselling Services on Addictions.

The CAW one-day course on the Employee, Family Assistance Program was delivered for new EFAP delegates and was co-facilitated by Rob Langan, CAW Local 444 and Lynne Sanders, CAW Local 2458.

The conference was organized by the CAW Council EFAP committee, which is chaired by Jeff Ramackers, EFAP representative for CAW Local 88.

Lynne Jackson, CAW Council EFAP Committee member and delegate from Mine Mill CAW Local 598, made a special tribute to the work of retiring CAW National Representative Brian McDonagh who served as the staff liaison to the CAW Council EFAP Committee. CAW National Representative Steve Watson has been appointed the new staff liaison to the EFAP Council Committee.

Erosion of Public Transportation in Northern Ontario a Concern

The continued erosion of public transportation is a growing concern in Northern Ontario that threatens to leave communities with reduced or no service at all, the Ontario Northland General Chairpersons’ Association (GCA) says.

Over the past decade the trend of private sector companies as well as Ontario Northland has been to reduce intercity bus and rail service across Northern Ontario, with some communities losing service entirely, said Brian Kelly, GCA spokesperson and president of CAW Local 103.

“Communities like Chapleau, Foleyet, and Manitoulin Island have lost their bus services all together, with the recent Greyhound announcement, many other communities in the north are on the brink of losing their public transportation service,” Kelly said.

Intercity bus and rail services are inexpensive, efficient and convenient and often the only services available to rural areas and small communities, including many First Nations. Rail and bus services are eco friendly and help provide transportation links that also support the tourism industry in the north.

“What Northern Ontario needs is a long term, integrated and socially responsible plan for transportation options in the region to stop this erosion of service,” said Kelly.
He urged northern communities and residents to let the provincial government know that public transportation is a vital service that must be renewed, expanded and protected.

Jazz Air Technical Services Ratify New Agreement, Avoiding Strike

Workers at Jazz Air in the technical services department have ratified a new three year collective agreement. The approximately 900 workers across the country approved the deal by a margin of 61 per cent. The workers are represented by CAW Local 2002. 

The deal was reached on August 30, with voting taking place from September 8 to11.
The new agreement provides a six per cent pay increase over the three years, establishes premium pay for all classifications, an increase in responsibility pay for some classifications, as well as other improvements.

“We are proud of the work of the bargaining committee and what they were able to bargain in these challenging times,” said CAW National President Ken Lewenza. “The new agreement moves everyone forward. This is the first collective agreement bargained and ratified by this membership."

Past settlements with Jazz Air were reached through arbitration or during the CCAA process.

“The bargaining committee and the employer started miles apart but armed with the strong strike mandate of 95 per cent, the CAW was able to move the employer to a position so that all workers made progress,” said Bargaining Committee Chairperson John Murawesky. “I want to thank the bargaining committee for all of the many hours of work that went into reaching this agreement and thank the membership for their support and solidarity throughout this process."

“The gains we have made here were only possible because of the hard work of the bargaining committee and the solidarity of the membership,” CAW National Representative Ron Smith said. “This is an agreement reached between the parties and ratified by the membership -- that's something I am very proud of. Negotiating is a process that involved two parties, you never get everything you set out to attain.”

CAW members in Jazz’s technical services department maintain Jazz Airlines aircraft fleet, including line operations at major Canadian airports such as Halifax, Montreal, Quebec City, Ottawa, Toronto, London, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver and as well as heavy overhaul in London and Halifax.

Labour Solidarity With the United Way

CAW Local 40 member Victor Gomes speaks about his work at CultureLink, a Toronto-based not for profit organization that provides services to assist newcomers to Toronto.  Gomes was one of a number of speakers at a labour-focused breakfast co-hosted by the United Way Toronto, OPSEU and the CAW on September 15. CultureLink is one of the many beneficiaries of the United Way.  Last year, the United Way fell short of its fundraising goal and is urging all union members to redouble their efforts to ensure the services funded through the United Way can continue.  For more information on the United Way, please visit: http://www2.unitedway.ca/uwcanada/default.aspx

Fairmont Palliser Workers Approve New Agreement

Workers at Fairmont Palliser Hotel in Calgary, Alberta voted 97 per cent in favour of a tentative agreement reached between the CAW and the company on September 5, 2009.

The CAW, who represents the 246 workers, had been in a legal strike position after workers at the hotel voted 91 per cent in favour of strike action earlier this summer.

The new two-year agreement is retroactive to March 1, 2009 and will expire on February 28, 2011. Wages in each year of the agreement add up to nearly 2.25 per cent in year one and 2.5 per cent in year two. 

“We were able to reach this agreement through the leadership of our bargaining committee and with the strong support of the workers at the hotel,” said CAW National Representative Gavin McGarrigle.

One of the key issues in bargaining had been the spread in wages in various classifications between the Fairmont Palliser hotel and the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver and Fairmont Empress hotel, also represented by the CAW. 

The CAW bargaining committee negotiated significant wage adjustments for workers in the housekeeping, front desk, and kitchen departments, said McGarrigle. This means that the total wage increases for housekeepers this year will be around 5.5 per cent and nearly 4.2 per cent in year two of the new deal. Similar percentage increases will be in place for clerical and kitchen employees.

“The wage adjustments will help to close the gap in wage rates that exists with other major Fairmont hotels. Although there is more work to be done, it’s a tremendous victory to achieve these kinds of increases, especially in a recession and we couldn’t have achieved these gains without the solidarity of the workers,” said McGarrigle.
CAW Local 4273 represents workers at the Fairmont Palliser Hotel in a wide variety of departments including kitchen, banquets, front desk, guest services, maintenance, and housekeeping.
The CAW has also reached a tentative agreement at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge on September 10 and is currently engaged in bargaining at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel and Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. 
Enhance Search and Rescue Services, CAW/FFAW says 
The CAW/FFAW Women’s Committee says that the tragic loss of two lives in the sinking of the Sea Gypsy on September 12 east of St. John’s, Newfoundland once again highlights the need for enhanced search and rescue services.

“We have too many widows in our fishing communities, too many children who have had to grow up without their father, too many mothers and fathers who have lost a son,” said Committee Co-Chair Mildred Skinner, an inshore harvester from Harbour Breton, Newfoundland and Labrador.

At a meeting in St. John’s on September 15, the committee called on the federal government to enhance the current search and rescue coverage. The crew of the Sea Gypsy were CAW/FFAW members.

“We need 24/7 helicopter search and rescue capability. The north Atlantic is a harsh environment at the best of times. Immediate response is vital to saving lives.”

Defense Minister Peter McKay defended the response to the sinking of the Sea Gypsy, saying that the response time was an hour and 42 minutes, which is within the two hour standard that applies outside regular hours (8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday to Friday).

“Fishing is a 24/7 occupation. We need 24/7 service. The Government of Canada needs to recognize that the fishery is the most dangerous occupation in the world, and the slow response time is adding to that danger,” said Skinner.

“SAR is as important to us as the fire department and ambulance and hospital services are to the general public. Bankers’ hours just don’t cut it.”

The body of Robert Keough, 58 of Calvert, Newfoundland was recovered, while the body of Christopher McCarthy, 34, of Tors Cove had not been found by press time. Three other crew members were rescued.

Staff Appointment

Following the passing of Steve Farkas, CAW President Ken Lewenza has appointed Bill Gibson Kitchener Area Director, working out of the Kitchener, Ontario area office, effective Sunday, September 20, 2009.



Canadians not saving
enough to retire

Without major reforms, even people with RRSPs,
company pension plans are likely to feel squeeze

Sep 17, 2009 04:30 AM
Heather Scoffield

OTTAWA–The pension system must be reformed quickly because Canadians are not saving enough to maintain their standard of living in retirement, the head of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board says.

"Clearly, the current system isn't working as anticipated," David Denison, president and chief executive of the board, said in a speech that broke his silence on the need for reform.

The Canada Pension Plan is on solid footing, he said, but it provides retirees with only about 25 per cent of their pre-retirement income, or about $11,000 a year in today's terms. Even though retirees rely on government benefits, company pensions and their own personal savings to make up the rest of their income, those are no longer sufficient, Denison said.

"They're just not creating the amount of retirement savings which will lead to sufficient income across Canada's population in their retirement years," he told reporters.

"That's why we think a fundamental rethinking of how those operate is important."

RRSP and corporate pension plans have been badly damaged by the financial crisis, he noted. Also, 11 million Canadians do not have any company pension plan coverage.

He suggested that federal and provincial policy-makers consider developing a new pension regime that would require all companies and employees with no company plan to pay into a fund.

The fund could be regional or national, but national would be preferable since it would make the pension benefits more mobile. Employees could opt out.

Policy-makers also should consider using the existing CPP structure to add a supplemental fund for those who want to boost their government pension benefits, Denison said.

Several experts have already proposed these two options, but Denison suggested a hybrid of the two would be better than either solution alone. Companies would still have the flexibility to tailor their own pension funds, but at the same time, contributors could take advantage of the federal investment board's huge staff, low administration costs and widely respected minimal-risk model.

Denison said it is estimated that a private insurer would have to charge 11 per cent of pay to provide a pension equal to what CPP provides, along with disability and other benefits, for 9.9 per cent of pay. "The cost advantage of a pure, pension-supplementary layer would be even greater."

Provincial and federal finance ministers are to meet in Whitehorse in December to address improving the minimum level of retirement benefits for all. Ottawa has set up a group to study options.

Joel Harden, the Canadian Labour Congress pension expert, said it is a relief to see Denison, one of Canada's most important pension players, get involved and stress the urgency of the debate.

"I think everyone agrees now that the floor (of retirement benefits) is way too low," he said.

Pension Reform Article from CARP Click Here

GM has cash for
customers' old cars

Sep 17, 2009 04:30 AM

Tony Van Alphen
Business Reporter

General Motors of Canada has become the country's fourth automaker to offer consumers cash if they scrap their old vehicles and buy new company models.

GM, the industry's biggest auto retailer, announced yesterday a "cash for clunkers" program that matches the highest offer of $3,000 by rival Ford Motor Co. of Canada in an escalating battle for consumer attention in the fiercely competitive car market.

GM says it will give consumers rebates between $500 and $3,000 toward the purchase of new 2009-2010 cars and trucks if they meet the criteria of a federal scrappage program.

For example, consumers would get a $500 rebate on a Chevrolet Aveo subcompact; $1,000 on a Chevrolet Cobalt compact; $2,000 on a Chevrolet Equinox crossover vehicle; or $3,000 on a Buick Enclave luxury crossover vehicle if they recycle their old vehicles.

The federal government's "Retire Your Ride" program offers consumers $300 or other incentives such as public transit passes if they scrap high-polluting, fuel-inefficient vehicles that are 15 years or older.

Hyundai Auto Canada introduced the industry's first program with a link to the federal initiative with an incentive of up to $1,000 last month.

Within days, Chrysler followed with a maximum offer of $1,500. Ford jumped ahead of its rivals by offering up to $3,000.

Chrysler spokeswoman Mary Gauthier said she could not provide sales figures, but her company's program has generated "considerable activity and traffic" at dealerships.

Analysts expect other major automakers to introduce similar programs.

Automakers had pressed federal Industry Minister Jim Prentice to boost the government's clunker program with much higher incentives since early this year, particularly after a U.S. program fuelled a huge increase in sales. That program cost the U.S. government about $3 billion (U.S.).

However, automakers started their own clunker incentives after Prentice indicated he would not increase amounts in the "Retire Your Ride" program.


Chrysler worse off
than Fiat expected
Auto maker's restructuring will be slow, CEO Marchionne says, adding Fiat was surprised at how little had been done to get Chrysler competitive

Eric Reguly

Frankfurt Last updated on Wednesday, Sep. 16, 2009 08:47AM EDT

Chrysler's restructuring will progress slowly at first because the company was in worse shape than Fiat had expected, Sergio Marchionne, the CEO of both companies, said Wednesday morning at the Frankfurt Auto Show.

Mr. Marchionne, 57, said Fiat was well aware before it took control of Chrysler in the summer that the Detroit auto maker's new product pipeline, currently laden with SUVs, was almost dry. But Fiat discovered the lack of new models wasn't the only problem.

“There's a whole pile of stuff that we didn't see when we came, that we were not expecting,” he said. “Probably the single largest surprise to us was how little had happened in the past 24 months to get [Chrysler] competitive.”

Private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management bought 80 per cent of Chrysler from Germany's Daimler, owner of Mercedes Benz, in 2007 and invested little in the company before it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on April 30. In a no-money-down deal, Fiat took 20 per cent of Chrysler, and management control, when it came out of bankruptcy.

Mr. Marchionne would not go into details about the effort to make Chrysler competitive, other than to say “it's pretty intense stuff what's going on,” similar to the emergency rescue work Fiat faced when Mr. Marchionne landed at then ailing Fiat five years ago.

Fiat investors will get a better view of Chrysler's progress at the end of the year, when Chrysler is to issue quarterly financial reports. The Italian-Canadian executive predicted better Chrysler performance next year.

Mr. Marchionne is under pressure to unveil Chrysler's turnaround strategy and vehicle production plan as quickly as possible, before its market share melts away. Its market share in August was only 7.4 per cent, compared with 11 per cent for all of 2008. The pickup trucks and minivans are still selling fairly well, but the passenger cars are sinking fast.

The North American production plans are to be unveiled in November. Mr. Marchionne would not say where the Fiat 500 subcompact would be built other than “somewhere in NAFTA.” An Ontario plant may produce one or two Alfa Romeo models. Alfa is one of Fiat's sister brands in Europe, where it competes with BMWs and Mercedes.

Mr. Marchionne said Fiat has “completely closed” its pursuit of Opel, the European car division of General Motors (GM-N0.75----%) , even though Canada's Magna International (MG.A-T45.73-1.28-2.72%) and Russia's Sberbank have not finalized their agreement to buy 55 per cent of Opel. Fiat proposed buying Opel in May.

Asked how he would achieve total group sales of 5.5 million to 6 million vehicles a year – the figure he said is essential for any auto maker's survival – without Opel or another automotive partner, Mr. Marchionne replied: “Wait until November. We'll see if I get there on my own.”

He said he is more confident about an automotive recovery in North America than he is in Europe because no European auto factory has closed in the last year, leading to a capacity glut that will slow any recovery. The level of intervention in the United States, he said, has been “much more thoughtful, much more reasoned that we've had in Europe. As a result of this crisis, there has not been a single plant that has been shut down, not a single attempt at rationalization in Europe, even though capacity is long.”

The inevitable wind down of the clash-for-clunkers schemes in Europe will only make the capacity glut worse, he said.


Ford vies for Sync patents
The Sync infotainment system has helped boost Ford sales. (Ford)

Rivals court former employee who claims rights to key technology

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News

Dearborn --A man that Ford Motor Co. once called "a lead architect" of Sync has left the company, raising serious questions about who owns intellectual property vital to the popular voice-controlled infotainment system it developed in conjunction with Microsoft Corp.

Now, rival automakers are lining up to talk to Joseph Berry.

So is Ford, which tried to get the telematics expert to sign off on several patents -- after he was terminated in late July. Berry says he is "happy to license" the technology to Ford, but the company has yet to respond. If an agreement is not reached, Ford could be forced to abandon key features of Sync.

The stakes are high. Since its introduction in 2007, Sync has been moving metal for Ford. Cars and trucks equipped with the system sell twice as fast as vehicles without it. And with a take-rate of 70 percent, Sync is boosting Ford's average transaction price and its bottom line.

More importantly, Sync has achieved something the automaker's critics thought was impossible: it has made Ford cool again. For the first time in years, Ford has something younger consumers want.

"That's where Sync has been critical," said analyst Erich Merkle of Autoconomy.com. "There's no question it has been part of Ford's recent success."

Ford says Sync is not threatened by Berry's departure. While the automaker would not comment on the potential impact of a patent dispute, it claims its lead in telematics remains untouchable. "We do not see any risk to current Sync technology or further innovation and capability development," said Ford spokesman Alan Hall. "We always knew that we would be followed. That's flattering. It proves that Sync is the benchmark."

Sync has many parents.

Continental Corp. manufactures the hardware, while Microsoft developed the operating system and basic features that allow motorists to control their MP3 player or access their mobile phone's address book. Nuance Communications Inc. is responsible for the voice-recognition system that allows the driver to control Sync with simple, verbal commands. Ford designed the user-interface and put the whole package together with the automobile, independent of Berry and his team.

Berry says his primary contribution was a system that allows Sync to transmit and receive data over a driver's cell phone. Using that technology, he says he led the development of a host of second-generation Sync features, including 911 Assist, Vehicle Health Reports and Traffic, Directions and Information Services. These allow Sync to summon emergency services in the event of an accident, provide vehicle owners with diagnostic reports about their car or truck, and receive turn-by-turn directions, real-time traffic reports and other information, such as weather and sports scores.

Berry believes that he owns the rights to all of these technologies, as well as to the underlying network that makes them possible. In addition, he says he designed a yet-to-be-released module that will allow motorists to control virtually any application on their smartphone using Sync.

There has been no official ruling on who owns the rights to any of these technologies, though Ford has filed patent applications for all of them.

Berry signed some of those before he left Ford but says he was promised compensation he never received. After his termination, Ford asked him to sign off on others, prompting him to contact an attorney. He has since offered to license the technology back to Ford.

"That was a couple of weeks ago. I haven't heard anything since," he said. "All I want them to do is be fair about it. They're more than welcome to use them. I want Ford to succeed."

Ford confirmed that discussion took place, but would not comment beyond that.

Complicating matters is Berry's assertion that he came up with most of these ideas before he went to work for Ford.

Already a well-known expert in the field of telematics, Ford first contacted him in 2006, gave him a sneak peak at Sync and asked him if he had any ideas about how to make it better.

At the time, Sync was limited to playing music and operating the driver's cell phone. Berry said Ford was particularly keen on matching General Motors Co.'s OnStar system, which uses a call center to summon emergency personnel in the event of a crash. He explained how Ford could do the same thing with a driver's cell phone.

A few months later, Ford hired him as a consultant.

"By the time Ford started paying me, we were well under way," he said.

Ford ultimately made Berry an employee. His official title was director of product and business development for Ford Connected Services. Neither he nor Ford would comment on the reasons for his termination in July.

"There are several automakers that have approached me since then. We're in talks," Berry said.

"We know who Joe Berry is," said Walt Dorfstatter, the incoming president of GM's OnStar subsidiary, though he would not comment beyond that.

But Ford says Sync is a lot bigger than Berry. Though its exclusive agreement with Microsoft has expired, allowing the software giant to sell the underlying operating system to other carmakers, the Sync name and many of the features Ford has built on top of that remain proprietary.

"The way in which we executed our applications was unique, and others cannot simply duplicate them," Hall said. "We look forward to announcing more new Sync applications."


Canada Border Services
just bought 20 Hyundais

Did you know that the Canada Border Services just bought 20 Hyundais for their port cars.  Not one Hyundai vehicle is built in Canada.  In the US, only the Hyundai Sonata and the Santa Fe are built in Alabama. 

That facility employs 2,000 non-union workers.  One of the 20 vehicles purchased is in Windsor right now.  Talk about a slap in the face...  Why would our Canadian government purchase a foreign vehicle when there are plenty of Canadian made vehicles in our market today? 

Time to write our MP's and ask for a reason why it happened.  With the Detroit 3 trying to survive this economic downturn, backed by government loans and then our government purchases cars built by a foreign company with no manufacturing tied to it. This beyond anyone's comprehension. 


Hyundai heads to fast lane

Riding quality, selection improvements, price cuts, Korean automaker a success story in down market

Sep 14, 2009 04:30 AM
Tony Van Alphen
Business Reporter

Korean auto giant Hyundai Motor Co. will need to take "a hard look" at opening an assembly plant here again if it continues hitting ambitious sales targets during the next few years, says the head of the company's Canadian subsidiary.

Steve Kelleher, president and chief executive officer of Hyundai Auto Canada, said late last week he is talking to top management in Korea about another plant in view of the company's soaring sales during a broad market slump.

Kelleher said in a wide-ranging interview that Hyundai is aiming for 150,000 annual sales by the end of 2012 – and reaching that goal should prompt serious consideration by the parent company for production here.

"I don't have a real firm number, but I've kind of got people listening to the idea that if we get to 150,000 vehicles annually in Canada in three years, we got to take another hard look at a plant here," Kelleher said.

The company made a major market splash in Canada in the mid-1980s and opened an assembly plant in Bromont, Que. in 1989. But it stopped car production more than four years later as sales crashed in North America.

Hyundai began a slow recovery in the late 1990s that has gained momentum in the last five years.

Sales in Canada are up a stunning 25 per cent during the first eight months of this year and are on pace to reach about 95,000 by the end of December for the first time. The company has posted record results for seven consecutive months and moved into sixth place in sales.

Industry watchers say a huge improvement in quality and wider selection of models plus aggressive pricing have fuelled the company's growth. Meanwhile, the overall auto market has plunged 15.5 per cent this year.

Sales for major players such as General Motors, Chrysler, Honda and Toyota are all down more than 20 per cent.

It marks one of the biggest performance gaps between one automaker and its rivals in Canadian auto industry.

Hyundai's market share has also increased, from a low of 1.4 per cent in 1997 to almost 7.5 per cent this year.

Hyundai's comeback has led to talk again about when the company would consider a return of production and become Canada's sixth automaker. GM, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota and Honda have operations here.

Nissan, whose fortunes in North America shot up earlier this decade, indicated the company would only consider production in Canada if it gained about 10 per cent of the market.

The company's sales including the luxury Infiniti brand have improved. but it still only holds about 5.5 per cent of the market here.

Kelleher said it is premature to talk about whether Hyundai would build a new assembly operation in Canada or take over an existing facility here. The company has sold the Bromont property.

Canada has eight light vehicle assembly plants, all in southern Ontario, but output has dropped in the last year because of the recession. General Motors closed a truck plant in Oshawa this year and Ford has no plans to build cars at an operation in St.Thomas after 2011.

Chris Travell, vice-president of the automotive practice at Maritz Research, said there is a tendency for automakers to locate new assembly plants in regions where they already have operations because of the proximity of the existing supplier base.

"The wild card in all of this is government incentives that could swing a company on where to locate," he said.

Hyundai opened its first assembly plant in the U.S. in Alabama during 2005. Korean cousin Kia Motors, which Hyundai controls, is building an assembly plant in neighbouring Georgia.

The company arrived in Canada in 1984 and shocked the industry the following year with sales of almost 80,000 vehicles primarily on the strength of the boxy Pony compact, the market's cheapest car by a wide margin with a sticker price of $5,795.

The company had hit a home run with consumers who wanted inexpensive, basic transportation. There also wasn't a lot of competition in the compact market because North American automakers didn't make much money producing them.

But sales of the Pony and two other Hyundai models soon collapsed in North America because of consumer experiences of poor quality and unreliability. Hyundai's sales in Canada fell below 28,000 in 1988.

It only produced 25,920 vehicles in more than four years. But in the late 1990s, parent Hyundai Motor Co., under chairman Mong-Koo Chung realized the company needed to focus on quality to become an international player.

"He changed the culture of the company," said Kelleher, who joined Hyundai in 1986 and became chief executive in 2002.

The company introduced new models with a significant improvement in quality. However, sales didn't show signs of a recovery until 2000 and 2001.

Kelleher said a turning point for the company in Canada came when it rolled out the Sante Fe compact crossover utility vehicle in 2001.

The Sante Fe, the Accent subcompact, the Elantra compact and even the Elantra intermediate model fuelled a gradual increase in sales. The company now has a line-up of nine cars, minivans, crossovers and sport utility vehicles.

Hyundai has moved up in the initial quality rankings of leading researchers J.D. Power and Associates.

Earlier this year, the company jumped to fourth place, behind luxury nameplates Lexus, Porsche and Cadillac.

Last month, Hyundai became the first automaker to top up the federal government's scrappage program with a $1,000 offer for consumers. Kelleher said the company will get a further push with the introduction of its first hybrid model next year that uses lighter, smaller lithium polymer batteries.

"If we're not going to be first, we're going to be the leader in technology," he said.

"Our goal is to be the world's most environmentally efficient car maker in 2015."


GM rescinds 27,000 pay cuts for white-collar workers

Checks boosted in effort to retain salaried workers and executives

Robert Snell / The Detroit News
Sept 14, 2009

General Motors Co. restored salaries for white-collar workers and some executives Friday in a bid to retain employees critical to the automaker's revival.

GM, which emerged from bankruptcy after receiving $50 billion in federal aid, ended temporary pay cuts for about 27,000 U.S. workers and other employees in Canada and some foreign countries.

Senior-level executive pay cuts, however, are not being restored -- for now.

The news comes two days after GM said it would lay off 1,000 additional white-collar workers this month.

"Keeping the (pay) cuts in place hurts the ability to attract and retain good people," GM spokesman Tom Wilkinson said. "We've got a much smaller company now and the quality of our people is more critical than ever. We are in risk of losing good people."

GM decided to restore salaries now that the automaker has emerged from bankruptcy as a leaner company and is completing staff reductions that will eliminate more than 6,000 white-collar jobs by the end of 2009. GM started the year with 29,650 white-collar workers and wants to end it with 23,500.

An analysis included in GM's viability plan submitted to the U.S. Treasury Department in February showed salaried workers were paid about 6 percent less than foreign automakers, or transplants, operating in the U.S. GM's own research showed white-collar employees received below-average benefits compared to transplants and ranked last in retirement health care and life insurance.

The temporary pay cuts were unveiled in February, implemented in May, and slashed executive base salaries 10 percent while many other workers saw cuts ranging from 3 percent to 7 percent. GM also has cut bonuses, health care benefits and 401(k) matches.

The timing can be debated but the intent is justifiable, said restructuring expert Van Conway of Birmingham-based Conway MacKenzie Inc.

"They've got to turn this company around and when people don't get raises, no bonuses, no 401(k) match, they're likely to leave," Conway said.

"The lifeline of business is continuing to feed younger people into the system of management and compensating them accordingly."

In an e-mail to workers Friday obtained by The Detroit News, Mary Barra, vice president of global human resources, said the cuts, which saved about $50 million, are being restored effective Sept. 1. The pay restoration was reviewed this week by GM's board of directors, which met in Detroit on Tuesday and Wednesday.

"Your continued commitment and dedication throughout this period has been remarkable," Barra wrote. "However, we are just beginning our reinvention of GM, and there is much yet to be done. We appreciate the sacrifices you have made during this historic transformation and appreciate your continued efforts as we build a successful new General Motors."

President and CEO Fritz Henderson has taken a 30 percent pay cut and will be paid $1.3 million this year.

Three others -- Vice Chairman Bob Lutz, Chief Financial Officer Ray Young and Tom Stephens, GM's vice chairman for product development -- took 20 percent cuts. GM has submitted a list of its highest-paid employees for approval by the Treasury Department's special master, Kenneth Feinberg, and is awaiting approval.

But the Obama administration will not make public the detailed compensation plans for the highest employees at seven companies -- including GM -- that have accepted bailout loans.



St. Thomas plant
in talks


Sept 13, 2009

The fate of Ford's St. Thomas assembly plant emerged as the centrepiece of talks between the automaker and the Canadian Auto Workers that wrapped up their first week Friday.

Ford of Canada has an engine plant operating in Windsor and will soon add another. The company's Oakville plant recently began assembling its fourth vehicle.

But St. Thomas has no vehicle allocated after 2011. Ford is telling fleet buyers to look to its Taurus model to replace the Crown Victoria, the model made in St. Thomas.

"St. Thomas is very prominent in these talks," Alex Keeney, national representative to Ford for the Canadian Auto Workers, said Friday.

"They have not told us (the plant is closing), but the reality is they do not have a product after 2011. We are working very hard on all the issues, but especially St. Thomas."

Ford is after contract concessions from the union that were given to GM and Chrysler in recent restructuring negotiations.

The union is trying to convince Ford to maintain its "footprint" in Canada. About 13 per cent of vehicles the company makes in North America are made in Canada. In order to give concessions, Ford has to maintain production, Keeney said.

"We want to convince them to not go lower."

Keeping Ford's Canadian footprint at 13 per cent would help save St. Thomas, as losing it would drop its footprint to about 10 per cent, said Tony Faria, automotive analyst and business professor at the University of Windsor.

"St. Thomas remains a big issue with the CAW. The vehicles made there are big cars and not selling well. When an automaker says there are no vehicles planned for a plant, that usually means the kiss of death."

In addition, the plant needs investment to retool to make it a flex plant, and that will likely top $1 billion, Faria said.

"I am not optimistic about the St. Thomas plant. I am not writing it off, but I am not optimistic."

The union agreed to cut labour costs at GM and Chrysler by cutting benefits, altering how pensions are funded and creating a trust for retirees' benefits. The CAW got assurances the automakers would maintain their manufacturing footprint in Canada.

Ford has said those deals reduced labour costs by $19 an hour and wants a similar cut.

The CAW may have a hard time convincing its workers to give Ford concessions when the automaker posted a $2.3-billion profit in the second quarter and continues to gain market share and see sales increase -- making it by far the healthiest of the Detroit Three.

"Workers looking at this will see they are in pretty good shape," Faria said. "It will be a hard sell to the members."



CAW boss frustrated
Ford labour talks

September 13, 2009

TORONTO (CP) — Canadian Auto Workers president Ken Lewenza said Friday he’s frustrated at the lack of progress the union has made so far in labour talks with Ford Canada.

The negotiations have stalled because the company is refusing to commit to maintaining its current manufacturing footprint in Canada — an agreement that both Chrysler and General Motors made in contracts earlier this year, Lewenza said.

"We are prepared to reach an agreement with Ford that reduces costs here in Canada, but negotiations cannot be one-sided," Lewenza stated.

"We are willing to do our part, now it’s time for Ford to do the same."

The CAW has said it’s open to helping Ford cut its costs, but has asked for the company to maintain approximately 13 per cent of its North American production in Canada in return.

However, Ford says it has no plans to manufacture vehicles at its assembly plant in St. Thomas, Ont., beyond 2011.

Mike Vince, chairman of the CAW’s Ford master bargaining committee and president of Local 200 in Windsor, Ont., said Ford will employ fewer than 5,000 people in Canada if the St. Thomas plant closes, down from 11,600 people four years ago.

"We cannot get an agreement with Ford without a clear commitment by the company to continue building a fair share of vehicles and engines here in Canada," Vince stated.

Ford limits share ownership to 5%

Sep 12, 2009 04:30 AM

Associated Press

DEARBORN, Mich.–Ford Motor Co. said yesterday its board of directors has adopted a plan designed to deter shareholders who hold more than a 5 per cent stake from increasing their ownership, to protect its tax assets.

