Bill Ford Wants Auto Workers To End Their Strike

Bill Ford Wants Auto Workers To End Their Strike

Good morning! It’s Tuesday, October 17, 2023, and this is The Morning Shift, your daily roundup of the top automotive headlines from around the world, in one place. Here are the important stories you need to know.

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1st Gear: Billy Ford Thinks UAW Should Give In

Bill Ford, executive chair of the company started by his great-grandfather, wants United Auto Workers leaders to end their strike against the Big Three before it hurts them even more. He said the strike is hindering the company’s ability to compete with automakers like Toyota and Tesla.

Speaking at the company’s Rouge Complex in Dearborn, Michigan, Ford said the industry is “at a crossroads” after the latest round of contract negotiations.

“Choosing the right path is not just about Ford’s future and our ability to compete. This is about the future of the American automobile industry. Toyota, Honda, Tesla, and others are loving this strike because they know the longer it goes on, the better it is for them,” Ford reportedly said. “They will win, and all of us will lose.” From Automotive News:

Ford said he purposely had not discussed the negotiations publicly until now but wanted to speak up because of his perspective. He has been part of every set of UAW contract talks since 1982, a few years after he joined the company, and says he’s the most “pro-union leader in the industry.”

[…]

UAW President Shawn Fain responded to Ford’s remarks with this statement:

“Bill Ford knows exactly how to settle this strike. … He should call up Jim Farley, tell him to stop playing games and get a deal done.

“It’s not the UAW and Ford against foreign automakers. It’s autoworkers everywhere against corporate greed. If Ford wants to be the all-American auto company, they can pay all-American wages and benefits. Workers at Tesla, Toyota, Honda, and others are not the enemy — they’re the UAW members of the future.”

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Last week, the union escalated matters with Ford at its largest and most profitable plant, Kentucky Truck. Fain said it was a “new phase” of talks with more unpredictability. The move more than doubled the number of Ford workers on strike to 16,600. That’s far more than the 9,400 striking at GM and 8,000 striking at Stellantis. The move comes even though Ford has offered the highest pay among the three automakers.

“Shutting down that plant harms tens of thousands of Americans right away, workers, suppliers and dealers alike,” Bill Ford said. “If it continues, it will have a major impact on the American economy and devastate local communities.”

The UAW has now gone longer without a tentative agreement than it did when it went on strike against GM in 2019. That year, the two sides reached a tentative deal on the 31st day of the strike, and the union disbanded its picket lines nine days later after ratification.

The strike against the Big Three started on September 15 with just three assembly plants