Were shareholders allowed to hold a bigger stake, the automaker would lose access to certain tax shelters and face increased federal income-tax liability. At the end of 2008, Ford had tax credits, net operating and capital losses offsetting $19 billion in future taxable income.

Ford said the U.S. tax code would limit its use of such tax attributes as credits and capital losses if shareholders with a 5 per cent or greater stake in the company were to collectively increase their holdings by more than 50 per cent over a rolling three-year period.

The tax preservation plan would be triggered by a shareholder acquiring a stake in the company of more than 4.9 per cent. It would also be triggered if an existing holder acquired more than one half of 1 per cent of common shares.

Under the terms of the plan, Ford's board of directors declared Wednesday a dividend right to purchase one share of common stock for every outstanding share at a discount, should an ownership change occur. Exercising the right would dilute the 5 per cent shareholder and protect Ford's tax attributes.

Ford said the move was not a "poison pill" to protect the company from a takeover.

Media Advisory - CAW Continues Negotiations with Ford, Presses 'Footprint'

TORONTO, Sept. 11 /CNW/ - Talks between the CAW and Ford Motor Company continue today in downtown Toronto, in an effort to reach an agreement that lowers costs while securing production in Canada.

CAW President Ken Lewenza voiced his frustration at the lagging pace of negotiations with Ford, but indicated that the union is continuing to meet with the company and still intends to reach a fair agreement.

So far, the company has refused to commit to a manufacturing footprint
here in Canada which has stalled the negotiations, said Lewenza. This was a critical component of the agreements reached with General Motors and Chrysler this past spring, according to Lewenza. The union is pressing Ford to maintain its current Canadian production levels, as a percentage of its overall North American production.

"If Ford wants the pattern reached with both Chrysler and General Motors, the company must live up to its part of the CAW GM-Chrysler pattern agreement," said Lewenza. "We are prepared to reach an agreement with Ford that reduces costs here in Canada, but negotiations cannot be one-sided."

Negotiations began on Tuesday, September 8.

"We cannot get an agreement with Ford without a clear commitment by the company to continue building a fair share of vehicle and engines here in Canada," said CAW-Ford Master Bargaining Committee Chairperson and Local 200 President Mike Vince.

"Our members at Ford have already suffered through disproportionate job loss as the company aggressively cut its Canadian operations, much earlier than other producers," said Vince.

Ford already has the smallest presence of any automaker manufacturing in Canada. It employs 7,400 CAW members in Oakville, St. Thomas, Windsor and the auto parts depot in Brampton with more than 1,000 on indefinite lay-off.

"If Ford closes the St. Thomas assembly plant, which it's threatening to
do, this means employment will fall below 5,000 people. Only four years ago, Ford employed more than 11,600 people," said Vince.

"We are willing to do our part, now it's time for Ford to do the same,"
said Lewenza.


Saturday, September 12, 2009

Bill would use stimulus cash to pay for Delphi retirees' health care

Measure would divert stimulus funds to pay retirees' health care

David Shepardson / Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington -- A Senate bill introduced Friday would pay for health care coverage for tens of thousands of Delphi Corp. retirees who have lost their insurance.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, introduced legislation that would shift up to $3 billion from the $787 billion stimulus bill approved in February to pay for health care coverage for about 65,000 retirees and their dependents.

The bill would create a Voluntary Employees' Beneficiary Association, or VEBA, to provide health coverage to hourly workers in the IUE-CWA, United Steelworkers and other unions along with salaried Delphi retirees

"Delphi retirees worked hard and played by the rules, but are now seeing their health benefits eliminated or greatly reduced," Brown said. "This bill invests in their service by ensuring Delphi retirees have access to the health care they earned."

A companion bill has been introduced in the House by Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, and has 10 co-sponsors, including Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, R-Livonia.

"There was a promise made that health benefits would be available for Delphi employees when they entered their golden years and we are going to leave no stone unturned in our effort to see that they get what they've earned," Ryan said.

In February, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain approved Delphi's efforts to cancel its salaried retiree health care and life insurance, a move that ended benefits for 15,000 people including many in Michigan and Ohio, and saves the Troy-based auto supplier more than $70 million annually.

Delphi estimated that it will cost the average retiree between $305 and $666 a month to maintain coverage, while a family could see yearly premiums of up to $22,400. Dental coverage would add another $44 to $123 per month, depending on whether an individual or family sought coverage.

Canceling the benefits will save Delphi $200 million through 2011 and cut the company's long-term liabilities by nearly $1.2 billion. Delphi also terminated its salaried pension plan, turning it over to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.

Earlier this month, General Motors Co. agreed to pay another $50 million to partially fund health benefits for nearly 50,000 Delphi hourly retirees and their dependents, union officials said.

The deal will allow GM to end coverage for Medicare-eligible retirees.

There are about 6,200 United Steelworkers and dependents and 41,000 IUE-CWA retirees who are affected by the changes in benefits. The unions had warned the retirees would lose, in total, about $3.5 billion in benefits.

The GM agreement also provides $10,000 life insurance coverage that does not reduce with age.



Friday, September 11, 2009

UAW a hard sell for Ford

Some say automaker's success hinders more concessions for union

Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News

As talks between Ford Motor Co. and the United Auto Workers continue, the automaker's top labor negotiator expressed confidence that Ford will not be left at a competitive disadvantage versus its cross-town rivals.

However, others familiar with the situation say those talks are being bogged down by one fact: Ford is doing a lot better than General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC, making it hard for union leaders to sell their members on additional concessions.

Both GM and Chrysler won significant concessions from the union during their recent bankruptcy reorganizations.

On Wednesday, Ford global labor affairs chief Joe Hinrichs said most of those gains simply matched more favorable terms that Ford negotiated with the UAW in 2007.

But he acknowledged that the union had given more to its competitors in a few areas.

"In the near term, there's no cost disadvantage," he said. "Long term, there could be."

Hinrichs would not say what those areas were, but other sources say they include a freeze on entry-level wages, reduced job classifications for skilled trades and a no-strike agreement.

Ford also wants to match some of the cuts to retiree benefits that the UAW has agreed to at GM and Chrysler.

Union leaders have promised publicly that Ford would not be disadvantaged by the UAW's agreements with GM and Chrysler, but they are said to be concerned about their ability to sell members on further give-backs.

"People I've talked to feel like they've given up enough," said Gary Walkowicz, a member of the bargaining committee at Ford's Dearborn Truck Plant.

"They feel they shouldn't have to give up anymore."

He said that sentiment became stronger after Ford posted a surprise second-quarter profit of nearly $2.3 billion in July.

"Ford is clearly the most successful of the domestic automakers. The paradox of that success is that it makes it difficult to negotiate additional concessions," said labor expert Harley Shaiken of the University of California, Berkeley.

He said UAW leaders know that a profitable, competitive Ford is the best guarantor of their members' jobs.

"You have a strong commitment to that, but perhaps some disagreement about how to get there," he said.

"That's why they're still talking."

Shaiken suggested that concrete commitments by Ford to source new products in the United States would go a long way to helping union leaders sell any agreement to their constituents.



CAW urges Ford to save plant

Car maker reiterates that it has no products to
assemble at Ontario facility after 2011



Thursday, Sep. 10, 2009


The Canadian Auto Workers union urged Ford Motor Co. yesterday to keep open an assembly plant near St. Thomas, Ont., that is believed to be doomed, saying workers won't agree to concessions granted to Ford's rivals in Canada unless the auto maker maintains its existing Canadian operations.

"We told them very clearly that what workers are looking for as a result of sacrifices is enhanced job security, not reduced job security," CAW president Ken Lewenza said yesterday after a three-hour meeting with Ford officials that kicked off talks on a new contract

Ford reiterated yesterday what it has already told the union about St. Thomas, Mr. Lewenza said, which is that it has no products to assemble at the plant after 2011.

"They haven't said it's closed, but when you don't have a product after 2011 you don't have to add it up," he said.

Closing the plant, which assembles full-sized, rear-wheel-drive Ford Crown Victoria, Mercury Grand Marquis and Lincoln Town Car models, would eliminate about 1,600 jobs. It would also reduce Ford's manufacturing operations in Canada to less than 10 per cent of its North American total, compared with 14 per cent now.

But the rear-wheel-drive cars are used mainly in police and taxi fleets, and cities across North America are requiring more environmentally friendly taxis.

"I can't imagine that Ford can do much to keep St. Thomas alive," one industry source familiar with Ford's production plans said yesterday.

The futures of the St. Thomas operation - which Ford has said will have no vehicles when the large cars now made there cease production in 2011 - and an engine plant in Windsor, Ont., are critical issues for the union.

"They want to be competitive and we want enhanced job security and that's a huge gap in between," Mr. Lewenza said.

Ford has said several times that its Canadian plants are no longer competitive because of cuts in benefits and changes in work rules at Chrysler Canada Inc. and General Motors of Canada Ltd. that have reduced those companies' hourly labour costs by about $20 an hour to a little more than $50.

The current contract between Ford and the CAW was reached last year before the U.S. and global auto market meltdown that sent Chrysler and GM into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and a combined U.S. and Canadian government bailout of more than $60-billion.

That agreement froze wages and reduced vacations for workers, but the CAW agreed to longer wage freezes at Chrysler and GM and surrendered more time off in order to help the companies survive the worst crisis they have experienced since the Great Depression.

Ford avoided government bailouts in part because it raised more than $20-billion (U.S.) in debt on the eve of the meltdown and was able to avoid the cash crunch that sent its Detroit rivals into Chapter 11 and, in the case of Chrysler, into the arms of Italian auto maker Fiat SpA.

The problem the CAW faces in the Ford talks is that it doesn't have the federal and Ontario governments backing up the union's demand that the company maintain its manufacturing footprint in Canada.

The two governments required Chrysler and GM to make production commitments in Canada before agreeing to about $14-billion (Canadian) in loans to the companies.

GM agreed to maintain about 15 per cent of its production in Canada, while Chrysler committed to a level of about 22 per cent.


Magna plant rejects CAW's
no-strike contract

About 200 workers vote by a two-to-one margin
against Framework of Fairness, joining auto union

Sep 09, 2009 04:30 AM
Tony Van Alphen
Business Reporter

An Aurora plant has become the first Magna International operation to reject the unique "Framework of Fairness" labour deal that chairman Frank Stronach and the Canadian Auto Workers are promoting.

About 200 workers at Magna's Unimotion Gear voted by a two-to-one margin last week against joining the CAW and accepting a new contract, union and company officials confirmed yesterday.

Magna spokeswoman Tracy Fuerst said the company respected the workers' democratic right to not approve the contract and union representation. However Jerry Dias, assistant to national CAW president Ken Lewenza, said there was confusion and misunderstanding about the union and the tentative contract.

The first contract, which would have expired in November 2011, contained a cost-of-living allowance, $300 signing bonus, reinstitution of company pension contributions, better recall rights and other contract language that protects workers.

Dias said many workers didn't understand the benefits of the CAW after Stronach and management had counselled them against joining a union for years before a change in position and introduction of the framework concept in 2007.

"After years of that, people had trouble accepting that a union could do anything more for them," he said.

Furthermore, he said many workers had returned from a long layoff and believed a union might jeopardize their future.

The framework idea sparked criticism from other labour leaders and some senior CAW officials two years ago because the union gave up the right to strike.

The CAW agreed to binding arbitration in bargaining disputes and other changes in traditional labour contracts.

In exchange, the union gained access to more than 40 Magna plants for organizing without company interference.

Stronach initiated the idea to improve collaboration between management and labour for the benefit of the company because of increasing global competition for production and jobs.

The union argued that organizing more Magna plants was crucial to improving bargaining clout in the auto-parts sector.

The CAW's bargaining power has declined in the sector during the past decade while Magna, the country's biggest independent parts maker, has become a much stronger force in the industry.

The union had organized Magna plants in Windsor, London and Mississauga under the framework concept.

However, there has been little organizing activity in the past year because of a major downturn in the auto-parts industry and heavy layoffs.


Ford fuses global marketing efforts
Ford marketing leaders Elena Ford, left, John Emmert, Susan Pacheco and Jim Farley discuss strategies last week in Dearborn. The automaker has its marketers working together on the launch of each global product, starting with the Focus that will debut at the Detroit auto show in January. (David Coates / The Detroit News)

Carmaker hopes for big savings by having regions work together

September 9, 2009

Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News

Dearborn --Ford Motor Co. has saved hundreds of millions of dollars by combining its worldwide design and engineering operations into a single, global product development organization. Now, it wants to do the same thing with marketing.

In February, chief marketing officer Jim Farley tapped Henry Ford's great-great-granddaughter Elena Ford to spearhead this effort to merge the disparate parts of the company's global marketing apparatus and make sure they are literally on the same page. Though the savings are unlikely to be on the same scale as on the product side, they are no less important as the company works toward its goal of returning to profitability in 2011.

Marketers from London to Shanghai are now working together on the launch of each global product, starting with the all-new Ford Focus that will debut at the Detroit auto show in January. From there it will go on to its European debut in Geneva and its Asian launch in Beijing.

Before, Ford's marketing and public relations organizations in each of these regions would have developed their own campaigns in a vacuum. Now, they are working together to identify common themes and share their best ideas. Instead of hiring different photographers to shoot different pictures of the same car in different countries, Ford is using one photographer to shoot photos for the entire world. And the same advertising agency is coordinating external efforts worldwide.

"Never has that happened before at Ford," Elena Ford told The Detroit News. "It will drive a ton of savings."

It has to. While Farley says he envisioned a gradual merging of Ford's global marketing divisions ever since coming here from Toyota Motor Corp. in 2007, the harsh realities of today's automobile industry and the global economy have made it a necessity.

"There's been one huge facilitator of all of this, which is the cash situation the company is in," Farley said. "That really has added a whole other layer of momentum behind this. We can't afford to waste a dime, and each launch has to deliver."

Fiesta shows the way

The shape of things to come can already be discerned in the way Ford is handling the launch of the Fiesta.

Though it does not go on sale in the United States until next year, the new subcompact is already in showrooms in China and Europe. And marketers in this country are paying close attention to what is happening there as they work to generate buzz around the vehicle ahead if it's U.S. launch.

"We started looking at their early Internet campaigns," said Sam De La Garza, the man in charge of the Fiesta launch in the United States. "In China, they were seeding the car with early influencers."

He thought something similar could work well in the United States. The result was the "Fiesta Movement," a Web-centric exercise in viral marketing that revolves around 100 "agents" who have been given early versions of the Fiesta and receive regular missions that they are required to complete with their cars -- and blog about.

"We learned how important social media is in China, because they don't have a lot of traditional advertising," Farley said. "You can build the awareness through these kind of activities in an organic, meaningful way with the target customer. If we start early, we minimize the advertising expense."

Farley believes all this is possible because consumers around the world are becoming accustomed to global brands and global branding. Witness the success of Apple, Sony and Coca-Cola.

Consumer convergence

Automobiles may be a much different proposition than music players or soft drinks, but he says convergence also is occurring in the car market. European cars are getting larger at the same time that American cars are getting smaller.

Michael Bernacchi, professor of marketing at the University of Detroit Mercy, says markets are becoming increasingly global, and it makes sense for companies like Ford to structure their marketing operations accordingly. But he also warned it is easy to get too far ahead of that trend.

"There's no denying the cost-savings," Bernacchi said. "In each market, a brand not only has its own space, but so do its competitors. It becomes very risky to rely too much on a single message."

Farley says Ford is not trying to do that. Rather, it is trying to develop a common set of tools that can be used in different ways in different countries.

With that in mind, Elena Ford summoned Farley and other marketing executives from around the world to convene at the posh offices of the WPP Group plc on London's Canary Wharf in June to develop a common look for Ford's marketing efforts.

In one room, Elena Ford had arrayed examples of advertising from around the globe, highlighting companies and brands that seemed to have found a common chord. There were MasterCard and Apple, but there were also automotive brands. Farley was particularly impressed with those from Volkswagen AG.

"There were different products, and different customers and different languages, but they all came from the same company," he said. "You could tell. They have incredible discipline."

The others agreed, helping Elena Ford drive home her point that a similarly disciplined approach was needed at Ford.

Weekly meetings

Now, Elena Ford leads a weekly meeting with mid-level marketing and communications managers from around the world to discuss progress on upcoming launches and existing products.

On Wednesdays, she and Farley hold another weekly meeting with regional executives. Taking a page from CEO Alan Mulally's playbook, they work from a common spreadsheet that tracks the status of every element of every project around the world.

Then, she and Farley meet once a month with the heads of each of Ford's three global business units: Ford Americas President Mark Fields, Ford of Europe President John Fleming and John Parker, the head of Ford's operations in Asia, the Pacific and Africa.

While there is a lot of teleconferencing involved, Farley said he and Elena Ford are also spending a lot of time in the air so that they can meet with these people face-to-face.

Farley says it is worth it because the company is saving money and learning from itself.

"It's new for Ford, because it's a collaborative process. It's not a top-down process where standards are dictated," said Farley, who acknowledged that Ford's past efforts in this vein did not go far. "The challenge in the beginning was getting everyone to believe we were actually going to do this."


Ford and Canadian union
begin cost cutting talks

* Union demands manufacturing presence commitment
* Ford employs about 7,000 hourly workers in Canada

TORONTO, Sept 8 (Reuters) - Cost cutting talks between Ford Motor Co and the Canadian Auto Workers began on Tuesday, the union said, adding that a key condition to reaching a new agreement would be a commitment by Ford to maintain its current manufacturing presence in Canada.

The CAW agreed to significant concessions at Chrysler and General Motors [GM.UL] earlier this year to help those companies qualify for billions in government aid. Both companies committed to maintaining about 20 percent of their Canada-U.S. production in Canada.

Ford, which has not requested any government aid to help it survive the steep downturn in the industry, has not made any Canadian production promises, and proportionally, has a much smaller Canadian presence than GM, Chrysler, Honda and Toyota, the union said.

"If Ford Motor Company is serious about reaching a new agreement with our union, it must commit to maintaining, and hopefully expanding, its Canadian production footprint," Ken Lewenza, the CAW's president, said in a statement.

"There is absolutely no incentive for our members to approve a contract that makes a number of sacrifices without improving job security and returning our laid off members to the job."

Ford has about 7,000 hourly workers in facilities in Oakville, Windsor, Brampton and St. Thomas, all in Ontario.


Ford Canada-CAW talks under way

Kristine Owram

Toronto — The Canadian Press Last updated on Tuesday, Sep. 08, 2009 03:18PM EDT

Ford Motor Co. of Canada Ltd. and the Canadian Auto Workers union began labour talks Tuesday afternoon, with the future of an assembly plant in Southern Ontario one of the major issues on the bargaining table.

Ford asked the CAW to renegotiate its current labour contract, which doesn't expire until 2011, after the union gave substantial concessions to both General Motors Corp. and Chrysler Group LLC earlier this year.

The concessions were part of a massive restructuring process that saw both auto makers file for bankruptcy protection south of the border and receive billions of dollars from governments in both Canada and the United States.

Ford was the only one of the Detroit Three auto makers to survive the financial crisis on its own — and has seen its market share grow because of this — but Ford Canada president and chief executive officer David Mondragon has said the company needs a new labour contract similar to that at GM and Chrysler in order to stay competitive in both Canada and the U.S.

The CAW has expressed a willingness to negotiate, but under the condition that Ford maintain its current production footprint in Canada.

“If Ford Motor Company is serious about reaching a new agreement with our union, it must commit to maintaining, and hopefully expanding, its Canadian production footprint,” CAW president Ken Lewenza said in a statement Tuesday.

“Already Ford's proportional Canadian presence is much smaller than that of General Motors, Chrysler and even Honda and Toyota. There is absolutely no incentive for our members to approve a contract that makes a number of sacrifices without improving job security and returning our laid-off members to the job.”

This may prove easier said than done, however.

Ford Canada spokeswoman Lauren More confirmed Tuesday that the company has no plans to manufacture vehicles at its St. Thomas, Ont., plant beyond 2011.

Currently, the 1,600-employee plant manufactures the Ford Crown Victoria, the Lincoln Town Car and the Mercury Grand Marquis — all full-sized cars, demand for which is limited to niche markets. In fact, the Crown Victoria is only sold as a part of fleets, such as police cars and taxis.

Auto industry analyst Bill Pochiluk said none of the cars manufactured at St. Thomas is “particularly competitive,” and Ford would have to spend a lot of money upgrading the models in order to keep the plant open.

“Quite frankly, we're not sure that particular product set is relevant right now with the kinds of volume that it's likely to have, mostly for industrial markets... because that can be achieved using other vehicles, including SUVs and, for example, the new Taurus,” said Mr. Pochiluk, president of industry adviser AutomotiveCompass.

He said the union would have to give Ford “very, very substantial” concessions for the company to be able to justify keeping the St. Thomas plant open.

However, Ford may be willing to invest elsewhere to keep a similar manufacturing footprint in Southern Ontario, including building more engines at its plant in Windsor or adding new models to its plant in Oakville, which currently produces the more popular Ford Edge, Ford Flex and Lincoln MKX, Mr. Pochiluk said.

Ford Canada's sales are up 17 per cent year-over-year and the company managed to push GM out of the top sales spot two months in a row this summer.

And two Ford vehicles — the compact Focus and the Escape SUV — made the Asian-dominated Top-10 list of vehicles purchased under the U.S. “Cash for Clunkers” program, which offered consumers up to $4,500 (U.S.) to trade in old cars for new fuel-efficient models.

However, Ford still needs help from the CAW, Mr. Pochiluk said.

“Ford right now is riding high, but they need help just like everybody needs help,” he said. “They're counting on it. They're planning for it.”

After months of bargaining during which the CAW reached agreements with GM, then Chrysler, and was then forced by the federal and Ontario governments to give GM even more concessions, the union agreed to slash labour costs at both companies by cutting benefits, changing pension funding obligations and creating a trust for retiree health benefits.

In addition, Ford Canada's Detroit-based parent won $500-million in savings under a new contract with the United Auto Workers in March. Reports say Ford has asked the UAW to match concessions made to Chrysler and GM as well.

Ford Canada employs about 7,000 people at Ontario assembly plants in Oakville and St. Thomas, and a parts plant in Windsor.


David Miller shrugs off labour pains

Despite unions' move to bar mayor from parade
over civic strike he mingles with rank and file

Sep 08, 2009 04:30 AM
Jim Wilkes
Nicole Baute
Staff Reporters

Mayor David Miller shrugged off a snub from Labour Day parade organizers yesterday and took his message straight to the marchers.

"It's hard to get into a parade these days," Miller told members of the Labourers' International Union gathered at the parade marshalling area at Queen St. W. and University Ave.

"What can I do?" he said with a laugh. "I'm trying to make everyone happy."

Miller had been told by the Toronto and York Region Labour Council last week that he wasn't welcome to march in the annual parade. Its members are unhappy with his handling of the 39-day municipal workers' strike by 30,000 members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees this summer.

The labour council also implied that councillors who voted against the strike settlement were not welcome by advising Councillor Michael Thompson, who had confirmed his attendance, that it would be inappropriate for him to come.

Yesterday morning, Miller shook hundreds of hands and posed for hundreds of photographs at the parade marshalling area, donning an assortment of union caps, hardhats and other headgear.

Reached by phone, Thompson said he was at home relaxing and didn't plan to come.

"I thought about it," he said. "I think perhaps the best thing to do is just let this whole thing blow over."

The Canadian Auto Workers union was more than happy to have Miller at its Nathan Phillips Square rally before the parade. Its membership, hard hit by the auto industry crisis, will benefit from the city's billion-dollar purchase of streetcars and subway cars from Bombardier's Thunder Bay plant.

Miller told CAW members in the square that the streetcar contract would "keep hundreds and hundreds of your brothers and sisters working for the next 20 years.

"When you invest public money in this country you should be doing it to create good quality Canadian jobs right here for people in Toronto, the GTA and across Canada."

As speculation of a federal election swirls, he urged workers to question political parties about their plans to create jobs.

Miller sloughed off the decision to keep him out of the parade. "I'm sure the leadership of CUPE is still recovering from the strike," he said. "I'm happy to be out here with the people who actually build this city. It's about celebrating that work."

More than 27,000 people and 40 unions, representing all kinds of workers including teachers, millwrights, plumbers and city workers, marched along an otherwise-sleepy Queen St. W. to the beat of brass bands, soulful bands and pop music blaring from speakers.

None of the councillors who voted against the settlement were spotted.

John Cartwright, president of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council, said their presence would be like "somebody's ex-wife showing up at a wedding celebration."

"This is our day of celebration of the contribution that workers make to building a better society and of the struggles we undertake to raise standards," he said.

"If people don't respect that, why would they want to come to be in our celebration?"

Several councillors who voted for the settlement were in the parade. Councillor Anthony Perruzza said he thought it was "petty" of organizers to exclude those who opposed the deal. Councillors Joe Mihevc and Adam Giambrone said it was up to labour council leaders to decide who was welcome.

"Obviously when you've had a disagreement ... it takes time to heal," Giambrone said.

Nearly 500,000 more Canadians are unemployed this Labour Day than last and many called on the government to "fix E.I."

Others, like Dave Butler, gave a face to the pay concessions some companies have been demanding their workers accept during contract negotiations.

He works at the Zellers warehouse in Scarborough but has been locked out since mid-July, when workers voted to strike.

Butler makes about $23 an hour, but his employer wants to lower the wage to about $18.

"We're making ends meet and feeding our families, but we can't go back for what they're asking," he said.


Ford launches new van
production in Romania

Associated Press

Sept 8, 2009

Craiova, Romania -- Ford Motor Co. launched production of its new model Transit Connect in Romania on Tuesday, two years after it took over a state auto maker in the country.

The Transit Connect, a compact van, will sell for euro14,000 to euro15,600 ($20,000 to $22,000) in Romania and the United States.

Ford of Europe President John Fleming and U.S. Ambassador Mark H. Gitenstein attended the launch in the southern city of Craiova, as did Romanian President Traian Basescu, and Senate chairman Mircea Geoana.

In a speech, Basescu said the factory is now "part of the glorious history of Ford."

"I want to thank the workers... With your hands and minds you have been reorganizing the workshop... You have been loyal partners of the investors from the very beginning." He later inspected with Fleming a white Transit Connect which was parked on a podium.

He said some euro12 million ($17.2 million) had been invested in training the work force.

Ford plans to build 300,000 automobiles in Romania in the next four years, and said it will hire an extra 3,000 staff throughout the country. It currently employs about 4,000 people.

In 2007, Ford bought a 72.4 percent stake in the state-owned Automobile Craiova, paying $88 million and vowing to invest $1 billion to upgrade and expand car production.



Posted: Sept. 7, 2009


What would Walter Reuther think?
Walter Reuther was UAW president from 1946 to 1970.

UAW's new direction inspires visions of hope and disaster


What would Walter Reuther think?

Just a few months ago, as General Motors and Chrysler careened toward bankruptcy, the union faced the prospect of losing everything.

But instead, the UAW agreed to job cuts, plant closures and other changes -- carving out a new purpose for itself, one that, if properly managed, could serve as the foundation for a brighter future.

While some might say Reuther, the patriarch of the UAW, might be rolling in his grave over the givebacks, Mike Smith, director of the Walter P. Reuther Library at Wayne State University, says he believes "Reuther would take a pragmatic view, just like the UAW ... has taken."

The UAW, through a trust created to pay for retiree health care, has emerged from the chaos with a significant ownership stake in the automakers, even as its membership sank to lows that threatened its power.

But that ownership stake could align the UAW's interests more with the companies -- because retirees need the stock to be valuable to pay for their benefits -- over those of workers, who want financial and job security.

UAW President Ron Gettelfinger has said he doesn't see a conflict, but Jay Frater, 44, of New Baltimore, a 17-year Chrysler worker, asked: "How do you negotiate a contract with yourself if you are a majority stakeholder in a company?"

Some autoworkers, like Chrysler's Tony Abboud of Warren, likes how things turned out.

"I feel like I am working for myself now," he said. "We own the company."

Kinder UAW raises concerns

With the UAW agreeing to massive job cuts, plant closures and other givebacks in recent years -- many of which were essential for the automakers' survival -- some union members are calling for a return to the hard-line tactics of the past in order to rejuvenate the labor movement and take a stand against shifting economic conditions.

Among them: Gary Walkowicz, a bargaining committeeman at Ford Motor Co.'s Dearborn Truck Plant.

He says he believes the union, which has seen its membership sink from more than 1.5 million in 1979 to 431,037 in 2008, will continue losing until it takes a stand, with strikes if necessary.

"What has happened since the UAW has had a cooperative attitude?" Walkowicz said. "They have been negotiating concession after concession and still it doesn't stop."

But the UAW isn't likely to take a hard line, especially since it agreed to no-strike clauses in recent contract modifications with General Motors and Chrysler, which underwent a quick dip into bankruptcy this year.

UAW President Ron Gettelfinger declined to be interviewed for this report.

But some experts and union insiders defend the UAW moves as necessary to keep the union and automakers alive.

Mike Smith, director of the Walter P. Reuther Library at Wayne State University, predicted that even the revered late union leader Reuther would agree with the UAW's recent strategic moves.

"There are forces out there that say ... Reuther would be rolling in his grave," Smith said. "I happen to disagree with that.

"There is ample evidence ... that when crisis situations arose, Walter Reuther would take a pragmatic view."

Harley Shaiken, a professor of labor relations at the University of California, Berkeley, agreed, saying the union "bargained skillfully and survived."

Many UAW members recognize that, too.

Lee Jones, a service representative for the UAW's GM department, said the changes the UAW agreed to were "sacrifices that ... will give us the opportunity in future to become stronger."

Mike Dunn, chairman of UAW Local 5960, noted that the union hasn't been all about givebacks, either. After a furious round of lobbying to save the Orion Assembly Plant, GM picked the plant to produce a still-unnamed small car instead of building it in China.

"I feel confident that we are moving in the right direction," he said.

VEBA on the scene

One of the union's main accomplishments during the recent crisis was to negotiate itself into a position of more authority.

In 2007, the union agreed with the automakers to establish a trust to pay for retiree health care. That trust, called a voluntary employee beneficiary association, or VEBA, would rid the automakers of about $88 billion in estimated future health care costs at a big discount.

Although the UAW doesn't have direct ownership or management responsibility for the trust, five of the VEBA's 11 trustees are the UAW's top officers, including Gettelfinger.

The automakers were expected to put about $46.1 billion in cash into the VEBA over time, but because of the shaky economy and ensuing bankruptcies of GM and Chrysler, the union agreed to take a mix of cash and stock instead.

The VEBA now owns 17.5% of the new GM and 67.7% of the new Chrysler. It also will own untold shares of Ford Motor Co., which can pay up to half of what it owes the trust in stock.

On Jan. 1, more than 800,000 UAW retirees and their spouses will begin seeing many of their health care benefits paid for out of that trust rather than by the automakers.

That means that the trust will represent nearly twice as many people as the active workers that the UAW represents.

Because of that, Shaiken said, the VEBA "could be a strong platform to enhance the UAW voice."

Conflict concerns

Some workers fear the new VEBA role could tilt the UAW's interests toward the company -- because retirees need the stock to be valuable to pay for their benefits -- over the interests of active workers, who want financial and job security.

But Gettelfinger and at least one other VEBA trustee say workers shouldn't be concerned.

"We've always wanted these companies to be successful," Gettelfinger said in an interview in June with WJR-AM (760). "I don't see conflict."

VEBA trustee Teresa Ghilarducci, a professor of economic policy at the New School for Social Research in New York City, added, "There is no apparent conflict to me between wanting the active workers in the companies to thrive and the VEBA's interest. ... The VEBA's interests are aligned with the company's and the UAW's."

Former Michigan Gov. Jim Blanchard, who was appointed to serve as a member of Chrysler's board of directors in June on behalf of the VEBA, said he views himself as an independent Chrysler board member and looks out for the best interests of the company.

"If the company becomes viable and profitable, then the VEBA will be protected," Blanchard said. "And I can quote Ron Gettelfinger when he said, 'Jim, you need to be your own man here.' "

Chrysler autoworker Jay Frater, 44, of New Baltimore said he isn't thrilled with the way things turned out, but he's not devastated, either.

"We weren't going to come through it unscathed," he said of the recent crisis. "It had to be done, and it's done, and now we are all working again."


UAW history

1935: UAW formed in Detroit.

1937: Battle of the Overpass at Ford Motor Co.'s Rouge plant in Dearborn; Chrysler Corp. workers strike, win UAW recognition.

1945: Start of 113-day General Motors Corp. strike.

1946: Walter Reuther elected president.

1948: UAW gains cost-of-living raises through GM negotiations.

1961: UAW wins hospital and surgical benefits, improved relief time, antidiscrimination clauses.

1970: Walter Reuther dies in plane crash. Leonard Woodcock becomes president.

1977: Douglas Fraser elected president.

1979: Membership surpasses 1.5 million for the last time.

1983: Owen Bieber elected president.

1985: Canadian division leaves UAW.

1995: Stephen Yokich elected president.

1998: UAW strikes GM, forcing it to shut down 27 of its 29 North American assembly plants, idling more than 200,000 workers. 2002: Ron Gettelfinger elected president.

2007: Landmark labor contracts reached with each of the Detroit Three that sets up a UAW-managed retiree health care trust fund called a VEBA, or voluntary employee beneficiary association. Agreement shifts billions of dollars in liabilities off of the automakers' books; membership drops below 500,000.

2009: UAW members approve additional wage and benefit concessions in an effort to bring wage rates down to competitive levels with Asian automakers. UAW also accepts stock in lieu of debt for some VEBA payments.

Sources: Walter P. Reuther Library, Free Press research

Voluntary employee beneficiary association

What is it: The UAW defines the VEBA as an independent trust fund, similar in many respects to a pension trust. Money contributed to the VEBA can be used only to provide retiree health care benefits and cannot be used for any other purpose.

How many retirees will it cover? More than 800,000, starting Jan. 1.

How will it be funded? The VEBA will inherit about $90 billion in future health care liabilities and will receive a mixture of cash and stock payments from General Motors Co., Chrysler Group LLC and Ford Motor Co. to partly pay for that liability.

Who is on the board? Eleven trustees, including five selected by the UAW and six selected by U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland.

Who are they?

Robert Naftaly, chairman of the VEBA board, is a former president and chief executive of PPOM -- an independent subsidiary of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

Olena Berg Lacy, former assistant secretary of U.S. labor in charge of pensions during the Clinton administration.

David Baker Lewis, chairman and chief executive officer of Lewis & Munday PC in Detroit.

Teresa Ghilarducci, professor of economic policy analysis at the New School for Social Research in New York.

Marianne Udow-Phillips, director of Center for Healthcare Research & Transformation in Ann Arbor.

Ed Welch, former director of the Workers' Compensation Center at Michigan State University's School of Labor and Industrial Relations.

Ron Gettelfinger, UAW president.

Cal Rapson, UAW vice president and director of the union's General Motors department.

Bob King, UAW vice president and director of the union's Ford department.

General Holiefield, UAW vice president and director of the union's Chrysler department.

Dan Sherrick, UAW general counsel.

Source: Free Press research



Labour Day: 500,000 more jobless
Unions say the biggest issue facing laid-off workers is EI reform, and they've been pressing the federal Tories to loosen eligibility. However, a Labour Day poll shows Canadian workers are feeling more secure in their jobs.

Half of those laid off not eligible for EI, says CAW president

Sep 06, 2009 04:30 AM
Keith Leslie
The Canadian Press

TORONTO–Nearly 500,000 more Canadians will be unemployed this Labour Day than last, and while economists say the recession is over, job losses are expected to continue well into next year, and many of those who lost their jobs don't qualify for Employment Insurance.

Labour leaders say even those who still have jobs are fighting cuts to pension benefits and other attempts by employers to get concessions, including moves by some companies that unions say are "taking advantage" of the economic downturn to cut costs.

"People that can't collect EI are being forced to go on welfare, which is driving them further into poverty," said Canadian Labour Congress president Ken Georgetti, who speaks for Canada's largest federation of unions.

While nearly 500,000 jobs have been lost in the last year as a deep restructuring took place in the automotive, forestry and machinery sectors, Canadian workers are starting to feel more confident that they have seen the worst of the job losses and the employment picture is starting to brighten.

A Labour Day conducted poll by Harris-Decima and commissioned by online job search firm Monster.ca shows 46 per cent of Canadian workers feel they have more job security today than they did a year ago. That compares with 38 per cent of respondents who feel less secure.

The feeling increased among public sector workers, with 53 per cent feeling secure with their employment.

The survey, conducted in mid-August, also found that 88 per cent of Canadians were satisfied with their current job situation.

For unions, the biggest issue facing laid-off workers is EI reform, and unions have been pressing the federal Conservative government to raise benefits and loosen up eligibility requirements.

The EI fund had a $57 billion surplus that was spent by Liberal and Conservative governments, complained Georgetti.

"The understanding was that they could spend the surplus, but when the funds were needed they would borrow money if necessary and not cut people off (EI benefits)," he said.

CAW president Ken Lewenza, in a Labour Day message Thursday, said that in the last recession of the early 1990s, only two in 10 laid off workers failed to qualify for jobless benefits. Today it is five in 10.

"What we need to improve this system is a change to the number of qualifying hours, an extension of the benefits period and increase in the benefit level, and an elimination of the waiting period and the severance clawback," he said. "Political parties of all colours must recognize the necessity of these reforms."

Georgetti said workers know they didn't cause the recession and that's why they're willing to strike when necessary if they think an employer is demanding concessions that aren't really necessary.

A bitter strike has shut down Vale Inco's nickel mines in Sudbury over company concession demands. Recent municipal strikes in Toronto and were also sparked by concession demands.

Almost 25 per cent of Canadians are working more than one job to make ends meet, says Don Thibert, director of academic affairs at Everest College.

He said some workers are taking advantage of the recession to bolster their skills with some post-secondary education, noting employers want staff with a good work ethic, which people who are already working two or more jobs clearly demonstrate.



Retail workers deserve a better deal
Striking Zellers workers from the Scarborough warehouse, picketing in front of The Hudson's Bay store at Queen and Bay, have been on strike for almost two months. They are fighting major wage cuts and other concessions.

More Canadians now working in retail than
manufacturing but their hourly wage is far lowe

Sep 06, 2009 04:30 AM
Ken Lewenza
President of the Canadian Auto Workers union

For almost two months, 345 CAW members working at a Zellers warehouse in Scarborough have maintained picket lines after their company tabled a shocking list of take-it-or-leave-it concessions and then refused to negotiate any further with the workers.

In fact, over the past seven weeks there has not been one meaningful attempt to settle this dispute despite countless efforts made by the union bargaining committee to reach out to the employer with proposed solutions.

The company, owned by U.S. private equity firm NRDC Equity Partners, is demanding wage cuts to the tune of $16,000 a year and has tabled contract language that would eliminate severance pay entitlements, undermine seniority provisions and allow the company to convert more jobs to temporary employment, among other concessions.

Their intention is to lower wages and working conditions to levels near or at par with non-union facilities in their chain.

This dispute symbolizes everything that's gone bad for retail sector workers. Workers (many of them new immigrants, women and young workers) are consistently nickel and dimed by their employers while massive profits and record sales roll in.

Over the past decade, the Canadian retail sector has witnessed major economic growth. Annual sales are fast approaching $1 trillion. Value-added has grown by 40 per cent since 2000 and accounts for $150 billion in the total economy. By comparison, value added for the manufacturing sector has dropped by more than 7 per cent in the same time period.

Retail and wholesale trade is one of the fastest growing employment sectors in the country. Yet over the past two decades the wages of retail and wholesale sector workers have not kept pace. After adjusting for inflation, wages have actually declined by 4 per cent since 2000.

How absurd is it that union-led campaigns aimed at increasing provincial minimum wage rates across the country may be the reason this trend turns around in the coming years – hardly a substitute for decent collective agreements. Today, retail workers earn an average hourly rate of $14, which is substantially less than the 2009 Canadian average of $19.50.

With the country's unemployment rate rising and the shift away from industrial employment, more Canadians are relying on jobs in the retail sector to pay the bills, feed their kids, pay for school and build workplace skills that will benefit them in their career. But these jobs just aren't making the grade.

In May 2008, Canadian labour market data revealed that for the first time the retail sector officially topped manufacturing as the largest employment sector in Canada. Today there are more than 1.8 million retail workers in Canada and 1.5 million manufacturing workers, and the difference is growing.

This changing dynamic in Canada's labour market represents a fundamental shift in our economic makeup. It follows years of job losses in the manufacturing sector, totalling around half a million. Many of these workers were paid decent, family-supporting wages and enjoyed pension and benefit plans. Communities thrived on these jobs. They helped build Canada's middle class.

The higher levels of unionization (about 25 per cent) in the manufacturing sector are part of the story. Unionizing a critical mass of workers in a sector helps ensure workers' wages are not factored into the "competitiveness" equation.

Unions help shield workers against a model that turns lower wages into higher profits – exactly what CAW members at Zellers in Scarborough are trying to avoid. By contrast, only 12 per cent of retail workers are unionized – less than half the Canadian average. Quite simply, retail workers do not have the collective voice that workers in other sectors have benefited from and the consequences of this are being felt on the job, in their buying power as consumers and in their ability to afford a decent standard of living.

It's time all levels of government started thinking more critically and strategically about how they can better support workers in this sector. A crucial first step would be to ensure minimum wage laws are monitored and continuously improved to guarantee that retail workers working full-time will earn a stable and liveable income. We need to look, too, at hours-of-work legislation so that erratic schedules and short weeks don't continue to plague the sector. This has consequences for everything from child care to EI coverage.

Governments must also ensure retail workers are given the opportunity to unionize free from employer intimidation and influence. This means establishing card-based union certification in all jurisdictions and granting provincial labour boards full power to award automatic certification in the event of employer interference. These critical pieces must fit into a broader sector strategy that improves work standards, invests in skills training and views workers as a valuable long-term resource.

The 345 striking CAW members at the Zellers warehouse are not just taking a stand against the cut-throat concessions demanded by their employer. They are also taking a stand against an industry that has run roughshod over workers for many years. They are speaking out for the retail workers who have no voice in their workplace and who are tired of watching their working conditions slowly deteriorate.



Ford F-150 Still the
best pickup line
Ford goes with subtle changes; the auto maker doesn't want to mess with its winning formula


Jeremy Cato

Globe and Mail Sep. 05, 2009

The best pickup line I ever heard got the desired effect by pulling together a bed extender, a whopping big payload and getting hitched.

There, I fooled you. This isn't about the kind of pickup line you imagined. I was just getting your attention, though I do have a few things to say about bedliners, payload and getting hitched.

Now that I have you, let's talk about covered wagons. Or as they are now referred to, pickup trucks. That's what a pickup is - the modern interpretation of a covered wagon.

Pickups - er, covered wagons - played a massive role in the history of Canada and the United States. Eastern settlers used them to go west across the prairies, to stake their fortunes, to haul a lifetime of possessions across thousands of kilometres to find freedom or something else.

This is why the Europeans don't get pickups, the Japanese have struggled mightily to understand them and the Koreans haven't even bothered. Meanwhile back home, big-city types in Canada and the United States too often fail to grasp what pickups are all about. But these people ride public transit, so how could they ever know?

If you are from the West or Midwest, you know. If you have spent more than five minutes on the other side of Thunder Bay - or even in Thunder Bay - you know. If you work with your hands for a living, or out of necessity or for entertainment - if you're Canada's next great handyman - then you get pickups. Instantly.

You're not alone, either. The best-selling light vehicle in Canada and the United States is Ford's F-Series pickup. Nos. 4, 5 and 6 in Canada are direct rivals - the GMC Sierra, Chevrolet Silverado and Dodge Ram. In the United States, the F-Series is No. 1, the Silverado No. 3, the Ram No. 8. and the Sierra No. 19.

The raw numbers are huge, too. The F-Series and Silverado out-sell the two best-selling passenger cars - the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord - by a wide margin. So when a new pickup comes along, it's a big deal. Tens of thousands of buyers care, and a lot.

Last fall, Ford gave them something serious to care about. The company launched a reinvented version of the F-Series just months after Dodge delivered a new Ram.

Now in their infinite wisdom, the collective but misguided members of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) voted the Ram the Best New Pickup of 2009. I say misguided because it didn't get my vote.

I like the Ram well enough. Its coil spring rear suspension delivers a smooth ride and those nifty little Ram Boxes in the bed wall are really smart.

But I voted for the F-Series because it is a better covered wagon. The F-150 ($25,699-$47,699) has the highest maximum tow rating (5,126 kg or 11,300 lbs) as well as the most payload (1,374 kg or 3,030 lbs).

The 2009 F-Series also gets pretty decent fuel economy - better than the '08 by 8 per cent on average - has more power, a quieter ride, a bigger crew cab and Ford of Canada is doling out rebates to sweeten the deal.

There's more. Automotive Lease Guide says the F-Series has the best four-year resale value among big rigs and Ford's truck has a five-star crash test rating, too.

As for quality, Consumer Reports rates the F-Series a "recommended" pick and, in J.D. Power and Associates' consumer research, Ford's new rig is in a tie with the Toyota Tundra for best in initial quality (after 90 days of ownership), and second best in three-year durability, behind the Tundra.

So the downside? The '09 F-Series has engines that are not as powerful as the competition, head-to-head. The Ram has better braking numbers in the AJAC track testing and it looks better, more distinctive, too. The Chevy and the GMC are no slouches, either. And they are being sold with rich sales incentives, so the price is sweet.

But all things being equal, I'd have to say Ford did just the right things in improving the F-Series. No radical changes here, mind you; going radical might alienate long-time buyers and there are a lot of them.

So the styling is a little more macho, not a lot. The look is strong but not swaggering or showy. The interior a bit nicer, though the best Silverado is arguably better overall than the best F-Series. And the Ford's ride is noticeably smoother.

Cool new inventions like pop-out or pop-up steps make entering the bed or loading it easier, too. As usual, the F-150 is also available in an enormous number of combinations of features, bed lengths, cabin sizes, and four-wheel versus rear-wheel drive.

The engines? There are three, all V-8s. The entry-level is a 4.6-litre, 248-horsepower V-8 paired with a four-speed automatic. Next is a 4.6-litre V-8 at 292 hp and a 5.4-litre V-8 comes in at 310 hp. The latter two are coupled with smooth-shifting, fuel-efficient six-speed automatics.

The safety story? Aside from being sturdy in a smash-up, the F-Series comes standard with stability and traction control, antilock brakes and a full complement of airbags, including head-protecting side curtain bags.

More than anything, however, the F-150 screams "big truck." Not only is it big, it looks big - and square, with a slab-like side profile and an imposing front end capped with Ford's trademark three-barred front grille.

The cabin has a boxy, nearly vertical dashboard and big, easy-to-use knobs. The interior can be upgraded with numerous "niceties," from wood trim to leather seats, a power moon roof and navigation and backup systems. An unusual techie feature is a small, colour LCD screen integrated into the rearview mirror that displays the image from the backup camera.

What's missing? A rear-seat entertainment system. You can get one in other trucks.

That said, rear leg room is greater than any model except the Tundra. On top of that, the rear seats also fold up against the back wall of the cab. This creates a space for hauling big objects like a flat-screen TV.

Finally, the bed, which is the essence of any covered wagon. This bed may be the most practical in the business. Not only is it big and deep, it is available with a step integrated into the rear lift-gate. This lets you step up into the bed easily.

There are also retractable running boards, a retractable step on the bed's side, a stowable bed extender and an innovative optional cargo management system for anchoring loads in place.

So there you have it. Pickup lines that bring together bed extenders, payload and getting hitched for a desired effect. As promised.


Type: Full-size, light-duty pickup

Base price: $47,699

Engine: 5.4-litre V-8, SOHC

Horsepower/Torque: 320 hp/390 lb-ft

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Drive: Rear-wheel-drive or part-time, four-wheel-drive

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 15.7 city/11.3 highway; regular gas

Alternatives: Dodge Ram, Toyota Tundra, GMC Sierra, Nissan Titan, Chevrolet Silverado


  • Fuel economy
  • Quality history
  • Nifty features and overall comfort
  • The "pickup" stuff - payload, towing capacity

Don't like

  • Engine power is not the equal of key rivals
  • Missing a few extras, like a rear entertainment system
  • Not the best in class in braking and steering performance


Once-dominant GM left eating dust

Toyota, Honda pull away from long-time leader in `shocking' changes

Sep 04, 2009 04:30 AM
Tony Van Alphen
Business Reporter

Canada's consumer car market is changing dramatically as Toyota and Honda pull away from long-time leader General Motors, whose share excluding fleet business has now plunged by almost half since 2005.

Meanwhile, Ford and Chrysler, the other two Big Three North American-based automakers, have fallen out of the top five passenger-car sellers to consumers in the country this year, according to statistics from DesRosiers Automotive Consultants.

Chrysler, which held 7.8 per cent of the car market in 2005, has slid to less than 3 per cent and dropped to 10th place behind Mazda, Nissan, Volkswagen, Hyundai and even its South Korean cousin, Kia, during the first six months of this year.

However, GM, Ford and Chrysler continue to dominate the consumer truck market despite gains by Toyota and Honda in the last decade.

Dennis DesRosiers, president of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants, which compiled and analyzed the statistics, called the changes in the retail car market "shocking."

"Nowhere is the problems of the Detroit-based auto manufacturers more evident than with their sales of passenger cars to consumers," he said in a note to clients yesterday.

DesRosiers added the slide means serious problems for those manufacturers because the market is shifting back to cars from trucks and sport utility vehicles as fuel costs rise and environmental concerns become a bigger public issue.

"The lack of passenger car volume has to worry these companies," he said. "When an original equipment manufacturer (automaker) loses the consumer, they are in real trouble."

Toyota, including its luxury Lexus brand, roared passed sputtering GM in 2008 in the car market and has increased the lead. Honda, including the Acura luxury division, moved into second place in the first half of this year.

The two Japanese companies are ahead of GM with 16.4 per cent and 14.6 per cent market share, respectively, despite losing some retail business to other smaller players.

But GM's retail car business has tumbled far more. Since 2005, its share has slid to 12.1 per cent from 23.1 per cent. In 2000, it held more than 27 per cent.

GM's car sales, excluding fleet business to companies and governments, fell to 135,154 in 2008 from 168,055 in 2005, the DesRosiers statistics showed. Toyota's retail car business jumped to 145,151 from 118,761 in the same period.

DesRosiers said his firm's figures for the pure retail car market provides a more accurate picture of the performance of automakers, because the inclusion of fleet sales can distort it since that business can involve unloading big volumes of under-selling cars at losses.

The statistics revealed that Hyundai's share of the consumer car market jumped to 11.3 per cent in the first half from 6.9 per cent in 2008, while Mazda improved to 9.6 per cent from 8.5 per cent.

Hyundai does not break out fleet sales in its car numbers but insiders say it represents only a tiny percentage of the company's business. Other automakers say they are also relying less on fleet sales to drive business.

On the truck side, including minivans and sport utilitiy vehicles, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler still hold about 60 per cent of the market, but that is down from almost 80 per cent at the beginning of the decade.

Overall, GM has retained its title as the leading retailer to consumers with 16.7 per cent of the car and truck market, but that's off substantially from 28.5 per cent in 2000.

Toyota holds 14.4 per cent, up from 8.8 per cent in the same period while Ford has 12.7 per cent, a drop from 16 per cent in 2000.

Ford offers max appeal
C-Max will debut in Frankfurt. (Ford)

Compact to be built on global platform

Christine Tierney / The Detroit News
Friday, September 4, 2009

Ford Motor Co. will unveil the first of many models that will be built on its new, compact-car underpinnings this month at the Frankfurt Motor Show

Based on the Ford iosis Max concept displayed earlier this year at the Geneva car show, the all-new C-Max is roomier and more stylish than the vehicle it replaces.

It will debut in Frankfurt Sept. 15, and is scheduled to roll into Ford of Europe showrooms in the second half of 2010.

Ford is likely to bring a variant of the model, called a multipurpose vehicle in Europe, to the U.S. market. The company already has confirmed that the next, all-important Focus compact will be built on the same underpinnings as the C-Max.

"The compact car platform will be used in every region around the world for multiple products," said Ford spokesman Mark Schirmer.

Most automakers are increasingly turning to global platforms as an affordable way to produce a larger variety of vehicles using the same core components.

Ford already has products that it plans to sell globally, such as the European-designed Fiesta subcompact. But the C-Max's compact platform was the first designed to serve as the foundation for all compact-sized vehicles as part of the "One Ford" strategy laid out by CEO Alan Mulally.

The C-Max will feature new Ford technologies, including a 1.6-litre EcoBoost direct injection gasoline engine, and safety innovations, such as semi-automatic parallel parking and blind-spot detection systems.

The Focus is scheduled to make its debut at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January.


Jan Scott

It with deep regret that we inform you of the
passing of Jan Scott, wife of Retiree
Carney Scott and Mother of Jon Scott.

She passed away August 29, 2009 at Etobicoke
General Hospital after a lengthy illness.

Our deepest sympathies to her Family

CAW Local 584 Retirees

For Funeral arrangements click here

Jan Scott (nee Markoff)

(Principal of Allan Drive Middle School, Bolton)

            After a courageous battle with cancer, with her family by her side, at Etobicoke General Hospital, on Saturday, August 29, 2009, Jan Scott, devoted wife of Carney Scott.  Loving mother of Jon and his wife Anita.  Cherished grandmother of Madison.  Dear daughter of John and the late Betty Markoff.  Beloved sister of Rick (Georgia), Susan (Brian Maybury), Gary (Cathey), Jim (Diane) and Beth Lo Bello.  Dear daughter-in-law of the late Emerson and Mary Scott and sister-in-law of Deb Scott.  She will be missed by her many nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles and cousins and fondly remembered by her many colleagues and friends made over her extensive career within the Peel Board of Education.  The family will receive their friends at the Egan Funeral Home, 203 Queen Street S. (Hwy. 50), Bolton (905-857-2213) on Thursday, September 3rd from 2-4 and   7-9 p.m.  Memorial service will be held in the chapel on Friday, September 4th at 2 p.m.  In lieu of flowers, donations may be made towards a sponsorship for Beth Lo Bello’s Winners Walk of Hope for ovarian cancer, (www.winnerswalkofhope.ca/miniwalk.htm), or the Thames Valley Children’s Centre, 779 Baseline Rd. E., London, On N6C 5Y6.  Condolences for the family may be offered at www.eganfuneralhome.com


Funeral Arrangements

Visitation: Thursday September 3, 2009
                   2 - 4 pm and  7 - 9 pm
                   Egan Funeral Home
                   203 Queen St South
                   Bolton Ontario

Funeral: Friday September 4, 2009
               2 pm
               Egan Funeral Home
               203 Queen St South
               Bolton Ontario

If you are coming from the west, for example Mississauga, take Hwy. 401 East to Hwy. 427 North until it ends at Hwy. 7. Turn left (west) onto Hwy. 7. The next set of lights will be Hwy. 50. Turn right (north) onto Hwy. 50. You will travel approximately 16kms. north. Located on the east side of Hwy. 50 (which becomes Queen Street once you travel into Bolton). There is ample off the street parking.

If you are coming from the east, for example Scarborough, take Hwy. 401 west, Hwy. 409 west to Hwy. 427 North until it ends at Hwy. 7. Turn left (west) onto Hwy. 7. The next set of lights will be Hwy. 50. Turn right (north) onto Hwy. 50. You will travel approximately 16kms. North. Llocated on the east side of Hwy. 50 (which becomes Queen Street once you travel into Bolton). There is ample off the street parking.

                                          For Map Click Here



Organizers keep Miller out of Labour Day parade

Sep 04, 2009 04:30 AM

Paul Moloney
city hall bureau

Mayor David Miller has been invited to address a kick-off to the annual Labour Day parade, though he's not welcome to march in the parade itself.

Miller will speak to a crowd of Canadian Auto Workers – who will benefit from the city's billion-dollar purchase of streetcars and subway cars from Bombardier – but he won't join the CAW members as they march with other unions to the CNE grounds.

That's because another labour group, the Toronto and York Region Labour Council, is unhappy with the mayor's handling of the bitter 39-day municipal workers' strike by some 30,000 members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

The labour council organizes the parade and is entitled to invite or not invite whomever it wishes, said Peggy Nash, a Miller ally who is assistant to CAW national president Ken Lewenza.

She said it was understandable that emotions are running high. "It's been a very difficult summer and clearly there's a lot of rebuilding that needs to be done."

The CAW, on the other hand, appreciates Miller's support for awarding a $1.25 billion streetcar order to Bombardier's Thunder Bay plant earlier this year, Nash said. In 2006, the city also gave a $710 million subway car order to the Thunder Bay facility.

Labour council president John Cartwright said he's not upset the CAW invited Miller to speak at Nathan Phillips Square on Monday morning, a half hour before the parade starts a block away at Queen St. and University Ave. "A number of unions do their own events beforehand," he said.



Ford offers up to $3,000
in clunker trade-in program

September 3, 2009

Tony Van Alphen

Business Reporter

Ford of Canada has jumped out in front in the race to offer consumers the most cash for their clunkers if they buy new vehicles.

The automaker announced today that it will give consumers up to $3,000 for a new Ford if they trade in a vehicle that is 15 years or older.

Ford's program is in addition to the federal government's Retire Your Ride program which offers $300 and other benefits such as transit passes to motorists who scrap their old vehicles.

"No one is offering more incentive to 'Recycle Your Ride' than Ford," said Ford president David Mondragon. "People who might otherwise not be able to buy a new car can now afford the latest in vehicle safety, fuel economy and smart technology."

Ford said anyone who participates in the federal program and buys a new Ford or Lincoln vehicle can receive $1,000 toward the purchase of a new car or compact truck, $2,000 toward the purchase of a crossover or sport utility vehicle and $3,000 toward the purchase of a truck or luxury Lincoln model.

Ford's move comes after Chrysler Canada offered up to $1,500 last week under a similar program whereby consumers scrap their clunkers and buy new models. Earlier in the week, Hyundai announced the first program tied into the government's program.

The U.S. government ended a cash-for-clunkers program last week where motorists could get up to $4,500. Ottawa has not indicated if it will boost incentives in its program beyond $300


Company's rebate program richer than Hyundai and Chrysler

Sep 03, 2009

Tony Van Alphen

Business Reporter

That rusty, sputtering clunker in your garage is more valuable than ever today.

In what has become the latest battlefront in the country's fiercely competitive auto market, Ford Motor Co. of Canada jumped ahead of its rivals yesterday by offering consumers up to $3,000 if they scrap their old autos and buy new company vehicles.

That's double the maximum amount that Chrysler Canada is using to entice customers in its "cash for clunkers" program.

"This, in our minds, is first and foremost a sales and economic stimulus with great incremental benefits for the environment," said David Mondragon, Ford's chief executive officer, in an interview.

Chrysler started its program two weeks ago, a few days after Hyundai Auto Canada jolted the market with a "clean air commitment" that gives consumers up to $1,000 to recycle their old cars and buy the company's new models.

"I would expect virtually all the automakers to follow Hyundai's lead," industry watcher Dennis DesRosiers said.

"It makes sense to pull old vehicles off the road and, for a time, it differentiates you from the competition."

DesRosiers noted Ford's offer of up to $3,000 is a "rich program" that could become expensive for a company whose sales are up 3 per cent this year despite a continuing industry slump.

Officials at Chrysler and Hyundai would not reveal if they plan to increase existing offers.

The three automakers are tying their offers to the federal government's "Retire Your Ride" program, which offers a $300 rebate and other benefits such as transit passes to people who scrap cars and trucks that are 15 years or older. The Clean Air Foundation operates the government program.

This year, the sputtering auto industry's sales are down 15 per cent, or more than 183,000 vehicles. Automakers have pressed the federal government for months to boost the rebate and spark business.

The German and U.S. governments spent almost $9 billion in recent months on clunker programs that bolstered sagging markets, though some fear such schemes will only undercut future sales.

Environment Minister Jim Prentice has not indicated if Ottawa will augment its program.

Mondragon said Ford couldn't wait any longer but welcomed any further government incentives.

"In today's hyperactive market, we couldn't afford to wait for a government solution," he added.

DesRosiers said moves by some automakers to offer their own clunker incentives shows the government made the right decision by not spending taxpayer dollars.

Under the Ford "Recycle Your Ride" program, motorists who scrap registered and insured autos that are 15 years or older would qualify for $1,000 toward the purchase of a new car or compact truck; $2,000 for a crossover or sport utility vehicle and $3,000 for a bigger pickup or Lincoln luxury model.

Furthermore, Ford said its offer is retroactively available to about 14,000 motorists who have taken advantage of the federal program since February.

Government statistics show there are about four million autos more than 15 years old on Canadian roads and many of them are heavy polluters.

"About one million of the four million are Fords," Mondragon said. "We want to keep them in the Ford family with this offer."

He also said the offer will help those who normally could afford only a used auto consider a new vehicle with the latest safety features, fuel efficiency and technology.

Mondragon said if a motorist scrapped a typical 1995 sport ute and bought a 2010 Ford Escape, he or she would save more than $900 in fuel costs annually under normal driving conditions.

"It puts money in the hands of the Canadian consumer, which in turn stimulates the economy," he added.


Ford sales jump again as
Toyota and Honda slide
Ford Flex crossover vehicles sit in parking lots outside the production facility in Oakville, Ont.

Sep 02, 2009

Kristine Owram

TORONTO – August was a month of extremes for vehicle sales in Canada, with some major automakers posting double-digit losses and others posting double-digit gains.

Data from DesRosiers Automotive Consultants shows overall vehicles sales in Canada were down 7.9 per cent in August to 135,351 compared to 146,978 a year earlier.

Ford Canada had a tentative grip on top market share for two months in a row, but was edged out of that spot by General Motors Canada in August.

GM's Canadian sales declined by 27.5 per cent year over year to 23,018, but the struggling automaker still managed to grab the largest portion of the market at 17.6 per cent.

"Rebuilding our inventory levels in August has improved our sales performance," stated Marc Comeau, GM Canada's vice-president of sales, service and marketing.

"The new and recently launched GM cars and trucks are being very well received and we are positioned to capitalize on the growing market momentum."

Following GM in terms of market share were Ford, Toyota, Chrysler and Honda. South Korean automaker Hyundai came in a close fifth after seeing its sales jump by nearly 40 per cent.

"Once again we see a Big Six rather than a Big Three emerging in the market in Canada with the Detroit one, the government two, the Japanese two and the new kid on the block from Korea," auto analyst Dennis DesRosiers said.

Both GM and Chrysler were given billions of dollars in bailout money from the U.S., Canadian and Ontario governments earlier this year after restructuring under bankruptcy protection.

Ford's sales were up seven per cent to 22,166 units in August – its third consecutive month of gains – and it captured 15.7 per cent of the Canadian auto market.

The automaker known for its F-150 pickup trucks has been focusing its marketing on smaller, more fuel-efficient cars. The shift in focus seems to be paying off, with car sales up 17 per cent year over year.

Ford is the only North American automaker that didn't require government assistance and a trip to bankruptcy court this year and it has benefited from the uncertainty and temporary shutdowns at GM and Chrysler.

Other automakers weren't so lucky. Toyota Canada claimed third but its sales fell 24.2 per cent from the same month last year at 16,707 vehicles. Toyota's Lexus luxury brand sold 1,532 vehicles, up 31.3 per cent from last year.

In fourth was Chrysler, which saw its sales fall 6.8 per cent to 14,393.

Meanwhile, Honda Canada reported sales of 10,574 units, a 21.8 per cent decrease from last year. Honda's Acura brand boosted sales by 26.4 per cent to 1,644.

Hyundai Canada posted a 38.4 per cent improvement in its sales to 10,418, after the automaker announced it would give consumers between $500 and $1,000 in savings, depending on the vehicle, as an incentive to scrap old cars for new Hyundais.

"Here in Canada, August was our eighth straight month of sales increases, and our seventh straight month of broken records. I think these results are helping people take notice of us," stated Hyundai Canada vice-president John Vernile.

Nissan Canada's sales improved by 4.2 per cent to 7,071 while its Infiniti luxury brand sold 604 vehicles, down 13.6 per cent from a year earlier.

Kia Canada reported a 20.6 per cent increase to 4,672 vehicles sold.

Audi's sales soared by 89.6 per cent to 1,058 while Saab sales plunged 79.8 per cent to 36 vehicles sold compared to 178 a year ago.

In the United States, the Cash for Clunkers program boosted sales at Ford, Toyota and Honda in August as consumers snapped up their fuel-efficient offerings.

The program, which ended last week, drew hordes of buyers into quiet showrooms by offering up to US$4,500 toward new, more fuel-efficient cars and trucks.

The rebates gave automakers and dealers a much-needed lift, spurring 690,114 new sales, many of them during August, at a taxpayer cost of $2.88 billion.

Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) sold 181,826 cars and light trucks compared with 115,117 in August 2008, when high gas prices and growing economic uncertainty kept people away from showrooms.

Japanese automakers Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. also posted gains year-over-year gains in August. Toyota sales rose 6.4 per cent to 225,088, lifted by small cars like the Corolla, the best-selling clunkers vehicle.

Honda sales rose 9.9 per cent to 161,439, also largely on the strength of its fuel-efficient offerings.

Meanwhile, low supplies of fuel-efficient vehicles at Chrysler kept the automaker from benefiting more from the clunkers program. Chrysler sales fell 15 per cent to 93,222 units.



Ford to build own diesel
engine for Super Duty

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News

Ford Motor Co. says it will build its own diesel engine to power the next generation of its F-Series Super Duty pickups, ending a bitter relationship with Navistar International Corp.

The new, 6.7-liter turbocharged diesel V-8 will be manufactured at Ford's Chihuahua Engine Plant in Mexico. It is slated to debut on the 2011 Super Duty next year and promises significantly improved torque, horsepower and fuel economy. And Ford says it has made sure the new motor can manage 250,000 miles without a major hiccup.

"This all-new diesel engine has been so extensively tested both in the lab and in the real world that we're confident we're giving our customers the most reliable and productive powertrain available today," said Derrick Kuzak, group vice president in charge of global product development for the Dearborn automaker.

Navistar has been the exclusive diesel engine supplier to Ford's Super Duty program since 1979. But the 6-liter engine it began shipping in 2003 led to a storm of quality complaints. Ford bought back thousands of trucks and ultimately sued Navistar to recoup warranty costs. The supplier blamed Ford for the problems and countersued.

Navistar began producing a new diesel for Ford in 2007 that addressed those quality issues. But Ford announced last year that it would sever its relationship with Navistar, once production of the current generation of trucks ends in 2010.

Now, it has designed, tested and is ready to build its own replacement engine.

Analyst Jim Hall of 2953 Analytics LLP in Birmingham said the move makes sense.

"If you buy an engine from outside, that money leaves the company," he said. "Ford has gotten a lot of experience from its diesel joint-venture with PSA Peugeot Citroën in Europe. They should have the experience and capability to do it."

Ford's new motor will be ready in time to meet stringent new emissions requirements for diesels that take effect in 2011.




Toyota U.S. loss Ontario's gain

Aug 30, 2009
Vander Doelen Winsdsor Star

Toyota, already the biggest automaker in Ontario now that General Motors is shrinking, is about to become an even more dominant player in the Canadian industry.

After managing the impossible -- never closing an assembly plant in 72 years of operation -- Toyota Motor Corp. bowed to defeat this week by saying it needed to close a factory.

Typically, the company apologized to employees for having to make the necessary "difficult" decision during challenging times.

The company's executives were "very sad" to see the end of the plant, said Ray Tanguay, president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada Inc. The St. Clair College grad is the executive responsible for all Toyota manufacturing in North America.

Feeling "very sad" may sound lame to the 4,500 people losing their jobs. But anyone who has spent time with Tanguay knows he wouldn't shed crocodile tears. Like the rest of the company, he has always taken the promise of lifetime employment seriously.

The last time we talked it was clear he and other executives were in agony over the juggling act that pledge required. It hasn't been easy keeping everybody busy during a worldwide slump in demand which has cost Toyota nearly one million units in lost annual sales.

To cope, Toyota has quietly let go thousands of contract workers at its North American plants, including hundreds at its Ontario operations. By doing so they technically still hadn't laid off any full-timers. But it was clear more people had to go.

The plant Tanguay chose to close was Toyota's toe-hold in North America, a partnership it formed with General Motors in 1984.

GM contributed a 20-year-old assembly plant it had already closed -- still the only auto plant on the West Coast -- along with a UAW workforce and their union contract.

Toyota threw in $150 million and it brought its famed production system. So was born the New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. plant -- NUMMI to everyone in the auto biz.

A few months ago the bankrupt GM pulled the plug on the partnership when it killed off the Pontiac Division. Until two weeks ago when the last Pontiac rolled off the line at NUMMI, the plant built the Vibe, the Toyota Corolla and the Toyota Tacoma pickup truck.

Fortunately for Canada, California's loss is going to be Ontario's gain. There will be a positive domino effect that ripples through Toyota's plants and suppliers here.

Sources say North American production of the Corolla, which used to be split between NUMMI and Toyota's plant in Cambridge, Ont., may be consolidated here.

That could lead to an extra shift of workers at one of its two Canadian plants.

In a statement, Tanguay said Toyota is still "assessing the implications of these new conditions" on the Canadian operations.

But other industry sources quoted this week said the production of Corollas would be consolidated in Cambridge. Last year the Ontario plant built 132,000 Corollas, alongside 81,000 Matrix and 70,000 Lexus RX 350s.

Fremont built 149,000 Corollas, too many to be shoehorned into Cambridge unless both the Matrix and the Lexus are moved.

If one or both vehicles are moved up the road to Toyota's half-empty new plant in Woodstock, where only one shift is employed, that could mean an extra shift there.

Cambridge is the only Toyota plant outside Japan that has the honour of building Lexus, so it is not likely to be moved far.

Cambridge will produce as many Corollas as it can, with the rest supplied by one of the other 14 plants worldwide which build the world's most successful car.

But there's a lesson for governments everywhere on which plant Toyota chose to close this week.

Although NUMMI was the only unionized plant in the Toyota system, the UAW was not the reason the plant was closed, the company's top manufacturing official said.

"California is a high-cost location," executive vice-president Atsushi Niimi said in announcing the closure.

He blamed high taxes, a high cost of living and Fremont's isolation from Eastern suppliers as the culprits.

Those costs meant that despite a successful 25-year partnership between Toyota and GM, NUMMI only turned a profit once, in 1992, according to Credit Suisse Groupe.

Credit Suisse contradicts Toyota a bit by saying the union helped to drive up costs at NUMMI.

But it was California's labour code, its pollution rules and especially its high taxes that made the plant perennially unprofitable, the bank says.

Remember that the next time the CAW or anyone else calls for higher taxes: they really do kill jobs.


DETROIT, Aug 27 (Reuters) - The United Auto Workers union in a statement in reaction to Toyota Motor Corp's decision to close a union-represented plant in Fremont, California: * Says Toyota decision to close California plant 'devastating news for thousands of workers' * UAW President Gettelfinger says 'unfortunate' Toyota chose to close plant after benefiting greatly from US government-funded 'cash for clunkers' program * UAW says union remains committed to working with Toyota and California to keep plant open * UAW says union stands 'ready to ensure our members receive all contractual and public benefits they are entitled to as a result of this unfortunate decision'



Ford, GM see August sales growth

GM sees U.S. auto sales growing by 2 million next year; Auto makers report monthly sales on Tuesday
Dan Strumpf, Bree Fowler and Tom Krisher

New York — The Associated Press
Aug. 29, 2009

A top Ford executive expects industrywide U.S. auto sales to rise for the first time in more than two years this month, thanks largely to the government's Cash for Clunkers program.

Sales may have risen as high as 13 million units on an annualized basis during Augusts, Mark Fields, Ford's president of the Americas, told reporters on Friday.

Retail sales at Ford Motor Co. in August have already surpassed last year's levels with a weekend still to go, he said. Ford's sales in July rose 2.4 per cent.

“Over all, we thought it was a very, very successful program in jump-starting sales,” Fields said of the clunkers program, which enticed drivers to trade in gas guzzlers by offering big rebates on new, more fuel-efficient cars and trucks.

Auto makers are scheduled to report monthly sales on Tuesday. Many analysts are forecasting a year-over-year increase for an industry that has taken a beating during the recession, although year-ago levels were already depressed.

Cash for Clunkers offered a strong jolt to sales. The program, which formally ended on Monday, spurred 690,114 new sales at a taxpayer cost of $2.88-billion, according to the Department of Transportation.

Ford was one of the top gainers from the program. The Ford Focus compact car and Escape crossover were among the top sellers, though Japanese auto makers sold more vehicles than U.S. companies.

Fields estimated about 30 to 40 per cent of clunkers sales were “truly incremental,” meaning that they came from consumers who had no plans previously to buy a car. The rest, he said, came from people who were going to buy a car later on.

General Motors also expects stronger sales

Meanwhile, an executive with General Motors (GM-N0.75----%) said Friday the company sees U.S. auto sales growing by 2 million next year.

General Motors Co. Vice President Brent Dewar said GM is projecting U.S. sales of 10.5 million vehicles for 2009 and 12.5 million in 2010 as consumer confidence improves.

He said August sales for the Chevrolet brand were strong but there will be a payback in September. The government's Cash for Clunkers program definitely pulled sales forward from later in the year.

He said the program boosted sales for smaller cars. But he said new product sales such as the Chevrolet Camaro muscle car and Equinox crossover vehicle are continuing to be strong even after the program ended.

Mr. Dewar said Chevrolet now makes up 50 percent of GM's Global sales but is expected to rise to 60 or 65 percent next year as GM winds down its Pontiac, Saturn, Saab and Hummer brands.

Susan Docherty, general manager for GM's Buick-GMC-Pontiac brands, said GM is targeting 3 million “free agents” who drive vehicles from discontinued GM brands or models in an effort to keep them as customers.

The company plans to approach them with targeted e-mails and other messages, learning from its experience phasing out the Oldsmobile brand.

“We do not want to lose one customer,” she said.

GM likely will sell out its remaining Pontiacs by the end of the year, far faster than projected, Ms. Docherty said. GM expected to keep selling Pontiacs until the third quarter of next year, but will be down only 15,000 or 16,000 by next week.

GM has stopped making the Pontiac.


Friday, August 28, 2009

Ford to cops: Crown Vic is out
New Crown Victorias are transformed into Los Angeles Police Department squad cars in the Motor Transport Garage. Most aftermarket equipment is designed to fit the Crown Vic. (Nancy Pastor / Special to The Detroit News)

Automaker faces fight as it pushes replacement Taurus

Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News

Dearborn -- In June, Ford Motor Co. invited the heads of some of the nation's largest police fleets to Dearborn to talk about the future of police cars.

For nearly two decades, that market has belonged to Ford's Crown Victoria -- a vehicle that departments from coast to coast have come to respect for its toughness and reliability. Now the Crown Vic is running out of road.

"They told us that 2011 would be the last year they build the Crown Vic," said Larry Tagawa, commander of the Los Angeles Police Department's Motor Transport Division. "But Ford also made a commitment to support departments with a new vehicle."

Then Ford took the assembled police brass out to its test track and handed them the keys to its new Taurus.

Most motorists would be happy to trade in their old Crown Vic for Ford's latest flagship sedan. It is faster, safer and gets better mileage. But the Taurus, like most modern cars, lacks some of the features that have made the Crown Vic so popular with police.

That is one reason why Ford has yet to make a final decision on the Crown Vic's successor. But there are others: new competition -- not only from Ford's cross-town rivals, but also from a new start-up that promises to give police the vehicle of their dreams -- and the Canadian Auto Workers, which is keen to protect thousands of jobs at the plant in St. Thomas, Ontario, where the Crown Vic is produced.

"We've got some big decisions to make, and we're making them," said Jim Farley, head of global sales, marketing and service for Ford. "We have no intention of walking away from our share of that market."

Ever since General Motors Co. stopped production of the Crown Vic's main competitor -- the Chevrolet Caprice -- in 1996, the Crown Vic has been America's police car. It was crushed by the falling rubble of the World Trade Center and transported Paris Hilton to prison.

About 85 percent of the approximately 75,000 police cars sold in the United States each year are Crown Vics.

That is not a huge number of vehicles, and margins on sales to public agencies are notoriously slim, but analysts say it is still a profitable business for Ford.

"The majority of the investment in the Crown Vic was paid off so long ago that they're basically a license to print money," said auto analyst Jim Hall of 2953 Analytics LLP in Birmingham. "They also have zero marketing cost."

While that would not be the case initially with a vehicle like the Taurus, Hall said it would not take too long for it to replace the Crown Vic's contribution to Ford's bottom line.

But Ford Americas President Mark Fields said the police business provides other benefits to Ford that go beyond the bottom line.

"Every municipality has police, so you have Ford product everywhere across the country," Fields said. "It reinforces that Ford is part of the community."

Desirable features

Ford stopped selling Crown Vics to consumers in 2007, but many police officers say they would prefer to keep the outdated sedan. Though long past its prime and easily outrun by vehicles as mundane as the Honda Accord, it nonetheless offers cops some features they can find in few other vehicles -- most of which are considered liabilities, not assets, by civilian motorists.

It is one of the last body-on-frame cars still in production. That makes them tough and easy to repair, but also less safe because they lack crumple zones. The Crown Vic has a column shifter, which frees up the space between the driver and passenger seats for electronics and guns. And it is big enough to accommodate all of the gear a modern cop might need and still has room for two bad guys in the back seat.

Moreover, most of the aftermarket equipment produced for police vehicles -- everything from computers to light bars -- is designed to fit the Crown Vic. When some departments tried to make the switch to Chevrolet Impalas, they found that their communications equipment and computers did not fit in the narrower vehicle.

Then there is rear-wheel drive. The Crown Vic has it, and many competing vehicles do not. Many officers prefer this configuration because it offers more even weight distribution, better traction during acceleration and better handling, at least on dry roads.

Finally, there is familiarity. Most officers know what the Crown Vic will do and how to make it do it without having to think about it.

For cash-strapped agencies like the LAPD, abandoning the Crown Vic would also pose a serious fiscal challenge. It has millions of dollars invested in not only the cars, but also in parts, equipment and training.

Tagawa, commander of the department's Motor Transport Division, and his team have turned servicing the Crown Vic into a science. When a cop rams a bad guy, LAPD mechanics simply unbolt the damaged body panels, slap on new ones that have already been painted with the department's livery and put the car back on the street. They even have their own shop to refurbish busted parts.

"If they do go to a new platform, it will definitely cause us some grief," Tagawa said. "We would have to start all over."

Challenges growing

Not all departments share the LAPD's affection for the old Ford.

While about 90 percent of the vehicles in the 800-strong Michigan State Police fleet are Crown Vics, Lt. Keith Wilson says it is time for something new. As much as he respects the Crown Vic's track record, Wilson recognizes that vehicle technology -- particularly safety technology -- has come a long way since 1992.

"They have a good track record in terms of service and durability," he said. "But anything that we lose, we are going to gain in officer safety."

Wilson commands the agency's precision driving unit, which is responsible for evaluating new vehicles for Michigan, as well as most other jurisdictions around the country. He said departments have been "spoiled" by the Crown Vic.

Before GM got out of the police business, its ongoing rivalry with Ford meant a steady flow of new police models. Most agencies switched vehicles every two or three years, and many of the larger fleets were an amalgam of Fords and Chevrolets. Wilson said that is the model many will return to once production of the Crown Vic ends.

Chrysler Group LLC has been trying to muscle in on Ford's business with the Dodge Charger, but has had little success to date. Like the Crown Vic, the Charger is a rear-wheel drive vehicle. The police version offers a column shifter, and it boasts a much more powerful engine.

But Tagawa said they have not held up well in the field.

"The Charger is nice looking," he said. "But from a mechanical standpoint, they are not up to par with the Crown Vic."

He said they also are too small.

The Taurus, too, is smaller than the Crown Vic, is of unibody construction and lacks rear-wheel drive. But Tagawa said his department could adapt to it if necessary. He particularly likes the EcoBoost engine, which promises more horsepower and better mileage. Ford told members of its police advisory board that would be an available option.

Wilson has had better luck with the Charger. His agency is also evaluating the Chevrolet Impala.

Then there is Carbon Motors Corp. Last month, it announced plans produce a purpose-built police car at a new plant in Indiana.

Its E7 boasts an impressive array of features, but Hall of 2953 Analytics said other companies have tried to build police cars from scratch and failed for the same reason he believes Carbon will -- the margins are just too slim.

"They asked police what their perfect car was," he said. "They forgot to ask how much they were willing to pay for it."

Carbon did not respond to requests for comment, but Wilson said its products are not slated to be tested by his department.

"They have a unique model," he said. "We wish them well."

An ace up Ford's sleeve

Ford would not discuss its plans for the Taurus because it does not want to make a final commitment before it concludes talks with the CAW.

The company did tell the union that the end of Crown Vic production in 2011 is "non-negotiable," according to CAW President Ken Lewenza. But that was before Ford asked the union to reopen its contract.

Ford wants the CAW to give it the same concessions the union recently gave to GM and Chrysler as part of their Chapter 11 restructurings. Lewneza said that will only happen if Ford matches the product commitments those companies made to Canada.

"Keeping the Crown Vic in production until the end of the contract in 2012," he said, "would go a long way toward satisfying our objectives."


Extra shifts needed at
Ford to meet demand

Aug 28, 2009 04:30 AM

Ford Motor Co. says it will add shifts to its plants in Dearborn, Mich., and Claycomo, Mo., to meet demand for F-150 pickups and Ford Escape crossover vehicles.

A third production shift will be added to the sport utility line at the Kansas City Assembly Plant in October, where the Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker builds Ford Escapes and Mercury Mariners.

The company's Dearborn Truck Plant will operate three shifts beginning in late September to increase production of F-150 trucks.

Earlier this month, Ford said it would increase production in the fourth quarter to restock inventories depleted by strong consumer demand in July and August.

The Ford Escape was among the top-selling vehicles under the government's "Cash for Clunkers" program, which ended this week.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ford relies on European
clunker cash

Automaker seeks program extension to keep sales moving

Bloomberg News

Berlin -- Ford Motor Co. is lobbying European governments to extend consumer sales incentives to avoid a new market collapse when their versions of "cash for clunkers" programs end, according to the automakers top executive in the region.

Ford and the European Automobile Manufacturers Association trade group are asking governments if they would be prepared to maintain scrappage or, at the minimum, phase them out slowly, said John Fleming, Ford of Europe's chief executive officer.

European car sales rose in June for the first time in 14 months after governments offered sales incentives to help lift the industry out of its worst crisis since World War II. Ford estimates that Germany's 5 billion euro ($7.1 billion) scrapping program, one of Europe's most successful, will run out of money next month.

"The end of support for drivers to trade in old cars for new models is going to take us back down to much lower numbers, because the underlying economy likely hasn't sufficiently recovered," Fleming said.

Ford has reduced production by about 25 percent by cutting about 3,000 temporary employees, canceling shifts and decreasing work hours.

Ford is reluctant to further reduce the workforce, Fleming said, because the automaker doesn't want to impair its ability to respond to a recovery.

Ford posted a second-quarter operating profit of $138 million in Europe, bouncing back from a $550 million loss in the first quarter as it slashed vehicle inventories by about 30 percent. The automaker increased market share in the first half of 2009 to 8.9 percent from 8.4 percent, making it the second-largest brand in the region after Volkswagen AG.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Chrysler sues Daimler over parts supplies for 2010 models

Alisa Priddle / The Detroit News

Chrysler Group LLC is suing Daimler AG for refusing to honor contractual commitments to supply parts needed to continue production of some of its 2010 model vehicles.

Chrysler also is seeking an injunction to prevent Daimler from stopping the supply of diesel engines as well as torque converters and steering columns -- described as key components that cannot be obtained from any other supplier.

Among the vehicles facing shutdowns in production are the Dodge Challenger and Charger, Chrysler 300 and Jeep Grand Cherokee.

The supply relationship dates back to when Daimler owned Chrysler under the umbrella of DaimlerChrysler AG.

Daimler sold Chrysler to Cerberus Capital Management LP in 2007 but supply contracts were put in place to safeguard arrangements deemed worth preserving.

Chrysler Group filed the lawsuit against Daimler in U.S. bankruptcy court in New York on Friday in conjunction with Old Carco LLC, which is the part of the carmaker still in bankruptcy. A new Chrysler was created June 10 in an alliance with Fiat SpA.

In the lawsuit, the Auburn Hills company is seeking damages for any extra costs that accrue because of what it contends is a breach of contract by Daimler.

Daimler has no comment until it better explores the lawsuit, spokesman Han Tjan said Tuesday night.

Daimler has said Chrysler owes about $79 million to make up for not buying as many 2.2-liter diesel engines as the U.S. company originally planned to use in its vehicles sold in Europe.

Chrysler has seen its sales plummet in Europe as well as North America this year.

The automaker is asking the court to rule on whether it must make up the volume shortfall.

Chrysler Group sees Daimler's refusal to ship parts as extortion, claiming it is no longer obliged to pay for the shortfall under previous settlements made with the old Chrysler. The automaker's position is that all past contracts and agreements were transferred to the new company formed with Fiat.

The German automaker "is in direct violation with an April 17, 2009, settlement agreement approved by the bankruptcy court and also is in direct violation of a dispute resolution agreement executed by Chrysler Group and Daimler on July 6, 2009," Chrysler spokesman Mike Palese said.

Detroit, Ontario affected

The vehicles facing a parts shortage are made in the Jefferson North Jeep plant and the Brampton, Ontario, sedan plant, said Chrysler spokesman Gualberto Ranieri.

Chrysler underwent an expedited trip through bankruptcy, citing the pressing need to resume vehicle production for the 2010 model year. The automaker closed all plants during the 42 days it was under Chapter 11 protection, and shortly after workers were called back to work, they were off again for the summer shutdown to prepare plants to build the 2010 models that will hit showrooms this fall.

Additionally, any vehicles Chrysler sells in Europe need diesels to succeed in that market.

At the Frankfurt auto show next month, Chrysler plans to showcase the 2.2-liter diesel in the Dodge Caliber, Jeep Compass and Patriot.


Battle for Opel heats up as GM drags feet on sale

Eric Reguly

Globe and Mail Last updated on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2009

The Opel phony war is raising tensions on both sides of the Atlantic.

General Motors Co., Opel's owner, is refusing to say why it's dragging out the process to pick a new owner for the European car maker. The delays have left Opel's two bidders, the German government and the company's employees, frustrated and angry. In protest, Opel's 25,000 workers in Germany Monday rescinded their offer to forgo €70-million ($108-million) in holiday bonuses.

The Wall Street Journal reported last night that GM's management team was drafting a financing plan worth $4.3-billion to keep control of Opel. There were also reports GM is worried Opel's patents would be used against its Chevrolet division in Russia.

Franz Klaus, Opel's top employee representative, told German radio Monday that “our patience is absolutely at an end.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who faces an election next month, said in a weekend television interview that a decision on Opel's future is “urgently needed.”

The bidders – a Canadian-Russian group led by car parts maker Magna International Inc., (MG.A-T48.94-2.11-4.13%) and Belgian private equity firm RHJ International SA – insist they don't know why GM's board meeting last Friday left Opel in limbo. The GM board overruled GM's management, which was ready to back the offer led by Magna.

“The problem is that GM has not explained why there is an additional delay,” said an executive close to Magna.

“We have no idea what GM's final intention is,” said RHJ spokesman Arnaud Denis. “Nothing indicates that we are no longer in the race. But we are in an awkward situation.”

Another explanation for GM's hesitation could be that the restructured company, which emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the United States on July 11, is more confident about its own future – and Opel's – and no longer wants to sell the company, or wants to sell less of it.

Under the proposal from Ontario-based Magna, GM would retain about 35 per cent ownership. If RHJ were to win, General Motors would end up with 39.9 per cent.

In her weekend interview, Chancellor Merkel hinted this was the case. “The conflict of interest could be that we think Magna has made a very good offer … which makes GM a minority shareholder in the whole setup, and there may be voices at GM who'd prefer that this minority shareholding wasn't so marked,” the German leader said.

GM Europe spokeswoman Karin Kirchner declined to comment, beyond saying that the GM board “obviously needs some clarification” on certain matters related to the bidders' proposals and the German government's role in keeping Opel alive while a turnaround plan is put in place.

A German government spokesman said a GM senior executive will meet with government officials this week to discuss the Opel sale. “The issue can't be solved via confrontation, but only together,” Ulrich Wilhelm told reporters in Berlin. “We will do everything possible to bring about a constructive decision.”

Opel is surviving on a €1.5-billion bridge loan from the German government. Each of the bidders is asking for billions more.

Another reason for the indecision could be that GM thinks the German government has rigged the bidding in Magna's favour, partly because it believes that Magna is more likely than RHJ to preserve Opel jobs in Germany.

John Smith, GM's chief negotiator on the Opel sale, has used company blogs to state GM's preference for RHJ. GM fears that Magna and its Russian partner, Sberbank, the country's biggest bank, would transfer Opel's competitive automotive technology to Russia's ailing car makers.

Germany has made it clear that is it more likely to provide financing to Magna than to RHJ. GM wants assurances that either bidder would get similar financing treatment. In his Aug. 14 blog, Mr. Smith said GM has “asked the German automotive task force to provide GM an outline of the terms and conditions of the financing package they and other European governments would make available to NewOpel. We expect to receive this outline soon, which will round out the materials needed for the GM board review.”

RHJ's Mr. Denis said: “We have yet to hear their position on this,” referring to the German government's commitment to Opel financing should RHJ win.

Opel union leaders are to unveil protest plans Tuesday as the saga continues. The German newspaper Bild reported that workers may rally on the weekend in front of the U.S. embassy in Berlin. Mr. Kraus, the Opel labour leader, threatened “spectacular measures” if GM does not pick a winner soon.

In spite of the pressure on GM, the company may take its time to choose Opel's owner. The phenomenally successful cash-for-clunkers schemes in Europe, notably Germany, have boosted Opel's sales, buying it a bit more breathing space. In the first half of the year, Opel and its sister brand in Britain – Vauxhall – sold a respectable 560,000 cars in Europe.

If GM decides against selling Opel to either Magna or RHJ, Opel might be forced into bankruptcy. But General Motors would risk losing Opel forever under a court-ordered restructuring. The bankruptcy judge might order a the sale of Opel to the highest bidder, which might not be GM. If Opel were to go to a rival, GM would lose the small-car platforms and engine technology that are key to its global revival.

Volume 39, No. 29 – August 28, 2009

9th Constitutional Convention Issue: Quebec City. August 18-21, 2009
CAW Elects New Slate to Lead the Union

Constitutional Convention delegates re-elected Ken Lewenza as CAW National President, Jean-Pierre Fortin as Quebec Director and elected Peter Kennedy as National Secretary-Treasurer.

Over the last year the union has now elected three new top officers following the retirement of previous leadership.

“The new leadership team will bring great energy, experience and vision to the many challenges our union faces,” Lewenza said. “Part of these challenges will be to reach out to all working people in every sector of the economy, regardless of age, income, country of origin, language, religion, gender or sexual orientation and ensure that the union is not only relevant, but essential to the working lives of all people. That is our task for today and every day going forward.”

Lewenza was first elected as National President on September 6, 2008 and has led the union through emergency bargaining and the then possible bankruptcies of Chrysler and General Motors, as well as bargaining with Air Canada.

Peter Kennedy succeeds Jim O’Neil who ends his 18-year tenure as the union’s National Secretary-Treasurer. Kennedy first joined the staff of the union as Education Director in 1989 and most recently held the post of assistant to the Secretary-Treasurer for the last 17 years. In this role, he oversaw the daily operations of the union as well as bargaining with General Motors, CAMI in Ingersoll, Ontario and the aerospace and electronics sectors of the union.

Jean-Pierre Fortin was first elected Quebec Director on April 26, 2008 with the retirement of Luc Desnoyers, now Bloc MP for the federal riding of Rivière-des-Mille-Îles. Fortin joined the union’s staff in 1990 after being a union leader since the early 1970s at United Aircraft (now Pratt & Whitney). Fortin held a position in the union’s Organizing Department and later worked as the Montreal Area Director before being elected Quebec Director.

The three men were acclaimed by union delegates who gathered for the union’s 9th Constitutional Convention.

Also elected to the union’s National Executive Board were Christine Connor, CAW Local 414 president in Milton, Ontario (representing 15,000 retail and service sector workers across Ontario), Roland Kiehne, CAW Local 112 president, in Toronto (representing 3,000 workers in the aerospace, heavy equipment and auto parts manufacturing sectors), Jean Van Vliet, CAW Local 3000 president in New Westminster (representing service sector workers) and Nancy McMurphy, CAW Local 302 in London, Ontario (representing 5,500 health care workers).

Challenges, Resistance, Opportunity and Renewal

CAW President Ken Lewenza’s wide ranging opening address to the CAW’s 9th Constitutional Convention covered the key economic and political challenges facing the union as it heads towards its 25th year.

Lewenza’s speech supported the convention theme of “challenges, resistance, opportunity, renewal” and stressed the importance of rank and file activists, membership and leadership in helping the union continue to build during a time of crisis.

Global Challenges

Lewenza reminded delegates of the many international crises that are impacting not only CAW members, but all Canadians. He urged the Canadian government to advocate for peace and re-establish its long-held role as a peacekeeper.

Delegates must push for the return of Canadian troops from Afghanistan, where 130 Canadians have died during the current conflict, including 127 troops.

He also stressed the need for a peaceful solution to the Middle East crisis, and the importance of demonstrating for democratic rights in Iran and Honduras and reminded delegates of the courageous struggle for democratic elections and rights in Burma by pro democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the first winner of the CAW Nelson Mandela Human Rights Award.

While auto workers across the globe have faced hardship during the current economic crisis, none have seen the same kind of repression as South Korean auto workers who staged a 77-day sit in, where water, food, electricity and gas were cut off by authorities. More than 150 union members were injured but a tentative agreement was reached. Lewenza urged all delegates to push for the immediate release of all Ssangyong workers from South Korean prisons.

Resistance in Canada

Harkening back to the free trade debates of the late-1980s lead by former CAW President Bob White against Thomas D’Aquino’s pro-business lobby, Lewenza also urged delegates to remain vigilant in the fight to prevent the Harper government’s proposed expansion of the North American Free Trade Agreement. The proposal would limit the ability of governments to establish local purchasing policies to protect Canadian jobs and encourage regional economic development.

“It’s ridiculous to think governments will be stripped of the right to use public funds in order to maximize the economic benefit of communities,” Lewenza said, noting recent CAW campaigns focused on Buy Canadian purchasing policies including joint efforts with the United Steelworkers, Canadian Union of Postal Workers and other organizations.

Lewenza highlighted other important struggles the union has led in recent months including a campaign to improve access and extend benefits under Canada’s Employment Insurance system, an effort to improve both public and private pensions, to push for stronger environmental standards to combat climate change and foster new green economic development and to continue the fight to end poverty in Canada and around the world.


The difficult rounds of collective bargaining the union has been involved in over the past year, including numerous rounds with General Motors as well as Chrysler, Air Canada, Bombardier, International Truck, Lear and other auto parts manufacturers, have also provided the opportunity to connect and build solidarity with leadership and the members.

It has meant there was a forum to outline the issues and to also challenge the false solutions presented by right wing governments and business leaders who are using the global economic crisis to undermine workers rights and the historic gains made by the labour movement.

The fight back to gain severance pay owed workers whose plants have closed through occupations at Aradco/Aramco, Ledco, and Collins and Aikman demonstrates the courage and commitment of CAW members and their leadership. From the fightback by CAW Mine/Mill Local 598 members who were laid off to FFAW/CAW members fighting to preserve the fishing industry, Lewenza praised the efforts of CAW members and leadership in the face of incredible odds.

Lewenza said possible success by the Obama administration on health care reform, union card check certification and other progressive measures will inspire activists in Canada and elsewhere to continue fighting right wing agendas.


Lewenza also emphasized the necessity of making more space for young workers in the union. “We all need to be thinking about how we can grow the union through the energy of young people,” said Lewenza, who recently took part in the union’s 4th ever youth conference. Lewenza stressed that youth are a tremendous resource for the union and have been doing important work in networking across the country.

He also spoke about the need for the union to reflect the country’s ever more diverse workforce. “Canada is changing for the better in that regard,” said Lewenza. He said the union must find new ways to harness the energy and ideas of the constantly changing workforce, including increasing the union’s representation of workers of colour, immigrant workers, temporary workers and low income earners, as well as workers from all economic sectors. 

CAW’s Peggy Nash Elected President of NDP

Peggy Nash, assistant to the CAW National President, has been elected President of the New Democratic Party of Canada at the NDP’s federal convention in Halifax, Nova Scotia August 14-16.
“As Canadians long for a vision of a better tomorrow, we need to focus on what unites us,” Nash said after her election. "How do we create a green recovery with new kinds of jobs for young people? How do we build a sustainable economy? What sectors do we want to see developed? These are our challenges. I believe we can meet them."  
Nash was a MP for Parkdale-High Park in Toronto (2006-2008) and a long time party member. As federal NDP industry critic, Nash pressed the government to reject, for the first time in more than 20 years, the foreign takeover of a major Canadian firm, MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (maker of the Canadarm) to a U.S. munitions manufacturer.

“We couldn’t be happier that Peggy Nash has been elected President,” said federal New Democrat leader Jack Layton. “I have absolute confidence that she will bring energy, innovation and leadership to the role.”

Nash replaces Anne McGrath, outgoing president and current chief of staff to Layton. The presidential term is three years and is a volunteer position. Nash will remain as an assistant to the CAW National President.

Quebec Hit Hard by Economic Crisis, says CAW Quebec Director

The Jean Charest Quebec government has denied the impact of the economic crisis on workers across the province, Quebec Director Jean-Pierre Fortin told Constitutional Convention delegates in his opening address.

Fortin said that Premier Jean Charest has claimed his government has dealt with the economic crisis better than other provincial governments, but this is far from the truth.

“This is not because Quebec’s economy is performing better, but because we have a much weaker presence of manufacturing jobs,” said Fortin. 
In July alone, the province lost 38,100 jobs predominantly in the service sector.

“There is not one set of negotiations where our union doesn’t face demands for concessions,” said Fortin. More than ever, the union is determined to protect the gains workers have made and push for a more just and egalitarian society, said Fortin.

CLC President Calls for Fightback Against Recession

Canadian Labour Congress President Ken Georgetti addressed the most important issues concerning working Canadians in his speech to the Constitutional Convention.

One of the top priorities of the CLC is increasing pressure on government to improve EI for the 1.6 million Canadians out of work, said Georgetti.

‘“Every dime should be used to protect Canadians and not to support corporate CEOs,” said Georgetti. “Citizens need to be in charge of Canada and have their voices heard nationally.”

Georgetti quoted a Globe and Mail article about CEOs continuing to receive massive bonuses, despite attacks on workers to slash wages and benefits.

Georgetti also called for the doubling of the benefits from the Canada Pension Plan and Quebec Pension Plan within the next 10 years so workers can retire in dignity.

CEP President Urges Continued Solidarity during Economic Crisis

“We need to light a fire, a really big fire,” CEP President David Coles said.

Coles described the entire labour movement as being under siege during the current global economic crisis and urged the labour movement to join together to launch a strong fightback.

In Canada, Communications, Energy and Paperworkers (CEP) union members continue to face the crunch, especially those in the forestry sector, where up to 80 per cent of union members will have lost their jobs by the time the fallout is over.

On top of the overall economic crisis, Canadian forestry workers have been impacted by U.S. government subsidies. Some provincial governments such as Quebec and Newfoundland have stepped forward to help forestry workers and their families, but the federal Conservatives have in effect called forestry a “sunset industry”.

Coles blasted the Stephen Harper Conservatives for their refusal to help workers and their families in the 300 forestry communities across Canada where CEP members face daily struggles to protect their jobs and the very future of this critical industry.

He pledged to ensure that the Harper Conservatives pay the price in the next election for the neglect and hardship they have fostered in those 300 communities.

Coles thanked CAW members for their support in numerous campaigns including the recent boycott of Petro Canada to raise awareness of the plight of 300 CEP members who were locked out at a Montreal refinery. The boycott ensured a successful conclusion to the dispute with no concessions given by the workers.

Labour Presents Progressive Vision for New Economy

This year is the first time on record that the GDP of the entire world will shrink, Peggy Nash, assistant to the CAW National President told delegates in a presentation on the policy paper titled: “We will fight this crisis -the economics and politics of the global financial meltdown”.

“That’s globalization at work,” said Nash.

Across Canada alone, there are more than 2 million unemployed or underemployed workers and for these people, claims that Canada has pulled out of the recession are nothing more than a cruel joke, said Nash.

As part of the presentation, Nash outlined a 12 point plan to overhaul the economy and recover from the recession:

● Re-regulate the financial industry;
● Expand the role of public and non-profit banks;
● Expand EI;
● Assistance for displaced workers;
● Step up direct public spending;
● Massive public environmental investments;
● Expansion of public housing;
● Protect and expand key sectors, including manufacturing and others;
● Protect and expand pensions;
● Mandatory Buy Canadian policies;
● Re-negotiate trade deals in a fair and balanced manner;
● Target the Canadian dollar at a figure below $.80 US

To read the contents of We will fight this crisis, please visit: http://www.caw.ca/en/7755.htm

Building the Union in Hard Times

The shifting industrial make-up of Canada’s economy and decline in the population of unionized members poses a series of important questions and challenges in building and strengthening the labour movement for the future.

The paper highlights the changing profile of the CAW since the 1980s through four lenses: membership and sector make-up, union activities (including campaigns and community initiatives), the work of local union standing committees, and a CAW book of lists – an ongoing project that provides a detailed description of the union’s work that will continue to be developed as the CAW prepares to celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2010. 

Challenging times also provide opportunities for positive change and renewal, Robertson said. In certain cases, renewal efforts could wrongly lead unions to pare down resources and refocus their efforts entirely on workplace issues at the expense of broader social issues.

The paper calls on delegates to recognize and uphold the principles of social unionism as the cornerstone of renewal. Social unionism, while rooted in the workplace, broadens the union’s focus on issues influencing the general direction of society.

“Moving members from a passive acceptance to an active engagement with their union will be the key to our success,” Robertson said.

Dozens of convention delegates spoke in support of the policy paper, highlighting the importance of mobilizing members for political action, educating and organizing new members as key components of building capacity for the future.

A full copy of Building the Union in Hard Times is available at:


International Solidarity a Must for Global Transport Workers

Transport workers around the globe must commit to international solidarity efforts to improve working conditions, create decent work and promote sustainability as unions continue to face the challenges brought on by free trade and globalization, said International Transport Workers’ Federation General Secretary David Cockroft.

Cockroft highlighted the work ITF affiliate unions and activists around the world that have taken action on major social and economic justice issues impacting workers, including the fight to release imprisoned Iranian trade union leader Mansour Onsaloo and the refusal of South African dock workers to handle munitions earmarked for Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwean militia.

Israeli and Palestinian transport workers operating checkpoints in the West Bank have also engaged in solidarity efforts, through the ITF, to improve the delivery of goods and access to aid for citizens in the region.   

Cockroft stressed the need for unions representing transport workers to think beyond their national borders. 

“Employers no longer restrict themselves to national borders and neither should we,” Cockroft said.

Cockroft recognized the work of CAW National Secretary-Treasurer Jim O’Neil as a member of the ITF Executive Board since 1994, helping to create space for women on the Board and for his support on the ITF Young Workers Program.  
The ITF is a Global Union Federation (GUF) and represents 4.5 million transport workers in 148 countries. There are over 41,000 CAW transport members affiliated to the ITF.  
CAW Calls for Emergency Action on Fishing Crisis

The CAW is calling for immediate intervention on the fishing crisis that has hit the Fraser River in British Columbia.

This crisis comes after years of failed government policies on the fishing sector which has devastated communities at both ends of the country, said CAW National President Ken Lewenza.

“Thousands of workers could be out of a job as a result of the dramatic drop in salmon in British Columbia this summer,” said Lewenza. “The economic crisis has had terrible consequences for the fishing industry which was already faltering as a result of poor government policies and unsustainable off-shore competition.”

Delegates passed an emergency resolution demanding government action on the environmental, economic and social degradation which has occurred on both the east and west coasts of the country.

“The federal and provincial governments on both coasts have neglected this industry and the loss of approximately nine million salmon should be a wake up call to government and industry,” said CAW-FFAW President Earle McCurdy.

The CAW represents approximately 2,500 fishery workers in British Columbia (CAW-affiliated United Fish and Allied Workers Union-UFAWU) and approximately 10,000 fish harvesters and 6,000 fish plant workers in Newfoundland and Labrador (CAW-Fish, Food and Allied Workers-FFAW).

CUPE President Urges United Front to Fight the Right

Public and private sector unions, social justice groups and others must work together to build a forceful, united movement that can push back the agenda of right-wing governments and big corporations, CUPE President Paul Moist says.

Moist told CAW Constitutional Convention delegates that right-wing columnists, politicians and business leaders are using the recession to launch increasingly aggressive attacks on both public and private sector workers.

These right wing ideologues are counting on workers being afraid to speak out against the hypocrisy of this agenda that calls for massive worker rollbacks and sacrifices, while the average compensation for the CEOs of major corporations continues to grow at astounding rates.

“So these emperors have no clothes, but they are banking on our silence,” Moist said. “We need to confront the hypocrisy.”

Deregulation, privatization and free trade have been on the agenda of the right wing for decades and are the root causes of the current economic crisis facing workers today. Moist blasted those who are calling for more of that agenda as a solution.

He outlined the tough attacks CUPE members endured during recent public sector strikes in Windsor and Toronto. He thanked the CAW for supporting CUPE members and urged continued solidarity between public and private sector union members.

CAW President Ken Lewenza lauded Moist for speaking out in favour of good private sector jobs, in addition to defending public sector workers. Lewenza urged a renewed commitment by labour to publicly discuss and stress the importance of public services in our communities.

NDP Outlines Program for Working People

Claims that the recession is over are Bay Street fiction disconnected from the reality of the lives of working people across the country, NDP leader Jack Layton says.

In manufacturing, forestry and other economic sectors, the recession continues to tear workers and their families apart. Despite claims that a recovery is underway the impact on working people is gut wrenching.

This far reaching attack on workers and the middle class is a product of economic and political thinking from decades ago such as Thatcherism or Reaganomics that was built on the false premise that government must be pushed out of the way to accommodate the demands of big corporations.

Layton outlined a multi-pronged approach that the NDP are advocating for the next Parliament, including reform of Employment Insurance so that the multi-billion dollar fund provides more help to far more of the growing ranks of the unemployed.

There is also need for pension reform to ensure that seniors and those who have worked all their lives can enjoy a decent standard of living in retirement. Attacks on pensions that mean banks and other creditors are paid back before retirees during a bankruptcy, for example, must stop.

In addition, the federal government needs to establish a program to protect pension funds to ensure they are properly funded when a bankruptcy occurs. In the area of public pensions, Layton called for a whole new approach to income and security for seniors that will require a major fix of the Canada Pension Plan.

The NDP will push in the next Parliament to not only protect public health care and ensure it continues as a cherished national institution inspired by the efforts of Tommy Douglas, but also advocate for its expansion into other areas such as national Pharmacare and long-term care programs.

Building Progressive Alternatives in Quebec  

Despite strong economic growth over the last 25 years, the great majority of the benefits of that growth have flowed to corporate CEOs and not to workers, said Michel Arsenault, President of the Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec (FTQ).

The current recession and jobs crisis is the result of the policies and leadership of right wing politicians like former U.S. President George Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Quebec Premier Jean Charest.

It’s critical the labour movement works hard in Quebec and across Canada to elect progressive politicians who will react and build strong alternatives to the right-wing mantra that “markets will resolve everything,” he told CAW Convention delegates.

In Quebec, where 40 per cent of the workforce is unionized, progressive legislation is central to the ongoing fight against the agenda of right wing politicians and business lobbyists.
Quebec has anti-scab legislation, strong pay equity legislation, binding arbitration for first collective agreements, a progressive tax structure, a card check system for union organizing, and among many other progressive policies, a day care system that costs $7 per day per child.

Innovation Needed in Times of Crisis, PQ Leader Says

We must prioritize buying domestically and give much needed support to local producers and manufacturers, Parti-Québécois Leader Pauline Marois says.

Governments must be innovative in times of crisis and a government program promoting domestic purchasing would go a long way to boost the economy and curtail job loss, Marois told Convention delegates. Both the Stephen Harper federal government and the Jean Charest provincial government have failed to take the action needed to stem the impact of the crisis on families across Quebec and across Canada.

“It’s necessary to be active and make the choice to protect and create jobs,” said Marois. “The laisser-faire policies of both governments have brought on the results that we all know today.”

In Quebec, few sectors have suffered from the economic crisis as much as the forestry sector, a major employer in the northern part of the province. She said forestry and related industries are in peril and the situation is growing worse by the day.

Marois also took the opportunity to address the issue of Quebec sovereignty, which she described as a plan for Quebec and Quebeckers, “not a plan against Canada and Canadians.” 

CSA TUCA General Secretary: ‘We Will Overcome’

Victor Báez Mosqueira, began his speech from Paraguay over video by saying that the global economic crisis has affected countries all over the Americas and has increased poverty and social exclusion.

“It has cut workers’ and socialists’ rights, something we need to restore,” said Báez Mosqueira.

He addressed the fact that the recession has given a way for the right wing to roll back policies that were well-established. Báez Mosqueira expressed to the delegates that Stephen Harper is living in the past and needs to play a more vital role in protecting the right of workers in Canada.

Báez Mosqueira spoke at length about the recent coup in Honduras. Prior to the coup the democratically elected president José Manuel Zelaya Rosales implemented a 60 per cent increase in the minimum wage, alarming multi-national corporations but bringing about much needed aid for the working poor.

Báez Mosqueira criticized both Canada and the United States for not taking a stronger stand against the military coup. For workers in South America particularly in countries such as Chile, Bolivia, Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela where strong democratic governments have been elected, the military take-over in Honduras must be stopped, he said.

“We shall over come, we know a better Canada and a better Honduras is possible because of the support of progressive labour organizations like the CAW and the CLC,” said Báez Mosqueira.

CAW Delegates Vote to Include Youth Committees in Constitution

Over 1000 delegates to the CAW Constitutional Convention in Quebec City voted unanimously to endorse a resolution that would amend the national constitution to include “youth committees” as recognized standing committees in all local unions across the country, where practical.

Over a dozen young delegates (aged 30 or younger), representing a diverse range of workplaces, spoke in favour of the resolution.

“This is an important step as our union continues to confront the challenges of generational change,” said CAW Local 4005 member Sebastien Bezeau, who is also the Chairperson of the local’s youth committee. “Our union has always supported young workers and the establishment of youth committees, but this constitutional amendment shows our union is proactive and that young worker development is a priority.”

CAW delegates also endorsed a series of other resolutions over the course of the four-day convention, including:
► A commitment to encourage local unions to advocate for the appointment of union members, specially educated in the area of pensions, to sit as trustees on pension funds to protect the interests of workers;

► Support for green anti-poverty (GAP) job creation strategies across the country that link environmental sustainability efforts with the creation of good jobs, income security and social justice. This resolution was intended to build on the success of CAW Local 112’s effort to work with low-income community partners to create a GAP coalition in the Jane/Finch community in Toronto;

► The establishment of a plain language constitution review committee to ensure the language of the CAW constitution is clear and accessible. The committee is scheduled to report back at the next Convention in 2012.

Problems Faced by Workers Universal, Says CGT G-S
Problems faced by Canadian workers are the same as those faced by workers in France, Confédération Générale du TravailCGT) General Secretary Bernard Thibault said in his address to convention delegates.  Grave concerns about pensions, job security, growing poverty are all causing outrage across the country. (

He spoke of major demonstrations across the country that brought millions out onto the streets in protest against the toll the economic crisis was having on citizens. On the January 29 day of action alone, there were 195 demonstrations. On March 19, three million French workers and supporters walked off the job for a general strike in 213 locations across the country, said Thibault. “Workers must not pay twice for this crisis,” he said. The CGT represents approximately 650,000 members across France.

Passing of CAW Area Director Steve Farkas

CAW Kitchener Area Director Steve Farkas, 49, passed away suddenly on Sunday, August 23 in Port Dover, Ontario. Steve leaves behind his wife Louise, step-son Chad and extended family.
“On behalf of the 225,000 members of the CAW across Canada, I want to extend our sincere condolences to Steve’s family during this very difficult time,” CAW President Ken Lewenza said. “Steve was a conscientious and dedicated member of the union’s staff and he will be greatly missed.”
A celebration of Steve's life is planned in Port Dover on Saturday, August 29.


Ford Flex Way cooler
than a minivan

After a 500-kilometre family road trip with their six-year-old son and four-year-old daughter, John Heinzl and his wife came to appreciate the Flex’s many family-friendly features. Charla Jones/The Globe and Mail

John Heinzl

August 24 Globe and Mail

With its boxy body and contrasting white roof, the Ford Flex draws plenty of stares. To some, it looks like a Mini Cooper Clubman on steroids. To others, it resembles a hearse.

When I pulled up to the house in our test vehicle, my wife wasn't sure what to think. “The very first impression I had was that it looked kind of strange,” she said.

But first impressions can be deceiving. After giving the Flex a week-long workout that included a 500-kilometre road trip to the cottage and back with our two young kids, we both came to appreciate not only the Flex's unique design, but the car's many family-friendly features as well.

The Flex boasts many of the best attributes of a minivan: A roomy interior, optional seating for up to seven, ample cargo space. But for parents who don't want a vehicle that screams “soccer mom,” the fact that it looks nothing like a minivan may be its biggest selling point.

Our top-of-the-line Flex Limited model was equipped with optional 19-inch aluminum rims and tinted windows, which, combined with the vehicle's low-slung stance, made it look more like something out of Pimp My Ride. Everywhere we went, people stopped to chat about our car.

The Flex's distinctive styling is apparent inside as well, from the wood-grain trim and analog clock to the multi-panel Vista Roof – which helped pass the time when the kids tired of watching Charlotte's Web on the DVD player. My six-year-old son Curtis approved: “It has four sunroofs and you can look straight up in the sky.”

Flex 2

Above all, the Flex is built for long family trips. The cargo area, though not as generous as a minivan's, accommodated four travelling bags, several boxes of food, a tennis racquet, assorted baseball bats, balls and gloves, and a large cooler. That was with the third-row seats folded flat.

When you flip the third-row seats back into the upright position, they're roomy enough for most adults – a big improvement over the cramped third rows in some mid-size SUVs. What's more, climbing into the back seats was easy, thanks to a button that automatically folded the second-row seats forward.

When it came time to unload, the power tailgate – activated by a button on the key fob – was a welcome feature. When it's raining and you're juggling a kid in one arm and a bag in the other, the last thing you want to do is wrestle with the rear hatch. Another nifty feature was Ford's Easy Fuel system: No more gas caps to twist.

There were some other pleasant surprises as well.

The 12-speaker Sony audio system was a joy to listen to, whether it was playing a classic rock channel on the Sirius satellite radio or my four-year-old daughter's Raffi CD (okay, maybe that's a stretch).

When the music was off, the Flex's cabin was surprisingly quiet while cruising at highway speeds. The vehicle also handled well for a car of its size, with minimal body roll in turns. The downside is that, on potholed city streets, you feel more of the bumps.

Another handy feature was the built-in refrigerator, tucked in the console between the second-row seats. If you're the sort of person who must have access to a cold can of pop at all times, this option is for you. The unit also has a freezer button to keep ice cream bars and other frozen treats from melting until it's snack time. Of course, you could always buy a cooler bag and some ice packs and save yourself $650.

All of these upgrades don't come cheap. Our fully loaded vehicle, which included all-wheel-drive, navigation system and rear back-up camera, tipped the scales at $51,749, which is comparable to a top-of-the line minivan. (A stripped-down Flex SEL front-wheel-drive model can be had for about $30,000, including promotional discounts).

The Flex isn't perfect. For one thing, fuel economy is just so-so. For another, the 2009 model lacks a telescoping steering wheel, which – even though the foot pedals are adjustable – makes it hard for some taller drivers to achieve a comfortable driving position. To its credit, Ford has corrected this shortcoming for 2010 models.

Another problem is the ceiling-mounted DVD player. When the screen is flipped into the viewing position, it reduces visibility out the rear window. Ford offers an upgraded entertainment system with monitors mounted on the headrests, which would solve that issue.

Flex 3

One criticism I heard from people is that the Flex looks unusually long, which would presumably make it a nightmare to park. Not so. The vehicle's apparent stretch-limo dimensions are more of an optical illusion than anything, created by its boxy lines. In fact, at 5.126 metres, the Flex is slightly shorter than a Honda Odyssey minivan.

All things considered, the Flex is a worthy road warrior. It's spacious, comfortable, provides a pleasurable driving experience – and it's cooler-looking than your neighbour's minivan. After a week, even my wife was sorry to see the Flex go.

“It's grown on me,” she said.

***** ***** *****


Type: Crossover utility vehicle

Base Price: $43,499; as tested, $51,749

Engine: 3.5-litre V-6


262 hp/248 lb-ft

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Drive: All-wheel-drive

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 13.5 city/9.2 highway; regular gas




$1,500 ante by Chrysler
ups gambit to rev sales

Toyota salesman Red Qayomie walks by a Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo turned in as a clunker at a Toyota dealership in Palo Alto, Calif. Forms to get U.S. rebates will not be accepted after 8 p.m. New York time Monday. (July 28, 2009)

`This is ... the right move for our country, our
health and our environment:' CEO

Aug 23, 2009
Tony Van Alphen
Business Reporter

Chrysler Canada says it is offering the country's most aggressive cash-for-clunker plan with incentives of up to $1,500, two days after Hyundai Auto Canada introduced the first program.

The company announced late yesterday that it would "turbocharge" the federal government's Retire Your Ride offer of $300, starting on Monday, with an incentive of an extra $500 to $1,500 if Canadians scrap their old auto and buy a new Chrysler model.

Hyundai announced Wednesday that it would top up the federal program with an offer of $500 to $1,000 indefinitely to customers who recycle their cars and buy new company models.

Both companies emphasize the environmental benefits of their programs but acknowledge that it also should boost business.

The cash is on top of any other company incentives in the marketplace for both companies. "This is the responsible thing to do," said Reid Bigland, Chrysler's president and chief executive, in a statement.

"Facilitating the removal of these vehicles from the road is the right move for our country, our health and our environment."

Under the Chrysler program, eligible customers must be the owners of a 1995 or older auto that still runs and has registration and insurance.

For example, motorists can get $500 for a new Jeep Patriot or Grand Caravan and $1,500 for a Grand Cherokee, Ram 1500 truck or Nitro model if they scrap their old autos. The program ends in the first week of January.

The conditions are similar to qualifying for the $300 federal rebate or other incentives such as transit passes under Ottawa's "Retire Your Ride" program that started earlier this year.

Industry watchers said they expect other automakers here to consider seriously such clunker incentives to generate sales in a market that has tumbled more than 16 per cent in the past year.

The Hyundai and Chrysler moves follow the success of an American government clunker program that has offered up to $4,500 (U.S.) to motorists.

It has pulled half a million high-polluting vehicles off American roads and sparked an equivalent number of sales during the past month in an industry where volumes are at their lowest levels in decades. The program has cost the U.S. government $3 billion and ends Monday.

The industry in this country, including automakers, dealers and unions, has pressed Ottawa to sweeten its $300 (Canadian) incentive for weeks in view of the U.S. program.

Environment Minister Jim Prentice said this week that he would decide by Sept. 1 whether to improve the program. About 13,000 motorists have collected the federal incentive to date.

Some analysts say higher government incentives will not help the industry much more here because it will pull forward future sales. Also, they say it will not reduce pollution dramatically because consumers would scrap their cars regardless within the next few years.

Canada offers trade promises to U.S. in exchange for Buy American waiver

Ottawa, provinces offer ‘time-limited' proposal that would give American firms ‘guaranteed access' to contracts

Campbell Clark
August 23, 2009

The Canadian government has offered the U.S. guaranteed access to the provinces’ public purchases in exchange for a quick waiver of Buy American provisions that have frozen Canadian companies out of lucrative American stimulus-spending contracts.

In a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, Canadian trade minister Stockwell Day said such a deal would address Canada’s immediate concerns about Buy American, and could serve as a prelude to a permanent deal that would open cross-border access to provincial, state, and city contracts.

The letter, dated Thursday and obtained by The Globe and Mail, refers to a proposal that Canada submitted at the same time, after lengthy talks with the provinces.

“Through this proposal, Canada is offering time-limited guarantees to an ambitious package of sub-federal procurement in an exchange for a waiver from the “Buy American” requirements in the Recovery Act and any similar requirements in new federal U.S. legislation.

The U.S. Recovery Act, the $860-billion stimulus package pass early this year, sends about $260-billion to state and local governments in the U.S. for spending projects, but requires that all steel and manufactured goods be U.S. made. Similar provisions are included in several bills winding through the U.S. Congress.

The U.S. has down played the impact, even Canadian companies say they have been frozen out of lucrative contracts. But earlier this month, U.S. President Barack Obama brushed off the concerns.

“I do think it’s important to keep this in perspective. This in no way has endangered the billions of dollars of trade taking place between our two countries,” Mr. Obama said as he, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Felipe Calderon wrapped up their so-called Three Amigos summit.

“I want to assure you your Prime Minister raises this with me every time we see each other,” he had said. “[But] I think it’s also important to keep it in perspective, that in fact we have not seen some sweeping steps toward protectionism,” he said.

Spending by states, provinces, and cities is not covered by the NAFTA – Canadian provinces wanted it left out when the trade pact was signed – but Canadian provinces have agreed to negotiate some guarantees in exchange for a Canadian exception to buy American.

“This offer is ambitious in its coverage of all Canadian provinces, territories and major municipalities as well as coverage comparable to that under NAFTA for all goods and services, including construction services,” Mr. Day wrote in the letter.

That would effectively throw city and provincial transit and road-building contracts open to guaranteed U.S. competition, for example.

The Canadian proposal is aimed at getting a short-term exception, with a longer term pact that covers provincial and state spending to be negotiated. Canada is seeking a commitment from the U.S. to explore that deal as part of the interim arrangement, Mr. Day said in the letter.

It is not yet clear how willing the U.S. would be to strike such a deal. Mr. Kirk’s spokesman has said he would study it, and other U.S. officials have only offered a general pledge to work with Canada to try to limit irritants to trade. The U.S. Congress, however, has strongly backed Buy American provisions.

Mr. Day pointed out in his letter that the deal would set “an example to the world that protectionism is not the appropriate response to our current economic difficulties.”

He wrote that he had appointed his assistant deputy minister for trade policy and negotiations, Don Stephenson, as Canada’s lead negotiator.

Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, an industry association, said Friday night the letter by Mr. Day was welcome news.

“This announcement is very encouraging,” says Jayson Myers, CME president and chief executive officer.

The letter sent by Mr. Day had been expected since earlier this month, when the premiers united with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in support of the federal government’s opposition of the Buy American provision – a rare show of solidarity at all three levels of government.

“We know that thwarting protectionism and keeping procurement markets open is a priority for the Canadian government,” Mr. Myers said. “Prime Minister Harper has raised the issue with President Obama. And, with the support of all provincial and territorial premiers, International Trade Minister Stockwell Day has now signalled to the US administration that Canada is prepared to negotiate a settlement.”


Top 10 vehicles bought by
people trading clunkers
In this Aug. 11, 2009 photo, Greg Signore, owner of Elm Auto Sales, is pictured at his used car business in Kearny, N.J. Under Cash for Clunkers, old gas guzzlers turned at the new-car dealership are rendered inoperable and towed to the salvage yard. By some estimates, three of every five of those cars would have normally gone to a used-car lot for resale.

Car buyers in the U.S. had signed deals to trade in 358,851 clunkers for new vehicles, getting rebates of up to $4,500 (U.S.) from the U.S. government. Most of the trades have been pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles. The top 10 vehicles purchased by those making clunker trades:

1. Toyota Corolla

2. Honda Civic

3. Ford Focus

4. Toyota Camry

5. Toyota Prius

6. Hyundai Elantra

7. Ford Escape (front-wheel-drive)

8. Honda Fit

9. Nissan Versa

10. Honda CR-V (four-wheel-drive




To: Active and Retirees FORD

August 19, 2009


You would have recently received correspondence from Ford Motor Company concerning the Ford Pension Plan. These documents contained explanations on the status, contributions and a request that our members both retired and active sign an authorization letter dealing with pension funding relief.

You may be aware that CAW and Ford have agreed to meet in early September. These discussions are a result of the current state of the auto industry and of course, following the recent GM and Chrysler bargaining. The Master Bargaining Committee will be dealing with these matters during our upcoming negotiations with the employer. Therefore we would ask our active members and retirees not to sign any documents until you receive further notice from your respective Local Unions and/or Master Bargaining Committee concerning the pension plan.

Any questions related to this matter, please contact your local union and or your retiree chapter president.

In solidarity,


FORD Master Bargaining Committee


Lewenza hopes rising auto sales more than `blip'

Aug 21, 2009 04:30 AM

Kristine Owram

Amid the good-news announcements for North America's struggling auto industry, Canadian Auto Workers president Ken Lewenza says he's concerned the recent jump in car sales is nothing more than a "blip."

Re-elected yesterday as national president of the CAW, he is concerned that the popularity of a U.S. scrappage program is simply pushing demand for new vehicles forward and, once the program ends Monday, sales and production will slump again. "I'm crossing my fingers that this little blip on sales isn't something that's temporary.

"With all the incentives, between the clunker program and the direct manufacturers' incentives, I always worry that we're pulling vehicle sales ahead because you can't get a better deal and, then, somewhere down the road, we'll hit a wall."

Lewenza confirmed that the Chrysler plant in Windsor is ready to begin producing right-hand drive minivans for the European market as soon as it is given the go-ahead.

"We're expected to build them any time. I don't have the date right in front of me, but I know there's an urgency to get them going," he said.

"I know (Chrysler CEO Sergio) Marchionne, when he talked to me directly a few months ago, he said he was going to do what he can to sell our vehicles in those (European) markets, including the minivan. So I think it's great news."

Chrysler said it does not yet have an announcement to make regarding the right-hand drive minivan.

The Windsor plant was retooled late last year and was to begin producing the vans in early 2009. Those plans were put on hold as Chrysler began a restructuring that saw it enter bankruptcy protection in the U.S. and emerge from bankruptcy, partnered with Italian automaker Fiat. It has increased production in response to improved demand over the last few weeks.

Lewenza said employees at the minivan plant will return to working full time next week.


Windsor gets bailout dividend:
new Chrysler minivan
Right side drive Grand Voyager Touring. Chrysler

Greg Keenan Last updated on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2009 06:42AM EDT

Chrysler Group LLC will crank out a new version of its minivan in Windsor, Ont., beginning next month, industry sources and union officials said yesterday, giving the Canadian auto industry its second shot in the arm in two days.

The Windsor minivan plant will begin production of right-hand-drive diesel versions of one of the auto maker's most successful products, said Rick LaPorte, president of Local 444 of the Canadian Auto Workers.

“We've been told that the goal is to sell 30,000 units annually,” Mr. LaPorte said from Quebec City, where he is attending the union's annual convention.

“Fiat has also indicated that they're going to put a big marketing push on to sell minivans in Europe,” he said.

The move to produce the minivan is the first dividend resulting from the bailout of Chrysler by the federal and Ontario governments – along with the U.S. government – which paved the way for the sale of the bankrupt company earlier this year to Italian auto maker Fiat SpA.

It follows a decision by General Motors Co. that was announced on Tuesday to restore a third shift at its Cami Automotive Inc. joint venture in Ingersoll, Ont.

Mr. LaPorte said the necessary tooling and equipment to build the vehicles was installed at the plant around the end of last year, before Chrysler went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection but while it was already negotiating with the governments for a financial rescue package.

Ontario and Ottawa provided $3.8-billion as part of a debtor-in-possession financing package for Chrysler, which went into Chapter 11 protection on April 30 and emerged about a month later.

The Windsor plant produced as many as 350,000 minivans annually on three shifts, plus overtime, at the height of the minivan boom during the 1990s and earlier this decade.

Although sales of minivans as a segment have slowed down – due to factors such as changing demographics and the rise of crossover utility vehicles – it is still a critical vehicle in the Chrysler lineup.

Chrysler sold 100,726 Caravan and Town and Country models this year in the U.S. market – the destination for about 80 per cent of the vehicles built in Windsor – as of the end of July. Although that's down about 50 per cent from 2007 levels, the minivan is the company's second-highest-selling vehicle, after the Ram pickup truck.

Right-hand-drive minivans were previously assembled for Chrysler by Magna International Inc. at the Canadian auto parts giant's Magna Steyr assembly operation in Graz, Austria, and at a Chrysler factory in St. Louis, Mo., that was recently shuttered.

Sources said Chrysler had built up enough inventory of the right-hand-drive minivans from the St. Louis plant, prior to its closing this year, that it didn't need to build the vehicles for the past several months.

Right-hand-drive markets include Britain, Japan and India.

Chrysler announced earlier this year that it was reducing production at the Windsor plant to two shifts from three, which would have eliminated about 1,200 of approximately 4,500 jobs.

But it reversed that decision after emerging from bankruptcy protection


Test drive of Ford's plug-in
hybrid gives glimpse of future

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Scott Burgess

Dearborn -- The Plug-in Hybrid Electric Ford Escape doesn't make a sound as long as you leave the air conditioning off and don't top 40 mph.

"The AC is tied to the engine right now, but we're going to change that," said Mark Olance, a Ford Motor Co. engineer who rode with me as I took the PHEV Ford Escape for a quick lap around the automaker's Dearborn test track.

There will be a number of changes to the vehicle when it rolls into dealerships in 2012. But for now, just crack the window, hit the accelerator and make a mental note that we may be the last generation of drivers to ever use the term "gas pedal."

After Ford revealed its smart-grid communication technology Tuesday, I got to drive one of 21 PHEV Escapes the company is field testing. Testers have already racked up 75,000 miles on these vehicles, so what's one more? Soon, all of these test vehicles will be equipped with the smart-grid gear, providing engineers with another mountain of data

The plug-in hybrids operate differently than the straight hybrid models Ford has sold since 2004. Think of them as the missing link between a gas-electric hybrid and pure electric vehicle.

PHEVs use a gas engine and an electric motor like a regular hybrid, but rely much more on the electric motor. Stay below 40 mph, and it's silent driving. Speed up and the engine starts to add more power, but it's still really quiet.

These test vehicles use high-tech lithium-ion batteries, whereas current Ford hybrids use nickel metal hydride batteries. Future cars must have lithium-ion batteries (or something better) for the electric dream to continue.

More importantly, this model feels much more ready than any electric vehicle I've tested. Quick acceleration, seamless gas engine start and stop, nice braking feel (regenerative braking can often feel squishy) and no giant red emergency shut off button on the dash.

This particular model recharges with a 120-volt outlet and then can take you between 30 and 40 miles on electric power. After that, it operates more like a traditional gas-electric hybrid, stretching every drop of gasoline.

My guess is its going to be around for the long haul, though the AC needs to be colder.


Auto repair chains grab
share from dealers
Napa AutoPro store mechanic Roy Yu works on a car Aug. 18, 2009, at the AutoPro shop at 1520 Warden Avenue in Scarborough.

Aug 19, 2009

Tony Van Alphen
Business Reporter

Peter Haefele simply pays attention to customers at his NAPA Autopro repair garage in Scarborough.

And it works. His shop and the Autopro service chain have raced past their rivals to provide the best customer satisfaction among repair centres in Canada, according to a comprehensive industry study.

J.D. Power and Associates, a leading market research firm, said yesterday NAPA Autopro posted the top scores in its annual study of service satisfaction at 35 repair chains and dealerships plus hundreds of independent neighbourhood shops.

Autopro, which finished third in J.D. Power's annual customer satisfaction index in 2008, jumped ahead of OK Tire, the previous leader, and PetroCan's Certigard, another high-scoring chain of repair shops.

"We really try to do a good job for the customer," said Haefele, who has owned his Autopro shop near Ellesmere Rd. and Warden Ave. for 15 years. "It keeps them happy – and coming back."

Haefele, who operates eight service bays at his shop, added that Autopro's continuing training and prompt responses to complaints also help.

"We make sure they get properly resolved," he said.

The J.D. Power study followed responses from 14,388 vehicle owners to a series of questions about their experiences between April and June in a market that generates more than $11 billion annually in Canada.

Owners of 3- to 12-year-old vehicles were asked about how their disabled auto got to the shop and were questioned about the facility, service adviser performance, work quality and the return of the vehicle.

J.D. Power's study concluded Autopro, which operates 600 parts and repair stores in Canada, including more than two dozen in the GTA, performed well in all categories. Pennzoil and Jiffy Lube also finished near the top of the J.D. Power index, along with Autopro, OK Tire and Certigard.

As a group, independent repair shops achieved average scores near those of the industry leaders.

The chains that posted the poorest satisfaction scores included Costco, Wal-Mart, Ford Fast Lane, Canadian Tire, and Volvo and Mazda dealers.

Officials for Canadian Tire and Wal-Mart could not be reached for comment.

In the past, Canadian Tire has said the company conducts a huge volume of repairs, which makes it difficult to maintain proper service levels. But the retailer said it was investing more in training and development to improve services.

Among new dealerships, only Acura and Hyundai posted satisfaction scores above industry average.

The study showed dealerships continue to lose business to repair chains and independent shops, which increased market share by 2 per cent to 59 per cent.

"While a two-percentage-point shift may not seem substantial, this equates to more than $220 million in lost revenue annually for dealers," said Darren Slind, who leads J.D. Power's auto practice in Canada. "Given declining new-vehicle sales, which are down more than 16 per cent in Canada so far this year, dealers must rely more than ever on their service and parts operations."

J.D. Power said the results revealed that dealers performed well in the quality, convenience, comfort and cleanliness categories, but customers placed a higher priority on people, processes and service.

The study indicated more than half of vehicle owners left during the repair so they didn't experience in-store advantages, Slind noted.

J.D. Power said the study also revealed that average spending on auto repairs will slide by about 7 per cent from $920 in 2008 to $856 this year because of the recession.

The research firm said the proportion of customers who acknowleged going to the cheapest outlet had grown from 17 to 23 per cent.

"In a difficult economy, vehicle owners seem to be delaying what they perceive to be non-essential maintenance or seeking out the lowest cost option," Slind said.

Repair Ratings

Ford electric cars to interact
with power grids
In this file photo, Chairman Bill Ford is interviewed with a Ford Focus Battery Electric Vehicle during the 2009 Mackinac Policy Conference in Mackinac Island, Mich. Ford says its future electric cars will "talk" to power grids across the country, part of an effort to drive interest in alternative energy vehicles.

August 18, 2009


DEARBORN, Mich. – Ford Motor Co. said Tuesday its future electric cars will "talk" to power grids across the country, part of an effort to drive interest in alternative energy vehicles.

The nation's second-largest automaker released details of a two-year collaboration with about a dozen utility companies as well as the Department of Energy on the design of a system that allows car owners to control when they charge vehicles and for how long.

Owners can choose to recharge at off-peak times when electricity is cheaper, or when wind, solar or renewable energy is driving the grid, said Nancy Gioia, director of Ford's sustainable mobility technologies division. "What we're doing is developing our capability.''

Ford and the utility companies are testing the system and have logged 75,000 miles on a test fleet. The goal is to have a network in place so drivers can recharge their cars at preset times at home, work or elsewhere.

The system aims to develop technical standards so that a car purchased and used in Michigan, can "talk" to an electric grid in New York if the driver moves or travels.

Ford's first battery electric vehicle, the Transit Connect commercial van, will be available next year. A battery electric Ford Focus compact car will go on sale in 2011.

Mark Duvall, head of the Electric Power Research Institute, in Palo Alto, Calif., said that although the nation's current electric grid could handle widespread adoption of electric cars, more things can be done to use energy more efficiently. For example, drivers could recharge a car at 3 a.m. so it doesn't tax the grid and costs less.


Lengthy death watch for Ford's Ontario factory

Nicolas Van Praet, National Post
Aug 18, 2009

It has been a lengthy death watch for Ford Motor Co.'s assembly factory in St. Thomas, Ont.

The plant has been on the bubble for more than three years, with little new investment and little confidence on the part of some analysts that Ford will ever build any new cars there beyond its aging rear-wheel-drive police cruisers and chauffeured sedans. The automaker says there is no product identified for the facility beyond 2011.

If Ford closes the plant, it will be a rare down note for a company carefully crafting a comeback. But among the labour leaders with the Canadian Auto Workers union, hope has a funny way of clinging to life.

The union will reopen its contract with Ford in talks that start the week of Sept.8 and discuss "various cost savings" other than base wages and pensions, according to a message from CAW leaders posted on the internet this month.

The union is demanding that the automaker make a longer-term commitment to St. Thomas in exchange for concessions. And it is resurrecting long-shot bids to woo Magna International Inc. or Mazda Motor Corp. to the site for a joint venture with Ford.

"We're currently pursuing any options we've got," said Scott Smith, chairperson of CAW Local 1520, which represents the St. Thomas workers. "I think Ford has a responsibility to manufacture vehicles in this country... I mean if you're going to be the top-selling [carmaker nationwide, as they have been for the last two months,] you ought to be building some of them here."

St. Thomas now subsists on one shift of roughly 1,450 workers building the Ford Crown Victoria, Mercury Grand Marquis and Lincoln Town Car. They assembled 42,400 automobiles in the first half the year, 38% fewer than in the first six months of 2008. Ford's other assembly plant in Oakville, Ont. has pumped out 64,600 vehicles this year through the end of June.

"The reason the St. Thomas vehicles have been able to stay alive this long is that they've basically been built on the same architecture, or platform, for several years and so they've never really required a lot of capital investment and retooling," said Haig Stoddard, a manufacturing analyst at IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Mass. "There still is demand for them to a certain extent in the police vehicle market."

To maintain that demand, however, and keep the models viable, Ford would have to undertake a major redesign of the cars, Mr. Stoddard said. He said right now, it does not appear Ford will do that, preferring instead to focus on its front-wheel drive models like the Taurus and Fusion.

Politics might yet play a role in this saga because jobs are at stake.

CAW officials met with federal and provincial lawmakers late last month to talk about the Ford plant. Politicians with the two levels of governments have offered "commitments" to help Ford retool the factory but no specific dollar amounts have been discussed, Mr. Smith said.

Revamping the plant to make new products could cost in the range of $1-billion. Ford has not asked for any government assistance, company spokeswoman Lauren More said Monday. The car maker was the only one of Detroit's three auto manufacturers to decline federal aid and the only one to avoid a bankruptcy protection filing.

Ford's challenge now is to cut costs. The loonie's 7% run up against the U.S. dollar in July means making vehicles in Canada is more expensive than in the past. And a new contract signed by the CAW's sister union in the United States, which includes two-tier wages, has left the CAW labour pricier than U.S. labour for Ford.

The CAW signed new labour deals with both General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC earlier this summer, agreeing to several concessions to help the companies qualify for $14-billion in government aid.

"If we cannot reach an agreement with Ford... then our existing contract will remain in place," the CAW said in its message to members. "We would immediately face an enormous risk of Ford shifting its future investments from Canadian plants to the U.S. and other countries."


The End of Retirement?

Sam Gindin - August 2009

The attack on private sector pensions is not new; while the process has been uneven across time and sectors, private pensions in the U.S. and Canada have been eroding for over a quarter of a century. In 1980, some 40% of U.S. private sector workers and 35% in Canada had pension plans; today the number is under 20% in the U.S. and about 25% in Canada. At the same time, these pensions have steadily shifted from defined benefit plans (guaranteed pension levels) to defined contribution plans (essentially savings plans that provide indeterminate benefits, shifting the risk to workers). What is new is the self-assured aggressiveness of the corporate elite as they move to accelerate that erosion. The financial crisis – reinforced by the labour movement’s disappointingly weak response – has opened the door to the more assertive corporate attack on the pensions of their employees.

Speaking to a recent gathering of the U.S. corporate elite to address “transformational change at a critical time in our nation’s history” and “define America’s future” (the heads of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Council of Chief Executives were also present) a prominent U.S. leader offered a straightforward piece of advice: “Eliminate the entitlement mentality that is so pervasive in today’s American culture” (Ward’s Automotive, June 22, 2009; see also National Summit).

At the same time, but narrowing its focus to pensions, The Economist, and one of global capital’s most prominent and influential magazines, provocatively lead with an editorial entitled ‘The End of Retirement.’ Referring back to Bismarck, the German Chancellor credited with introducing the first pension system in 1889, the London-based editors proclaimed that “Whether we like it or not we are going back to the pre-Bismarckian world where work had no formal stopping point.” (print edition June 25, 2009).

For Bismarck, as for U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression, pensions had been a concession to workers, reluctantly made under pressures from below that were seen to threaten the legitimacy of capitalism (pensions in Canada only came later, after World War Two). The promise of pensions was that, at least in the last years of their lives, workers might receive an income that allowed a degree of dignity that compensated for the dignity denied them during their working years. This is, apparently, another promise that capitalism can ‘no longer afford.’

Beyond Private Pensions

It is hardly surprising that business recognized the current crisis as an opportunity to marginalize or end a benefit they’d come to view as a barrier to future success. With growth expected to remain sluggish even after the economic crisis ends, and with returns on the monies put into pension funds expected to be low and uncertain – and so requiring more current funding to meet future obligations – worker pensions were all the more identified as an expensive ‘diversion’ from future investment and stockholder returns. But more than corporate tactics were involved. As the GM and Chrysler bankruptcies so dramatically highlighted – and business itself now readily admits – private sector pension plans suffer from a definitive contradiction: as an insurance plan, they depend on the survival of specific corporations while the world has changed so that even the viability of the largest corporations can no longer be taken for granted.

Yet crises represent opportunities for labour as well as business. The difference lies in the extent to which the labour movement, unlike business, has (at least so far) failed to seize the opportunities raised by this crisis. Rather than building on the discrediting of the private sector’s ability to meet social needs and moving the arguement for a universal public pension, unions and workers have themselves absorbed the erosion of private pensions, accepting dramatic cutbacks including the exclusion of future workers. And faced with inferior pensions or no pensions at all, workers are increasingly themselves ‘choosing’ to solve the problem individually through, in the U.S., cashing in their 401(k) plans (their equivalent to Canadian Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSP)) in order to pay for health insurance when unemployment took that away or, in both the U.S. and Canada, working past 65. By letting business off the hook in this way, this has essentially eased the pressures for reform, made business all the more confident in its demands, and left public sector workers increasingly isolated and vulnerable to seeing their pensions cut as well.

In this regard, it is crucial to emphasize that the prospect of a revised universal pension plan set at adequate levels is not a second-best option but the superior alternative. Unlike the private option, it offers universal coverage and thereby provides a foundation for the larger solidarity we need for all our struggles. The structure and levels of the benefits would depend on the vigour and priorities of the working class as a whole, not the strength or weakness of our separate employers. With pensions not dependent on particular employers, the threat of competiveness and unemployment would not be a vehicle for other concessions to save our pensions (or concessions in pensions themselves so as to not lose them entirely). And the social use of the substantive accumulated pensions funds, being in public hands, would be more open – though not automatically so – to democratic pressures.

Among the questions this raises is that of the transition to a public plan. What happens to private plans in the interim? Do the workers covered by such plans just give up on the possibility of keeping their benefits? Or do they soldier on trying to hang on to what they can?

Neither of these options gets to the heart of the problem – an appropriate economic and political transition to public pensions. This would have to include private sector workers joining – if not leading – the struggle for public pensions while fighting to hold employers to as much account as possible for their pension obligations so that corporations will themselves have some self-interest in socializing pension costs. (Another direction that takes us to a new integration of private and public plans, but may limit the goal of equality, would move corporate contributions into the more reliable existing public pension plan, the Canada Pension Plan. For an elaboration of this idea see Jim Reid, ‘Complicit, Complacent or Committed? Proposals to Build Pension Security for All Workers’, Bullet #203, April 16, 2009).


One critical point raised by The Economist directly challenges public as well as private plans – the demographic implications of living longer. When the U.S. Social Security Act, providing for retirement at age 65 was passed almost three quarters of a century ago, life expectancy was 62. A good many workers would therefore never see retirement, and of those that did, they would likely get a pension for only a few years. So a public commitment to pensions seemed ‘practical.’ Today, however, with life expectancy in the early 80s, a person retiring at age 60 (after 40 years of work) would draw a pension for a period (20+ years) equal to almost half their working life. Is this still practical? Or is it now necessary to move to both increasing the retirement age substantially and reducing the annual pension income.

This is a real dilemma and it requires choices to be made. But we should not be overwhelmed by the demographics. Alongside the increase in life expectancy since the 1930s has come a remarkable increase in productivity – real output per hour has increased some six-fold. The choices to be made do therefore not revolve around whether we’re rich enough to afford retirement, but the extent to which we value freedom from work over consumption, the form that freedom from work might take, and – above all – how society’s wealth is distributed (i.e. these issues can’t be abstracted from questions of power). In regards to the last point, whatever choices are made, a central principle must be that they do not become another vehicle for reinforcing inequality. A measure of equity should be introduced at least during the last years of people’s lives and this means structuring pensions so that pension levels would be heavily weighted toward a universal guarantee rather than being linked to income.

An example of such an alternative structure – and we stress this is just an example – might build on the current public pension system. Canadian public pensions now consist of two parts: the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) which is based on earnings (25% up to the current national average) and Old Age Security (OAS) which provides an amount independent of income (about 15% of the average income). If the CPP were left as is and the OAS set at ¾ the average income, then:

  • Someone who lived their life in poverty with no income would get a pension of ¾ the average income rather than 15% of that average.
  • Someone who toiled at half the average income would get a pension of some 87% of the average income,
  • Someone who had earned an average income would get a retirement income equal to their pre-retirement income. This would represent the maximum public pension (for a unionized worker who earned 50% above the average, this would mean a pension of two-thirds their former income).

The funding of such a plan would be generated through progressive taxes – including wealth taxes to limit the reproduction of inequalities into future generations but also including taxes on all of us (this could not be financed by only taxing the rich).

It may also be that we might prefer to move toward phased retirement rather than the abrupt change retirement has come to mean. For example, rather than retiring at 65, workers might go on shorter work time at age 60 – a 4 day week for three years then a three day week for two years, the time off partially supplemented by the pension fund – and thereby more gradually adjust themselves to a new life.

A more fundamental question remains: if we are going to take time off equivalent to half our working life, should this be entirely concentrated at the end of our lives or should we take a significant portion of that paid time off during our working years? The case against putting it all into retirement – over and above the possibility of dying and losing the banked time – begins with the fact that to postpone all benefits until retirement is to essentially give up the struggle to change the everyday and greater part of our lives. There is something deeply disconcerting, if not tragic, about not sharing in the productivity of society during our youth and middle age in the hope of compensating for those lost years in old age (a version of suffering on earth for a reward in heaven). Moreover, that very trade-off weakens us collectively and so makes the possibility of decent future pensions less, not more likely. With workers accepting current degradations and families working such long hours, where will the self-respect and collective will – and the time – come from to generate the struggle for better pensions? And doesn’t the present moment warn that decent pensions, even where achieved, can’t be sustained absent struggles around a broad range of immediate issues?

Next Steps

In a recent interview (June, 2009, McKinsey Quarterly), Göran Persson, a former Prime Minister of Sweden, discusses the response of business to his government’s attempts to solve the country’s 1992 financial crisis. He observes how clearly global finance understood that the issue was not primarily that of correcting government deficits or trade imbalances or introducing appropriate financial regulations, but rather confirming power relations. “It wasn’t until we cut unemployment benefits and got into open conflict with the trade unions,” Persson notes, “that market interest rates started coming down.”

The labour movement needs to be as clear about what it is up against as business has been in launching its assault on worker rights and benefits. To that end, it must combine fights for immediate needs with building the collective capacities – the class power – to expand future possibilities. To that end, we might begin by:

1. Moving toward some internal consensus that the redistribution of work-time is a top priority for the labour movement – the next great arena for struggle and gains, and the kind of priority around which our movement can be rebuilt as a social movement.

2. Within that focus, we need to initiate the widest discussions around the relative merits of gaining greater access and flexibility over our work time during our working lives versus at the end of our lives (for many workers – such as part-timers – the problem may, however, be not enough work time and this adds to the importance of thinking in terms of the ‘redistribution’ of work time rather than just ‘fewer hours’).

3. Rather than waiting for the government to come up with some modifications in pensions, the labour movement – in consultation with its base and with other movements – should confidently frame and develop its own detailed alternative pension plan, including the age of retirement, early retirement options, pension levels, flexible options and funding (there is no shortage of progressive people with the skills to help with the technical aspects of such a proposal).

4. On this basis labour and its allies can initiate an educational and mobilizing campaign to ensure that no politician, nor business as a class, can ignore our issues.

The above, we emphasize, would only be a beginning; the issue of pensions is too large to be separated from broader issues of power that will sooner or later emerge. This is particularly the case in regards to the social role of private finance, the issue underlying the current economic crisis. Though moving to a public plan will not eliminate private finance – governments, barring a much more radical socialization of finance, will still continue to operate through financial markets – public pensions will limit the dominance of private finance and its scope for profits (and in the process, leave finance very wary about where this might go next). And so we will ultimately have to confront the question so far avoided in this crisis: How to eliminate the power private finance has over our lives and replace it with finance as a democratic public utility – rather than just trying to technically ‘fix’ it so ‘normal’ life can continue. •

Sam Gindin is the Visiting Packer Chair in Social Justice at York University, Toronto.


Carmakers the real winners
in eco-rebate schemes

The U.S. has spent billions on its “Cash for Clunkers” program, yet many consumers who benefit would have replaced their older vehicles anyway.

Rewards for replacing gas-guzzlers have little
impact on the economy and the environment

Aug 15, 2009

Peter Gorrie Toronto Star

Ottawa, noting the frenzy over the American "Cash for Clunkers" program, is mulling whether to sweeten its incentive for taking gas-guzzling, polluting older vehicles off the road.

Canada's "Retire Your Ride" offers the likes of $300 cash, transit passes and bike discounts to those who scrap cars built before 1996. It pales beside the Clunkers program, which pays $3,500 or $4,500 (U.S.) to those who exchange pre-2001 cars that consume more than 13 litres per 100 kilometres for new models that use less than 10.7 L/100km.

The Clunkers deal burned through its $1 billion (U.S.) allocation within days. Late last week, it got $2 billion more.

Will Canada copy Washington, Germany and others with generous giveaways? A spokesperson for Environment Minister Jim Prentice this week indicated that the answer is yes.

"Retire Your Ride was put in place before the economic stimulus measures now being introduced by other countries," said Tracy Lacroix-Wilson,media relations advisor for Environment Canada. "Minister Prentice is currently evaluating the effectiveness of this program and considering if Canada should follow ... in offering consumers a substantial financial incentive to scrap their old vehicles for environmentally friendly transportation options."

Canada's program is too small to have impact, environmental or otherwise. Its budget from its start-up last February until its scheduled conclusion in March 2011 is $92 million, with only two-thirds of that for actual incentives. To date, it claims to have "retired" about 11,700 cars, with another 10,000 or so approved. That puts it on track for its annual target, 50,000, says Lisa Tait of the Clean Air Foundation, the non-profit contracted to manage Retire Your Ride for Ottawa."I think our program is doing quite well," she says.

But the target is just one per cent of the 5 million pre-1996 cars still on Canada's roads. Environment Canada says 1 million are deregistered annually, mainly because they can no longer be driven. Retire Your Ride aims to eliminate those still running, but "a comparison with retirement rates before and after ... is difficult," Tait says.

Ottawa needn't match the Clunkers payments, Tait says, suggesting that something in the $1,000 range might suffice.

But before we leap it would be useful to look at the U.S. experience.

As an environmental program, Clunkers is pale green. According to analysts Edmunds.com, participants now drive vehicles that are 50 per cent more efficient than the wheels they traded in. Not bad, but Clunker deals represent a small fraction of the entire market. More crucially, the average fuel consumption of all cars sold in the two months before the program was 10.79 L/100 km; since then, it's been 10.14 – a 6.1 per cent improvement. Since recent cars emit fewer pollutants, that should lead to slightly improved air quality. But it will save barely a drop of oil and do nothing for climate change.

Clunkers is also questionable as economic stimulus. It's been a boon to car companies: The artificially induced demand let them reduce other incentives they offered when desperate for sales. But it's just a blip. "This level of activity will not continue, as it reflects the behaviour of those anxious and able to participate in the program – and that is a limited set of people," notes Jessica Caldwell, a senior analyst with Edmunds.

And it raises more general questions, equally applicable to policies like Ontario's recently announced $10,000 subsidy for Chevy Volt buyers: Should such incentives reward for people who'd make the purchases anyway? And should governments transfer tax dollars from those who can't afford new cars to those who can?

We'd get more for our money – and the environment and job creation – if governments stopped trying to buy votes and instead set meaningful standards, with financial and infrastructure support for those best able to achieve them.


2010 Ford Fusion Mid
Size Family Car
 The Fusion AWD Sport version comes with a 3.5-litre V-6 mated to a six-speed automatic. TED LATURNUS FOR THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Ted Laturnus

Globe and Mail Last Aug. 15, 2009

When the North American auto industry started to go downhill, it looked like Ford would be the first to fall by the wayside.

In 2007, for example, it lost some $3-billion dollars (U.S.) and was closing plants and laying off workers like there was no tomorrow. Which, had things kept going the way they were, there wouldn't have been.

But, as it turned out, Ford was the only one of the Detroit Three that didn't receive government bailout money, and compared to GM and Chrysler, it seems to be coping reasonably well with the economic downturn and the worst automobile sales in decades.

Things are far from hunky dory, but the company is hanging in there. My own theory is that, of the three, Ford has always had the strongest ties to its European divisions, and hasn't been afraid to call on England and Germany for engineering and design input. Having Mazda in the fold hasn't hurt, either.

Anyway, one of key models in Ford's recovery is the Fusion sedan, which gets a mild makeover and a new engine for 2010.

These days, you can get it with a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder engine, a choice of two V-6s, or a hybrid drive train. There's also an all-wheel-drive Sport version, which is what I drove this time around. I'd say that's covering the bases.

Which Ford needs to do. The Fusion is duking it out in the toughest market of them all: the mid-size family sedan. It has to prove itself against perennial front-runners Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, not to mention the Hyundai Sonata, Chevrolet Malibu and Nissan Altima.

Compact SUVs notwithstanding, this is still the most demanding market in Canada. And the most subtle. Models that strike a chord with buyers do so not because they go faster, look better or have more electronic gizmos. They're popular because they're comfortable, thrifty and give buyers their money's worth.

My tester, the AWD Sport version, comes with the largest engine of the bunch: a 3.5-litre V-6 mated to a six-speed automatic. With the AWD model, this is your only drivetrain choice, and you have some 260 horsepower at your disposal.

Ford has offered AWD as an option on its sedans going right back to the old Tempo/Topaz line and, quite frankly, I'd give it a pass. There's nothing wrong with it, but it decreases your fuel economy and costs some $6,500 more than the regular front-wheel-drive version. True, you do get the larger engine and various other bits and pieces, but do you really need AWD?

Elsewhere, the Sport has a tastefully done interior, with contrasting leather upholstery. I liked it a lot and was actually kind of surprised at the quality. Equipment level is also upgraded; with this model, you get heated front seats, a sunroof, rear-view camera, 18-inch wheels and tires, a blind spot warning (this appears to be the same system found in some Volvos), dual-zone climate control and Ford's Sync media system.

I particularly liked the dash-mounted storage bin, abundance of cup holders and various storage nooks and crannies. All in all, a well-appointed, moderately upscale sedan.

That said, I kind of struggled with the Sport appellation. This car is still too bulky and lethargic to be taken seriously as a sport sedan. Sure, it'll scat when you put the pedal to the metal, but it lacks that seat-of-the-pants, visceral driving sensation that manufacturers such as BMW, Audi, Acura and so on build in so effortlessly.

More to the point, it doesn't transmit its alleged sporty nature to the driver. I felt no urge to run this car hard or toss it into the corners. It feels like a family sedan and behaves like one.

And compared to other, similarly-sized six-cylinder engines out there, the Fusion Sport's power plant has a kind of coarseness about it. The best V-6 engines in this corner of the market are still coming from offshore manufacturers.

That doesn't mean it isn't a pleasure to drive. Ergonomics are, for the most part, easy to get along with and accessible, ingress and egress is good, and there's plenty of interior elbow room – all the things buyers of mid-size sedans look for. As far as these models go, the Fusion is no worse than the competition. But nor is it better.

I have no real issues with the Fusion Sport, but it just doesn't hit me where I live. And, if I was in the market for this type of car, I can't see me forking out the $35,000-plus needed to buy it. Just for the sake of comparison, you can get a BMW 128i Coupe or 323i sedan for about the same money. Ditto for an Acura TSX or Mazda6 GS. True, they don't have AWD, but, all things considered, so what?

When I drove the Fusion Hybrid a few weeks before I slid behind the wheel of this model, I was extremely impressed, and the regular 2WD Fusion, which I drove earlier this year, is just fine. But this version of Ford's mid-size sedan just doesn't have the wow factor.


Type: Five-passenger, mid-size sedan

Base Price: $32,051; as tested: $34,151

Engine: 3.5-litre V-6

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Drive: All-wheel-drive

Horsepower/Torque: 263 hp/249 lb-ft

Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 11.7 city/7.4 highway; regular gas

Alternatives: Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Chevrolet Malibu, Hyundai Sonata, Nissan Altima, Mazda6, Saturn Aura, Acura TSX, BMW 323i, Volvo S40, Volkswagen Passat, Subaru Legacy


  • Nicely appointed interior
  • Comfy seats
  • High equipment level

Don't like

  • No real sizzle here
  • Engine kind of coarse
  • Do you really need AWD?

Recovery for who?

Worker productivity figures shoot up, with no
gains in employment or wages to show for it!

More at The Real News


10,000 Ford cars to be built
to meet clunker demand

Toronto Star
Aug 14, 2009 04:30 AM

Ford Motor Co. says it will build another 10,000 vehicles this quarter to meet the growing demand from the federal government's "Cash for Clunkers" program.

The automaker says production will rise nearly 21 per cent as it assembles more of the Focus small car and Escape, a crossover vehicle.

The Focus is the second most popular new car purchased under the $3 billion (U.S.) Clunkers Program, and the Escape is among the top 10.

"People who would have liked to have traded in their larger SUVs have been held hostage by their lower resale values and concerns about the economy," Ford sales analyst George Pipas said in an interview yesterday. "Cash for Clunkers released that demand and allowed them to do what they'd wanted to do."

To increase Escape production, Ford said it is bringing workers back from scheduled shutdown at its Kansas City, Mo., factory to work Aug. 21-22. To boost Focus output, Ford said it is scheduling overtime and adding Saturday shifts at its plant in Wayne, Mich.

Ford boosted production by 16 per cent to 445,000 vehicles in the three months ended June 30 to take sales from both GM and Chrysler. Those companies have since emerged from bankruptcy.


Ford increasing third-quarter production

Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News

Dearborn -- Ford Motor Co. announced Thursday that it is boosting third-quarter production in North America by another 10,000 units to meet increased demand for its vehicles.

Ford's third-quarter production goal is now 495,000 units -- 18 percent higher than a year ago.

Ford also increased its production targets for the fourth quarter to 570,000 vehicles -- a 33 percent increase over the same period last year and 15 percent higher than planned third-quarter levels.

The company has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the federal government's "cash for clunkers" program. Its Ford Focus compact has been one of the most popular choices for customers taking advantage of the program, which provides up to $4,500 to motorists trading in gas-guzzlers for new, more fuel-efficient vehicles.

"Under the cash for clunkers program, the Ford Escape and Focus are flying off dealer lots," said Ford Americas President Mark Fields. "We're doing all we can to ensure our dealers are well stocked with the fuel-efficient vehicles that customers really want."

On Friday, President Barack Obama signed into law a $2 billion extension of cash for clunkers after Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood warned Congress the program was about to use up the initial $1 billion allocated by lawmakers.

The House approved a transfer of $2 billion from the $787 billion stimulus program to replenish the fund on July 31 and the Senate followed suit on Aug. 6.

Ford says the government has told them $300 million of the additional $2 billion has been sent, and the company now expects the program to run out of money again in three to four weeks.

As The Detroit News reported Wednesday, Ford is increasing production of the Focus, which is built at its Wayne Assembly Plant. Focus output will be increased by 6,000 units.

The company also is working with suppliers and the United Auto Workers to increase production of the Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner crossovers at its Kansas City Assembly Plant in Claycomo, Mo. Ford will build approximately 3,500 more Escapes.

"This is a team effort with the UAW and our suppliers to meet the demand for fuel-efficient vehicles," said Joe Hinrichs, Ford's head of global manufacturing and labor affairs.



Sneak Peek: 2011
Ford C-Max MPV

Ford C-Max MPV

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Several industry sources report that Ford's C-Max will be sold in the United States.

From these photos we can see the sliding doors will make it into production, though we reckon its center support will be somewhat less radical compared to that of the Iosis Max.

Despite its disguise, the location of the rail of the sliding door is clearly visible above the fuel filler cap

All in all, the production model will be a lot bigger than the show car -- but also a lot less exciting. We're sure to see similar engines under the bonnet than in today's C-Max -- plus the 2.0L Ecoboost motor Ford recently announced.

The car is scheduled to make its official debut at next year's Paris Motor Show.



25,000th visitor


Tide of 'Buy American'
sweeping across U.S.
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at a town hall in Portsmouth, N.H., a day after downplaying Canadian fears about protectionist trade tactics.

Municipalities adopt protectionist measures despite Obama's pledge

Aug 12, 2009
Joanna Smith
Ottawa Bureau

OTTAWA–Eugene Delgaudio wants to get a few things out of the way before he begins to say anything about bilateral trade.

Delgaudio, a member of the board of supervisors of Loudoun County, Va., says the jurisdiction of about 283,000 people buys a large amount of stuff. They are building a lot of schools. They spend about $1 billion (U.S.) a year without even dipping into state or federal funds.

'Delgaudio wants it clearly understood there was a good reason – not just a "jingoistic" or "patriotic" reason – for the suburb of Washington, D.C., to adopt one of the "Buy American" resolutions that are causing so much hand-wringing by his neighbours to the north.

"We're not just blue-collar rednecks saying `Buy American,'" explains Delgaudio.

"It's more what I think to be an attempt to help local companies in Loudoun County."

The Loudoun board is just one of hundreds of municipal governments that have adopted resolutions promising to spend their stimulus funding on U.S. companies – even though that is already a provision of the stimulus bill passed by Congress.

The growing tide calls into question this week's reassurance from U.S. President Barack Obama that protectionism is not taking root in the American psyche.

"We have not seen some sweeping step toward protectionism," Obama told reporters Monday at the Three Amigos summit in Guadalajara, Mexico, as Prime Minister Stephen Harper looked on.

But the rash of local resolutions, which are symbolic but legally superfluous, contradict Obama, says Stephen Clarkson, a political scientist at the University of Toronto.

"An American citizen is an American citizen at all levels of government," Clarkson says. "It does confirm that this is more than just a little whim of Congress to stick this into the legislation concerning the stimulus package."

A closer look at the resolutions being adopted across the U.S. reveals something bigger – something more organized – is at play in cities as diverse and distant from each other as Ferndale, Mich., and Hercules, Calif.

"Be it further resolved that the City of Ferndale is committed to purchasing products and services made or performed in the United States of America whenever and wherever possible with any economic recovery monies provided to the City," reads a resolution adopted by one council on April 27.

Eerily similar, here is another, adopted more than 3,800 kilometres away on July 28:

"Be it further resolved that the City Council of the City of Hercules is committed to purchasing products and services made or performed in the United States of America whenever and wherever possible with any economic recovery monies provided to the City."

The language in that clause and up to eight others is repeated throughout resolutions being considered by more than 1,000 state and local governments across the U.S. but it is also found on the website of the United Steelworkers union.

The resolution template is part of a national campaign organized by the union and a Washington-based lobby group, the Alliance for American Manufacturing.

The "Make Our Future Work" website offers a tool kit that features a downloadable resolution template; local politicians can simply insert the name of their municipality in the space provided. It also includes talking points for discussing the issue with the media and a video with practical tips on how to get the motions passed.

A union spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

It's not surprising that organized labour is behind the protectionist resolutions, says Maryscott Greenwood, executive director of the Canadian-American Business Council, adding that the average person has a more nuanced take on protectionism.

"If you just sort of present it in a one-sided manner like `Don't you think it's important to protect American jobs?' people say, `Of course it is.'"

In Ferndale, north of Detroit, the mayor acknowledges that the union initially contacted his city council about its Buy American resolution. But Craig Covey says it was council that put it on the agenda.

Instead of patriotism, Covey explains, the resolution has more to do with buying locally to support businesses in the area and to reduce environmental impact. It has nothing to do with anti-Canadian sentiment, he says.

"You are less than 10 miles away from us. We would view you as local as well, certainly in Windsor."

A spokesperson for International Trade Minister Stockwell Day said Day plans to discuss a proposal with U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk in the coming days to exempt Canada from the Buy American provisions.


Delphi gives up pension
plans to PBGC

David Shepardson / Detroit News Washington Bureau
August 11, 2009

Delphi Corp. signed over its pension plans to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., clearing the way for an immediate takeover of the plans by the government's insurer.

The move by Delphi short-circuits an effort by Delphi's salaried retirees to fight the takeover.

On July 22, the PBGC filed six lawsuits in U.S. district courts across the country, seeking permission to assume pension plans covering 70,000 retirees and employees of the Troy-based auto supplier.

The takeover will cost an estimated $6.25 billion.

Spokesman Jeffrey Speicher said the PBGC withdrew its lawsuits and took over the pension plans of the bankrupt company, effective Monday.

The PBGC -- a private, government-owned corporation -- said it will be at least six months before pension recipients find out how much less they will receive, but they should receive a "welcome" kit and video in the next several weeks.

The PBGC will pay pensions up to the limits set by law, but in some cases, especially for younger retirees, pensioners will get far less.

Under a deal to allow Delphi to exit from bankruptcy, General Motors Co. is buying four Delphi factories and its global steering business.

But it has agreed to make up any shortfall in the pensions of all Delphi hourly retirees -- not just those connected to those plants.

GM and Chrysler Group LLC did not abandon their pension plans in bankruptcy.

Den Black, a Delphi salaried retiree and member of a group of more than 1,000 fighting the pension takeover, says that's unfair because salaried workers don't have the same protection.

"How can you justify this overtly discriminatory decision over people who worked side by side for decades?" Black asked.

He said the announcement that the PBGC had seized the pensions was disappointing.

The organization, Delphi Salaried Retiree Association, is assessing its options, Black said.

Furthermore, he added: "We continue to push for hearings once Congress comes back from recess."

GM spun off Delphi in 1999. The PBGC, whose costs are paid by premiums assessed on businesses, and money in the pension funds it takes over, does not insure health coverage or other types of employee benefits.

It doesn't receive any taxpayer money, but many in Congress think taxpayers will eventually have to bail out the PBGC, which has a $33.5 billion deficit.

The PBGC is closely monitoring companies in the auto manufacturing and auto supply industries.

According to its estimates, auto sector pensions are underfunded by about $77 billion, of which $42 billion would be guaranteed by PBGC.

The PBGC has been in talks with several unnamed auto suppliers about potentially assuming their pension plans.

On July 31, the PBGC took over plans covering more than 10,000 workers and retirees at Metaldyne Corp.

Plymouth-based Metaldyne's pension plan is about 53 percent funded, with assets of $177 million to cover benefit liabilities of $334 million, according to PBGC estimates.

The government-owned corporation's takeover of Delphi's plans is the second most costly in American history, behind the termination of United Airlines pensions.

Delphi won court permission to sell the bulk of its assets to its bankruptcy lenders and plans to exit bankruptcy by Sept. 30.


Life insurance industry
pushes pension fix

Tara Perkins

Globe and Mail Aug. 10, 2009

Canada's life insurers are proposing sweeping changes they say would allow the industry to help fix troubles in the pension system, lobbying against a push by some provinces for a new national plan.

The industry's drive comes amid a raging debate over the problems, exacerbated by the recession and tumultuous stock markets, with how Canadians save for retirement. Aging baby boomers and the slow extinction of defined benefit plans are among the factors that have left many without sufficient financial protection for their retirement.

Alberta and British Columbia have been pushing a proposal to create a new national system for Canadians without a workplace plan. This voluntary plan would be in addition to the Canada Pension Plan and would be in the form of defined contribution, meaning the participants would receive payments that depend on the plan's investment income.

Provincial premiers met in Regina last week and called on Ottawa for a national summit on retirement income, directing their finance ministers to report this year on ways that both private and public sector plans can be improved.

The life insurance industry, which is responsible for about two-thirds of defined contribution plans in Canada, has also been talking to provincial and federal governments about “private sector solutions that we think will be as effective as any government-sponsored ones,” said Frank Swedlove, president of the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association.

“Some of the proposals that have been made raise some concerns for us,” Mr. Swedlove said. “Some of these proposals relate to a government-sponsored defined contribution plan, and we don't think that that's the best way to go.

“We think there are opportunities to increase pension activity for Canadians by changing some of the pension rules that exist in the country.”

Donald Stewart, chief executive officer of Sun Life Financial, the biggest industry player in the game, agreed the private sector can service the country's retirement needs, and said it is calling on government to update pension laws to spur further involvement.

The industry wants the government to alter the Income Tax Act so that a pension plan sponsor need not have a specific relation with, or be an employer of, a participant in a defined contribution plan.

That would mean life insurers and others could sponsor an umbrella plan that could take in a number of companies and, the industry argues, make it easier for many small and mid-sized businesses to offer pensions to their employees.

It could also mean more self-employed people are able to access pensions.

The industry also wants changes to employment standards laws that would allow for the indexing of pension contributions so that contribution rates could be automatically indexed based on age and other factors. That could help new employees who aren't yet prepared to contribute as much.

More broadly, life insurers want a major overhaul of federal and provincial pension laws in general. The laws were written in an era of defined benefit plans, and have not been properly updated following the dramatic shift toward defined contribution plans, they argue. The laws also fall into a patchwork system of federal and provincial rules that the insurers believe must be harmonized.

“If you have consistent plans, individuals can be mobile across the country,” said Sue Reibel, senior vice-president of Manulife Financial's Canadian Group savings and retirement solutions. She has spoken to the Alberta and Ontario finance ministers, and travelled to Ottawa on the issue. “One of the things that we all agreed on is that we need to do more,” she said. “We agree that we need to enhance Canadian savings.”

She would like to see changes to the savings legislation that would give Canadians a lifetime RRSP contribution limit, rather than an annual one, similar to what Britain now has. That would give people the flexibility to contribute more when they can, and also account for the natural tendency to save more with age.

With such changes, government can spur retirement savings without intervening in the system further, the industry argues. “As a taxpayer, if I divorce myself from my company, I would step back and say that we've got a private sector that built everything,” Ms. Reibel said. “They've been building the business for the last 10 years, which is when the defined contribution business really started to grow. Why would you build a new one to do exactly what's there, unless to point to it and say it's broken? And I don't think anyone's pointed to it and said we're not doing a good job.”


GM to launch car sales
through eBay

Test in Calif. will let buyers haggle over price for new vehicles

Monday August 10, 2009

Rachel Metz / Associated Press

San Francisco -- General Motors and eBay Inc. are expected to announce today that hundreds of the automaker's California dealers will let consumers haggle over the prices of new cars and trucks through the online marketplace, as part of a previously disclosed trial.

About 225 of California's 250 GM dealers are set to take part in the program, which will begin Tuesday. They will be selling Buick, Chevrolet, GMC and Pontiac vehicles on co-branded Web sites through eBay's online auto marketplace, eBay Motors, until Sept. 8. The cars will also be searchable through eBay Motors and eBay's main site.

The trial is part of GM's turnaround plan, making more official a practice some of its dealers had already participated in on their own. It expands an existing partnership covering GM certified used vehicles sold through eBay.

It also marks a shift for San Jose, Calif.-based eBay, since most of the vehicles sold on eBay Motors -- a site that sells vehicles and parts -- have traditionally been used.

Starting Tuesday, eBay visitors will be able to visit Web pages like gm.ebay.com and chevy.ebay.com, where they can browse new 2008 and 2009 vehicles, ask dealers questions and figure out financing.

The co-branded sites will also include a Web tool currently on eBay Motors that helps shoppers determine if they're qualified to trade in their old car for money toward a new one under the government's just-refilled "cash-for-clunkers" stimulus program.

Car buyers will be able to choose between the two standard options offered on eBay Motors: Negotiating a price with a dealer through the site or purchasing right then at a fixed price.

Cars will be picked up at the dealerships.

EBay Motors Vice President Rob Chesney said the companies decided to run the trial in California because there are many tech-savvy consumers there. EBay users who live outside California can contact dealers to see if they're willing to sell and ship vehicles to them, he said.

The test comes a month after GM made an unusually quick exit from bankruptcy protection with ambitions of becoming profitable and building cars people are eager to buy. Once the world's largest and most powerful automaker, new GM is now leaner, cleansed of massive debt and burdensome contracts that would have sunk it without additional federal loans.

GM Chief Executive Officer Fritz Henderson said in July that the company was working on an experiment that would let eBay users in California bid on vehicles or buy them at a fixed price. Dealers were to distribute the cars. At the time, no deal had been completed.

Mark LaNeve, GM's vice president of U.S. sales, believes that getting the automaker directly involved in new online sales will give customers a larger sense of security about buying a car on the Web. Currently, many consumers research new cars online, but most still go down to a dealer to make the actual purchase.

He's hoping it generates more interest in GM vehicles in California -- a market he said the company needs to improve in.

For eBay, the program fits in with its strategy of growing its market for goods that are still new but not necessarily the latest models. It's also a chance to get more people interested in making new, large purchases on a site whose past is steeped in the sale of hard-to-find collectibles. The sale of used cars on eBay is already proof that consumers are getting more and more comfortable buying higher-priced items online, Chesney said.

"New cars are like the next frontier of that," he said.

The companies would not give financial details of the deal, but GM spokesman John McDonald said they think the arrangement will be profitable for both firms. If the companies feel the trial is successful, they want to expand it across the country.


Ford Fusion Hybrid offers smooth, powerful hybrid ride
The Fusion Hybrid qualifies as a ‘full’ hybrid – it will run on battery power alone.

Ted Laturnus Globe & Mail

August 9, 2009

For various reasons, I've recently been driving three hybrid vehicles: Honda Insight, Toyota Prius and Ford Fusion.

You may be as surprised as I was to learn the Fusion could very well be the most useable of these three. It's smoother, more powerful, quieter, roomier and better on the highway. On the other hand, it also costs the most, which I'll get to shortly.

Let's get the drivetrain out of the way first. The Fusion Hybrid has a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder, Atkinson Cycle, gas engine mated to a pair of electric motors and a constantly variable transmission.

The electric motors are housed in the vehicle transaxle and are fed by a nickel metal hydride battery pack. This system is similar to that found in the Escape Hybrid, but has been tweaked and is more compact in size. It also allows the Fusion Hybrid to qualify as a "full" hybrid - i.e., it will run on battery power alone, unlike the Insight, for example.

When you start the vehicle, it doesn't actually fire up, per se, as the internal combustion engine doesn't kick in until you get moving - most of the time.

Depending on the situation, you can take the vehicle up to at least 40 km/h on the electric motor, at which time the engine will cut in if you want to increase your speed.

The system is keyed to throttle input and how much of a lead-foot you are. Give it some welly, and you get both the electric motor and gasoline engine at the same time. Take it easy and the car hums along on the electric motor.

However, you can modulate the throttle pedal and - so Ford tells us - remain on pure battery power up to speeds of about 75 km/h. That's easier said than done; I never managed to get it up to that speed, and the best I could do was just a tad over 50 km/h on pure battery power.

And honestly, during most driving conditions, it's kind of tempting to just floor it and let the engine do its thing. The system also keeps the vehicle on battery power while backing up and during parking. Like virtually all other hybrids, it also shuts off when you stop and features regenerative braking to keep the batteries charged.

One thing I really did like about the Fusion Hybrid was its instrumentation. A full set of gauges front and centre tells you things like your current fuel consumption, how much electric juice your accessories are using, engine rpms and when the internal combustion engine is about to cut in.

This latter display is quite useful if you want to glean optimum fuel economy out of the system and I found myself using it a lot.

There is also a cluster of leaves that "grows" and "sheds," depending upon how you drive. Be environmentally sensitive and you're rewarded with a nice full bouquet of leaves; put the pedal to the metal and you get nothing but a stalk.

And the Fusion Hybrid will move right along. It's much snappier than either the Insight or the Prius - especially the former, and the entire hybrid drive system is seamless and virtually undetectable.

Total power output is 155 horsepower and 136 lb-ft of torque, and its Transport Canada fuel consumption ratings are an impressive 4.6 litres/100 km in town and 5.4 L/100 km on the highway. Ford is claiming a range of some 1,127 kilometres on a full tank of fuel for the Fusion Hybrid, and if you ran out, you could probably baby it for another 100 km or so on battery power.

About pricing. Base price for the Fusion Hybrid is just a whisker under $32,000, which puts it above both the Insight and Prius - by several thousand dollars. But you get a full whack of features for the money, including power driver's seat, Sirius satellite radio (for six months), air conditioning, ABS, one-touch power windows, remote keyless entry, and a full complement of front and side airbags.

My tester also had a power moon roof ($1,600), voice-activated navigation system ($2,100) and the Driver's Vision Group, which includes a blind-spot side detection system and rear video camera. I'd pass on the first two extras, but go for the third. Other options include leather upholstery, heated front seats and remote start.

The Fusion also has all kinds of elbow room. Both the Insight and Prius are kind of cramped, and there's 334 litres of luggage space in the trunk. That said, the Fusion's main rivals are the Camry, Altima and Malibu Hybrids, despite the fact that the Prius is in the same vehicle category (mid-size).

Although the Fusion Hybrid does return outstanding fuel economy, it's rivals do as well. I think what appeals most to me about this vehicle is the fact that there appear to have been no compromises made in terms of practicality and driveability. It's completely user-friendly and not as quirky as the Prius, for example.

Let's see how it stands the test of time.

 Also Read more about the Fusion Hybrid in a Star article August 8, 2009


CFO says Ford plans to refresh
90% of its car lineup by 2012

August 8, 2009

David Shepardson / Detroit News Washington Bureau

Traverse City -- Ford Motor Co. plans to refresh up to 90 percent of its vehicle lineups in North America, Europe, Asia Pacific and Africa by 2012 to help it increase sales.

"In the worst of economic times, we are taking the actions necessary not only to strengthen Ford's business but also to deliver world-class levels of product freshness globally," Ford Chief Financial Officer Lewis Booth said here Thursday.

Booth told reporters that vehicles are like doughnuts -- they don't get better with age.

"We're going to have fresh products," Booth said. "I don't know -- what's the world's best doughnut? (The vehicles) are going to be the Krispy Kremes of the world."

By 2014, the average Ford vehicle's age will be shrunk by 20 percent, he said.

Booth said during his speech at the Center for Automotive Research's Management Briefing Seminars that the Dearborn automaker is on pace to reduce its structural costs by $14 billion to $15 billion compared with 2005. Ford has lowered new vehicle engineering costs by 60 percent and reduced new facility and tooling costs by 40 percent, he said.

Rod Lache, an analyst at Deutsche Bank Securities in New York told Bloomberg News that Ford was well-positioned to return to profitability sooner than expected, though Booth downplayed Lache's assessment and stuck to Ford's commitment to return to profitability in 2011.

Booth also said Ford expects to build 680,000 vehicles per core global platform within five years, up from 345,000 today.

By 2012, 78 percent of Ford's global volume will be on core platforms, up from 29 percent in 2007.


Pension-plan fund shifts legitimate, top court rules
Supreme Court of Canada building in Ottawa at night GLOBE AND MAIL

Terry Pedwell
August 7, 2009

Ottawa The Canadian Press Last updated on Friday, Aug. 07, 2009

An Ontario-based food products company can pay pension plan expenses by taking surplus money from another of its pension funds, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled.

The verdict could have implications for other companies that shift money between pension funds.

The high court also concluded Friday that Kerry Canada Inc. can pay its pension fund's “reasonable” administration costs from pension money.

The case pitted Kerry Canada against some of the company's current and former employees and had been closely watched by business, unions and the pension industry.

It stems from 1985, when Kerry began paying administrative costs for the pension plan from the pension itself, and then took a contribution holiday.

Then, in 2000, it amended its plan, closing its defined benefit plan to new employees, and creating a defined contribution plan.

Kerry employees asked the Ontario Superintendent of Financial Services to investigate the firm after it changed the plan.

In June, 2007, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that an employer could stop paying pension plan expenses if there was nothing specifically in the plan to prevent it.

It also concluded that the company would not have to pay back the money it took from the fund while it took a contribution holiday.

The Supreme Court agreed, saying there was nothing in the plan preventing the company from avoiding making payments if the fund was in surplus, and nothing stopping it from transferring funds from one part of the plan to the other.

“The plan documents do not preclude combining the two components in one plan and nothing in these documents or trust law prevents the use of the actuarial surplus for the (define contribution) contribution holidays,” Justice Marshall Rothstein wrote.

The high court ruled that Kerry was not obligated to pay pension expenses out of pocket, because those expenses were incurred for the benefit of pension plan members.

“The payment of plan expenses is necessary to ensure the plan's continued integrity and existence, and the existence of the plan is a benefit to the employees,” Justice Rothstein wrote.

“It is therefore to the exclusive benefit of the employees that expenses for the continued existence of the plan are paid out of the fund.”



Thursday, August 6, 2009

UAW, heads of Ford locals talk

Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News

Detroit --The United Auto Workers summoned leaders here Wednesday to discuss requests from Ford Motor Co. for concessions similar to those the union gave crosstown rivals.

Although Ford has said the deals the UAW reached with General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC, which include a no-strike agreement, a reduction in job classifications and a freeze on entry-level wages, do not put it at a competitive disadvantage today, there is concern in Dearborn that they could in the future.

Last month, Joe Hinrichs, head of labor affairs at Ford, told reporters that these "long-term issues" still needed to be addressed.

No vote expected

Sources familiar with the situation said Wednesday's meeting was called to discuss these issues with the heads of Ford locals from around the country, but no vote was expected.

UAW spokeswoman Christine Moroski would not comment on the meeting. Ford spokeswoman Marcey Evans said the company was not involved in the meetings.

"It's their meeting," she said. "We talk to the UAW all the time, and we consider those discussions to be private."

The union gave significant concessions to GM and Chrysler when those companies were in bankruptcy.

Concerns expressed

Some Wall Street analysts expressed particular concern about deals between the UAW and those automakers that dramatically reduced the amount of cash the companies were required to pay into union-run trusts that are being set up to cover health care costs for hourly retirees.

But Ford, which has avoided bankruptcy, has since reached its own agreement with the union that allows it to cover up to half its obligation to the voluntary employees' beneficiary association, or VEBA, with company stock.

UAW Vice President Bob King, who heads the union's national Ford section, has said Ford would not be left at a competitive disadvantage.



Ford holding lead as GM sputters

Moves 47% more autos than last July,
beating Hyundai's 37.8% jump in sales

Aug 05, 2009 04:30 AM
Tony Van Alphen
Business Reporter

Ford has stunned the Canadian auto industry again by selling more vehicles than anyone else for the second consecutive month.

Showing that its run to the top of the market in June for the first time in 60 years was no fluke, Ford Motor Co. of Canada Ltd. reported yesterday sales shot up a startling 47 per cent in July from the same month a year earlier.

Hyundai Auto Canada Corp., whose sales soared 37 per cent, joined Ford among the few major automakers posting big gains in July as the overall market dropped 6.4 per cent or almost 10,000 vehicles to 139,901.

It marked the ninth-consecutive month that auto sales have dropped in Canada during the recession, despite incentives. But the decline is the smallest in the period, and is fuelling hopes the industry could be pulling out of a severe downturn.

Economist Carlos Gomes, an auto specialist at Scotiabank Group, said the sales results underscore his firm's view that "an industry revival has begun."

Sales for the first seven months of the year are still down 16.6 per cent or more than 171,000 vehicles to almost 861,000.

Ford's performance contrasted sharply with North American-based rivals General Motors and Chrysler, which received multi-billion dollar loan packages recently from the federal and Ontario governments to stay alive.

Sputtering GM, the perennial sales leader until this year, said its sales plunged 41.9 per cent to 19,663, while Chrysler's volumes slid 10.4 per cent to 15,958 during July. The companies' brush with bankruptcy is clearly spooking some consumers, according to analysts.

GM blamed the huge drop on low inventory levels while Chrysler said its decline was encouraging after an earlier sales collapse as the company restructured and temporarily halted production.

"Given what we have been through, it was a spike-the-ball-in-the-end-zone kind of month," said Chrysler CEO Reid Bigland.

At Ford, CEO David Mondragon said his company is not looking at leading the industry for the remainder of the year but sustaining a profitable business model for the automaker and dealers here.

"It's still a tough industry and difficult challenges lie ahead," Mondragon said in an interview. "At the same time, we are confident our product line will continue to deliver positive results for the remainder of the year."

He said Ford's strong gains in recent months mean the company is now dealing with low inventories and that could adversely affect sales in the next few months.

Ford's sales jumped more than 8,600 to 26,788 during July primarily because of the popularity of several vehicles, including the Fusion mid-size model, Escape sport utility vehicle, Flex and Edge crossover vehicles and F-Series trucks.

The company said lower pricing and the Drive One Challenge program – which gives those who test a Ford $100 if they buy a competing model – is also boosting sales.

Ford's sales for the first seven months are up 2.3 per cent to 134,781, despite the poor overall industry results.

Sales at booming Hyundai Auto Canada jumped a stunning 37.8 per cent to 10,488 in July, the fifth monthly record in a row.

Kia, whose business has climbed dramatically in recent years, also said its sales jumped almost 30 per cent to 5,110 in July.

Smaller automakers such as BMW Group Canada, Mitsubishi Motor Sales of Canada and the Mercedes-Benz brand reported record results for the month. But other major players posted double-digit declines last month.

Toyota Canada said its sales including the Lexus luxury brand dropped 12.5 per cent to 19,232 in July. Sales for Honda Canada including the Acura brand also slid 12.5 per cent to 13,984.

Business at Nissan Canada including the Infiniti brand fell 3 per cent to 7,534 and Mazda's volumes tumbled 18.5 per cent to 6,491.


New signs of life on North
American lots

U.S. rebate system, 'cash for clunkers' was the main factor in healthy sales reports released Monday

Karim Bardeesy

From Tuesday's Globe and Mail Last updated on Tuesday, Aug. 04, 2009 07:26AM EDT

In an impressive display of consumer herd behaviour, American motorists abandoned their Explorers and Jeeps for Focuses and Elantras, boosting the sales in July of Ford Motor Co. and Hyundai Motor Co.

Meanwhile, Ford Motor Co. of Canada Ltd. will report Tuesday that it continues to make gains at the expense of its financially challenged rivals, with July sales up 47 per cent from a year earlier.

The U.S. auto rebate system, known as “Cash for Clunkers,” was the main factor in the healthy sales reports released Mondau. The $1-billion (U.S.) program, launched July 24, gives American consumers a rebate on a new vehicle if they trade in an old one that gets less than 18 miles per gallon. The $3,500 voucher is for new cars that have a fuel economy of at least four miles per gallon better than the scrapped vehicle, and $4,500 for those that are 10 mpg better.

“Cash for clunkers put us over the top,” George Pipas, Ford’s U.S. sales analyst, said in a conference call with reporters yesterday. “It’s the greatest one-week energy conservation program that may have come out of Washington, or anywhere else.”

Ford said it sold 165,279 vehicles in the United States in July, 2.3 per cent more than in July, 2008.

Hyundai’s 45,553 sales figure was up 11.9 per cent over a year earlier, with the company attributing 22 per cent of the sales to cash for clunkers. Sales of its Elantra were up 30.3 per cent from July, 2008.

Ford, especially, benefited under the rebate program because various models of Explorer SUVs comprised six of the top 10 most frequently traded-in vehicles, while the Ford Focus and Escape were the top and fifth most popular purchases, respectively.

The rebate program (officially called the Car Allowance Rebate System, or CARS) began last month with $1-billion in available rebates. That instalment is almost tapped out, and a $2-billion boost to the program awaits approval by the U.S. Senate.

The rebate program could have a broader economic impact, industry experts say.

“We estimate cash for clunkers, if the Senate passes the $2-billion [bill], could boost third-quarter GDP by 0.5 percentage points,” said Mike DiGiovanni, executive director of global market and industry analysis at General Motors Co.

In fact, the program has been so successful that it has started to drain major auto makers’ inventories. Ford reported 50 days of available supply, while GM said its 70- to 75-day inventory is its lowest on record.

“There were some people who weren’t in the market to replace their car at all,” said Sean Maher of Moody’s Economy.com. “But they saw they could get a $4,500 credit for it, something their trade-in value couldn’t have approached.”

Jeff Schuster, executive director of forecasting at J.D. Power, estimated that cash for clunkers encouraged 100,000 buyers to buy now, rather than wait until next year.

“If the program gets renewed, that will spark additional production,” he said. “Even if 100,000 is small on an incremental basis, once you ripple it through the entire industry, that’s pretty strong.”

Not all auto companies saw a year-over-year boost in the United States, though all major makers tallied an increase in sales over June. Mr. Schuster said sales had softened markedly in late June, as prospective buyers awaited word of the rebate program.

GM reported U.S. sales of 189,443 vehicles, down 19.4 per cent from the year before, but up by nearly 12,000 vehicles from June. American Honda Motor Co. Inc. and Chrysler Group LLC sales in the United States fell by 17.3 and 9.4 per cent, respectively, from the year before.

Canada’s $92-million (Canadian) rebate program, known as Retire Your Ride, began in January and has so far taken about 11,200 pre-1996 vehicles off the road. The program offers a $300 cash rebate, or incentives for using public transit, auto-sharing services, or bicycle purchases. But only motorists in Newfoundland and Labrador, PEI and New Brunswick can get rebates on new-car purchases.

Last month, federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice said he would re-examine the rebate program. In an e-mail yesterday, Frédéric Baril, Mr. Prentice’s press secretary, said the minister is evaluating the program “and considering if Canada should follow other countries in offering consumers a substantial financial incentive to scrap their old vehicles for environmentally friendly transportation options.”

Despite the relative lack of purchasing incentives in Canada, several companies fared well in July along with Ford. Hyundai Canada Inc. reported its best-ever July, with 10,488 sales, 37.8 per cent higher than in July, 2008. Volkswagen Canada Inc. registered 4,018 in sales, up 14.6 per cent from the year before.

Sales for Toyota Canada Inc. fell by 13 per cent in July, although the Lexus and Corolla brands saw increases. The Canadian auto makers are to report full details of their July sales Tuesday.


UP / Ford: U.S. sales rose 2.3% in July year-over-year, the first gain since November, 2007

UP / Hyundai: Sales were up 11.9% in July. Its Elantra model saw a 30.3% jump

DOWN / General Motors: With inventory at its lowest-ever level, sales were down 19.4%

DOWN / Chrysler: July sales were down 9.4% year-over-year - but up 30% over June

DOWN / Toyota: Sales dropped 11.4%. About 17% of sales were under clunker program.

DOWN / Honda: After a very strong July '08, U.S. sales fell 17.3% year-over-year in July '09



'Clunkers' program boosts Ford

Automaker says incentives fueled July sales increase

Bryce Hoffman and David Shepardson / The Detroit News
Aug 3, 2009

As the federal government looks to add billions more to the "cash for clunkers" program, at least one Detroit automaker is attributing a boost in July sales to the popular effort.

Ford Motor Co. will report its first monthly year-over-year sales gain in nearly two years today, thanks to a much-needed push from the program, company officials said Sunday. The Dearborn automaker would not provide specific figures until today.

The $1 billion federal program to retire less efficient vehicles is all but out of money, but will continue through at least Tuesday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Sunday.

General Motors Co., Chrysler Group LLC and other automakers also will report July sales today, which are expected to jump as a result of the "cash for clunkers" program. Hyundai Motor Corp. last week said about 15 percent of its July sales were the result of deals fueled by the program, which offered car buyers up to $4,500 to trade in their old cars and light trucks for new, more fuel-efficient models. It went into effect July 24.

President Barrack Obama says he is hopeful that lawmakers soon will approve the funds necessary to continue the program. The House voted for an additional $2 billion for the program on Friday. The Senate is expected to consider the bill this week.

Ford said the sales increase proves that "cash for clunkers" needs more funding, noting that the $1 billion initial investment was tiny compared to the government's other stimulus efforts and has already paid big dividends.

"It really did elevate new vehicle sales," George Pipas, Ford's head of sales analysis and forecasting, said Sunday.

But even without the federal aid, sales of Ford vehicles were already stronger than they had been in months, he said. "Things have been getting better and better each month. The month of July started out pretty solid, even before 'cash for clunkers.' I do think consumers are in a better place."

Ford's fleet sales are down, so all of the increase is due to gains in retail sales, he said.

According to Pipas, the latest data for all automakers shows the most traded-in vehicle as of Friday was a Ford Explorer and the most purchased new vehicle was a Ford Focus.

Extension uncertain

On Sunday, Transportation Secretary LaHood told C-SPAN that the "cash for clunkers" program will be suspended later this week if the Senate fails to approve more money.

The Senate won't take up the bill for new money for the program until Tuesday at the earliest, said Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. .

The government will "continue the program until we see what the Senate does," LaHood said. "Any deal that is made (today) or the next day and is in the pipeline, the dealer will be reimbursed," he said.

Senate approval, however, is in doubt because several Republicans oppose the extension and others, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., want the new program to have tougher environmental requirements.

Late Friday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration loosened two program requirements.

Dealers may now choose to disable the engine of the trade-in vehicle after they receive payment from the government. Dealers must disable the engine within seven days after receiving reimbursement.

NHTSA also will no longer require proof of insurance from Wisconsin and New Hampshire residents because those states do not require insurance.

Ford's market share up

Ford, the second-largest U.S. automaker, sold 156,406 vehicles in July 2008. The company hadn't posted a year-over-year monthly sales increase since November 2007, Pipas said.

Pipas said Ford also improved its U.S. market share in July, extending its gains after the company became the only domestic automaker to avoid filing for bankruptcy.

Ford increased its U.S. market share in June to 17 percent from 14 percent a year earlier, climbing past Toyota Motor Corp. and into second place behind GM.

The company has said it has achieved those improvements while reducing incentives. "It's a continuation of what Ford has been working on for the last year -- gaining better-quality market share," said Michael Robinet, an analyst with consultant CSM Worldwide Inc. in Northville.

Sales may surpass estimates

U.S. sales have languished at an annual rate of less than 10 million vehicles since December and have fallen for 21 consecutive months, dampened by a lack of credit, tumbling housing prices and the recession.

U.S. industry sales probably ran at an annualized rate of more than 10 million vehicles last month, the highest level of 2009, Pipas said. That prediction suggests that the average estimate of 10.1 million among seven analysts surveyed by Bloomberg may have been too low.

Fords sales were projected to drop 6.1 percent, based on six estimates, while the decline was estimated at 24 percent for GM and 33 percent at Chrysler Group LLC.

Sales matching or exceeding analysts' estimates may signal a possible bottom in the worst U.S. auto slump since at least 1976. Automakers sold 13.2 million vehicles last year and averaged 16.8 million from 2000 through 2007.

Bloomberg News contributed.


Ford posts first monthly sales increase in 2 years

Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News
August 3, 2009

Aided by the federal government's "cash-for-clunkers" program, Ford Motor Co. posted its first monthly sales increase in nearly two years Monday -- the first major automaker to do so this year.

Sales of Ford, Lincoln and Mercury products increased by 2 percent over July 2008, with retail sales up 9 percent. It was the Dearborn automaker's first monthly sales gain since November 2007.

Ford, Lincoln and Mercury dealers reported 118,197 retail sales in July. Including sales to fleet customers, Ford's tally was 158,838 units.

"We had another strong month in progress before the 'cash-for-clunkers' program started," said Ken Czubay, Ford vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service.

"Our products, our dealers and our advance preparation enabled us to leverage the program and drive traffic and sales to another level," he added. "In addition, we achieved a sales increase even though we decreased incentive spending in an increasingly competitive environment."

Sales of the Ford Escape sport utility vehicle soared 94 percent year over year, with sales of its Mercury sibling, the Mariner, up 71 percent. Sales of the midsize Ford Fusion sedan were up 66 percent, while sales of the Mercury Milan were up 60 percent.

Ford said its Focus compact was the most popular choice across all brands for consumers trading in vehicles under the cash-for-clunkers program, boosting its sales by 44 percent compared to a year ago.


A brief history of pensions. Pay attention because you may be
about to lose yours

Thomas Walkom - Toronto Star
Aug 3, 2009

The drive to dismantle the welfare state has a new target. Governments have already gutted unemployment insurance and social assistance. Out-of-date labour laws make it tough to organize unions in the new, decentralized, service-based economy. Now, thanks in large part to the dynamics of the recession, pensions are under attack.

Curiously, the war against pensions has received less attention than it should. People understand taxes, and usually complain when they rise. They also understand the notion of wages, and raise a similar stink when they go down.

But pensions appear to baffle most of us. They shouldn't. Pensions and other retirement benefits are simply deferred wages – money you earn now and sock away (or have someone else sock away for you) so that you'll have something to live on when you're too old, tired, sick or unwanted to work.

Even before this recession hit, it was clear that pensions were under the gun. Good retirement benefits, like good wages, interfere with what economists call labour market flexibility – that is, the willingness of workers to take low-wage jobs.

Put simply, 65-year-olds who can get by on the pension income they earned earlier in their careers may not be willing to work as Wal-Mart greeters.

This rethinking of retirement expressed itself in different forms. Governments that in the past had committed themselves to better public pensions began to fret that those they offered were already too expensive.

In the U.S., Washington raised the retirement age at which workers could collect social security. Canada's federal government took a different tack by moderately boosting the payroll taxes that employers and employees pay to fund its Canada Pension Plan.

More important, perhaps, Ottawa allowed those running the CPP to invest taxpayer money in more lucrative, but higher-risk stocks – a strategy whose drawbacks are now painfully obvious.

At the same time, private firms offering pensions discovered the virtue of moving to so-called defined contribution plans, which shift all of the risk from employers to employees. (In a traditional, defined benefit pension plan, the employer guarantees a certain payout at retirement and is on the hook to fund it. In a defined contribution plan, the employer contracts only to put in a certain amount each year; if market vagaries cause that money to evaporate before the employee retires, that's his tough luck.)

Meanwhile, the successful assault on trade unions reduced the ranks of those with access to any kind of company pension scheme. In Canada, less than 40 per cent of the work force has employer-sponsored pensions. The proportion in the private sector is even less.

Yet these, too, are now under siege.

Consider the latest spate of labour disputes.

The Toronto civic strike was fought not over pensions per se but another retirement benefit – how much money employees get in the form of banked sick leave. The Windsor municipal workers' strike was sparked by city council's demand that new hires receive inferior pensions.

That same issue – two-tiered pensions – pushed 3,600 workers at Sudbury's Vale Inco nickel operations to walk out earlier this month.

Almost every week, there are reports of struggling companies trying to extricate themselves from their contractual pension obligations.

In Hamilton, media giant Canwest Communications is planning to simply shut down the pension plan at its CHCH television station. That move is expected to cut by up to 25 per cent the payments earned years ago by former employees who have already retired.

Air Canada has won permission from federal regulators to cut back the amount of money it pays into its employee pension fund. General Motors' pension fund is short by an estimated $6.5 billion, an amount that the Ontario government is expected, in part, to cover.

Yet not just those with private pension plans have been affected. The Canada and Quebec Pension Plans, which go to virtually every retiree in the country, have both taken huge hits in this recession.

Thanks to falling stock prices, the CPP lost $24 billion this year. The Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, which operates the parallel Quebec Pension Plan, lost even more because of its decision to invest in sexy, but ultimately dodgy, financial instruments known as asset-backed commercial paper.

And, of course, individuals with savings invested in the stock market now face the likelihood that their retirement incomes will be far less than originally anticipated.

The very notion of ordinary workers receiving any kind of post-work payment is relatively new. In traditional societies, children were expected to care for their elderly parents. Not until 1889 did German chancellor Otto von Bismarck bring in the first government-run old age security plan. Canada followed in 1927; the U.S. in 1935.

Private workplace pensions are older. But not until World War II did they blossom in North America – in part because of pressure from newly militant unions, in part because employers facing labour shortages could use them to attract workers without running afoul of wartime wage controls.

In the early 20th century, when most workers didn't live much beyond 65, pensions weren't a big cost to either governments or employers. That's clearly changed.

But the second major change has to do with the stock market. As long as pension funds were invested in safe but low-yield government bonds, retirees could be assured of a constant, if somewhat paltry, income.

In such circumstances, the only way to raise the level of post-retirement benefits was to add more money up front.

But no one wanted to do that. Employers certainly had no desire to contribute significantly more to pension plans. Nor did their employees. Nor did the taxpayers who fund government schemes like the CPP.

The alternative was to invest pension funds in riskier financial instruments that paid higher returns – like stocks or asset-backed commercial paper.

Which was fine until those markets collapsed.

So now, the system is unravelling. Many employers can't pay for the pension obligations they've accumulated.

Governments, reluctant to force such companies into bankruptcy, are quietly easing the rules.

Public pension plans like the QPP and CPP remain solvent but bruised.

Some knowledgeable analysts, like Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan president Jim Leech, argue that with private pensions in retreat, Ottawa should significantly beef up the public CPP.

That's a good idea. But it's one that would have to be paid for by a significant tax increase – which is perhaps why no Canadian political party actively promotes it.



US Congress failed auto dealers

Manny Lopez
Thursday, Aug 2, 2009

Thankfully, Congress will soon be in recess and the dog-and-pony auto dealer show will hibernate.

Sadly, we had to witness it to begin with.

At least that was my take. But quite a few auto dealers across the nation took issue with my column last week that said the dealer-closing hearings that were held were solely to score political points and save legislators' own hides -- and fat-cat donations -- rather than actually foster any changes for the more than 3,000 General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC dealers that have shut down or will.

I stand by that because it's true.

Dealership dissents

Not everyone agreed with me, and understandably so.

"I am one of the terminated Chrysler dealers who does not want my franchise back. What I do want is fair market value for my franchise that I had to pay for, and fair market value for my parts that I paid for, and fair market value for my special tools that I had to pay for," Bert Molitierno, whose Verona Jeep dealership in Pennsylvania was closed, told me. "I owned a business that served my community and employed close to 30 people for 55 years. I think I deserve something more than a Dear John letter and three weeks to wind down my life's work."

Molitierno now operates a used car sales and service business and his company's Web site has been changed from one featuring Jeeps to one that urges people to "stop Chrysler" by signing a petition to Congress.

"If political grandstanding gets me the compensation I deserve, then I wish them all the best," he said.

Chrysler dealers hit hard

It's hard to argue with that.

Chrysler dealers, unlike those from GM, didn't get any wind-down cash and were left holding inventory they bought from the company and couldn't then resell because their franchise agreements were voided. They got shortchanged.

Molitierno, like many, didn't file for bankruptcy himself. He said he cashed out insurance policies, took out some loans and maxed out his credit cards to stay afloat and pay his debts.

That's what dealers have done for decades -- served as honest and hard-working businesses in local communities everywhere. No one is arguing that point.

What's happened in the auto industry is unfortunate and sad, and yes, unfair to the auto dealers and the tens of thousands of others who got fired or laid off or shut down.

Molitierno's story isn't unique and unfortunately, the petitions and calls to Congress are not likely going to change the decisions of the bankruptcy court.

If the Congress members squawking the loudest were serious about helping the dealers, they would have been out in front of the issue, not behind it.

But that would have put their necks on the line instead of dealers, and when the ax is about to fall, it is clear who is always going to be saved.


Lincoln MKZ provides soundtrack for the open road
Lincoln MKZ

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Scott Burgess

The 2010 Lincoln MKZ has finally broken away from its siblings -- the working man's Ford Fusion and up-and-coming socialite Mercury Milan.

At least that's the plan for this midsize premium sedan.

Putting a hundred miles on this car was easy. It's comfortable, quiet and gives you a spirited ride.

The bulletproof 3.5-liter V-6 pushes 263 horsepower and 249 pound-feet of torque. It doesn't feel like a rocket, but it improves the car's overall performance and the 0-60 mph time by a half second (down to 7.1 seconds).

The low-to-the ground body and continually improving steering gives the MKZ some guts on the road. It's responsive and well mannered on both highway and twisty roads.

But this car is much more about living in a bubble than bolting off the line. The outside world goes mute on a Sunday afternoon as you bathe in Bono singing "A Beautiful Day" in THX glory.

You want to (and I did) create a soundtrack to forget about my worries and just drive. Now, everyone should have a playlist for driving. Random play is for suckers. A good play list cuts down on distractions, gives you time to thump the steering wheel into submission if the beat is right, and Lincoln's THX II certified surround sound stereo system makes sure it's right.

It is not new, but its 600 watts pumping through 14 speakers. This system includes THX Slot Speaker technology, which creates a wider sound image and better distributes music throughout the cabin. I'm not sure exactly what that means, but it's fun, and loud.

"I want everything," Cracker.

Lincoln tries to, and comes pretty close to giving the driver every amenity he could want.

This is the nouveau riche approach to luxury. Pile on as many amenities as possible and let the sheer quantity overwhelm the buyer.

The MKZ has a list of features longer than the Detroit City Council's rap sheet.

First, there is the voice-operated Sync, which allows the driver to keep his hands on the wheel while playing his iPod, operating the navigation system, ordering pizza, or just about everything else inside the cabin. The 2010 MKZ features the newest generation of Sync and includes 911 assist (it'll call 911 for you if there's an accident) and Vehicle Health Report (it checks the car's vitals and lets you know if everything is good to go). Then there is the Sirius Travel Link, which can help a driver locate the cheapest nearby gasoline (and get directions), as well as check out the weather, find movie listings and loads of other information.

"Sexyback," Justine Timberlake.

The MKZ's interior isn't to Timberlake levels yet, but it has been upgraded with better materials and a quieter cabin. (Later this summer, Lincoln will introduce an Executive Appearance package with genuine swirl walnut wood trim and accents, upgraded floor mates, and more luxurious leather seats.)

But really, the regular interior is pretty nice. Here's one gripe: The silver plastic surrounding the center stack. So many other areas feel luxurious and look nice, but this batch of plastic feels cheap. If you're going to make the instrument panel look clean and refined, offer crisp ambient lighting and high-tech features, you'd think the center stack trim wouldn't look so cut rate.

"Tiger Bomb," The Presidents of the United States of America.

This song doesn't have anything to do with the MKZ, but I really like it and know all the words and I wanted to avoid using a Kid Rock "catching walleye from the dock" reference.

"A face in the crowd," Tom Petty

Midsize cars often have a difficult time standing out from the competition. Lincoln added a number of changes to the exterior of the MKZ to help give it a more regal look.

It gave the MKZ a new front end, deck lid and LED tail lamps.

The new tail lamps really help the MKZ stand out, especially at night, with a long red horizontal line drawn nearly all the way across the back. When you approach an MKZ from behind, you want to know what it is.

The front looks a little more aggressive, but the changes are not nearly as noticeable as the back end.

"Million dollars," Barenaked Ladies.

Perhaps the biggest gripe I have with the MKZ is its starting price -- $34,965. That feels steep, and it's certainly a price that pulls the MKZ away from the Fusion and Milan.

But if I had a million dollars, I'd probably put an MKZ in my driveway, if just for the Sunday drives.

More Info

    2010 Lincoln MKZ

    Type: Five passenger, front wheel drive or all-wheel drive sedan.
    Price: $34,965 (US)
    Engine : 3.5-liter DOHC V-6
    Transmission : Six-speed automatic with SelectShift
    Horsepower : 263
    Torque: 249 pound-feet
    EPA gas mileage:
    FWD: 18 mpg city / 27 mpg highway
    AWD: 17 mpg city / 24 mpg highway
    Fuel Tank: 17.5 gallons
    Front: Independent short-and long-arm (SLA) with rearward-facing lower control arms; stabilizer bar
    Rear: Multilink fully independent with lower control arms and stabilizer bar
    Steering: Power rack-and-pinion
    Turning circle : 37.7 feet
    Brakes: Four-wheel power disc brakes with four-sensor, four-channel anti-lock braking system (ABS); electronic brake force distribution (EBD), AdvanceTrac® Electronic Stability Control (ESC) with Traction Control
    Wheels: 17-inch, machine aluminum with painted pockets
    Optional: 18-inch polished aluminum
    Dimensions (inches):
    Wheelbase: 107.4
    Length: 189.8
    Width: 72.2
    Height: 56.9
    Interior Dimensions (inches):
    Headroom: 38.7/37.8
    Legroom: 42.3/36.7
    Shoulder room: 57.2/55.8
    Hip room: 54/53.5
    Curb weight:
    FWD: 3,598 pounds
    AWD 3,796 pounds
    Source: Lincoln


Chrysler to invest big in Brampton

Paint shop to prepare for 2011 launch of 2 models, sources say

Aug 01, 2009 04:30 AM
Tony Van Alphen
Business Reporter

Chrysler Canada will announce a new paint shop for its assembly plant in Brampton this fall that could involve an investment of more than $600 million, sources say.

A Chrysler spokeswoman dismissed the idea the struggling automaker had decided on the major investment, but sources said yesterday the company would approve the shop within three months and likely reveal two new models to be made in Brampton.

A new shop would not create more jobs but would boost efficiency and make the plant's future more secure. More than 2,000 workers are now employed there.

"We know it will happen," said one source familiar with plans for the plant. "They're planning to replace that shop and an announcement is coming."

But Mary Gauthier, an official in Chrysler Canada's communications department, said the new company's board met for the first time only this week after a major restructuring.

"It is really premature to start speculating about potential announcements months from now," she said. "We don't have a new paint shop to announce at Brampton."

Officials for the Canadian Auto Workers could not be reached for comment.

But the union said Chrysler acknowledged in April during contract bargaining for concessions that the plant required additional investment for a paint shop to support "planned production."

Sources say Chrysler negotiators could not guarantee any investment at the time because it was still working on a restructuring with Fiat SpA of Italy to save the company.

Chrysler received $3.8 billion in loans from the federal and Ontario governments in May.

One source said although a new paint shop is inevitable, it may take longer to build because of other financial priorities in the company's fight for survival.

The Brampton plant, which opened in 1987, still uses its original paint shop, which is no longer up to top industry standards and is not efficient when the plant is producing high volumes on three shifts.

The plant is now operating on three shifts, but industry insiders say Fiat and chief executive Sergio Marchionne think highly of Canadian operations in Windsor and Brampton and their future prospects.

In 2005, previous owners DaimlerChrysler invested $575 million for a new paint shop and other upgrades at the Windsor complex, the world's biggest minivan operation.

One source suggested production on the shop would likely begin next spring, finishing in time for the launch of two new vehicles in 2011.

There is speculation Chrysler will build the 200C hybrid and the high-end, low-volume Alfa Romeo 169 sports sedan in Brampton.

Critics have raved about the 200C concept car and its potential as a high-volume vehicle.

The flexible plant now builds the Chrysler 300 sedan and the Dodge Charger and Challenger sports cars. Falling demand forced the company to cut one of three shifts and about 1,000 jobs last year.

At a meeting in late June after the restructuring, managers showed to workers in Brampton models that are being considered for the plant.

"Management pulled down a screen and it showed the 200C and Alfa Romeo models," a worker said.

Earlier that month, research firm IHS Global Insight Inc. said Chrysler would start building the Alfa model at the Brampton plant in November 2011.


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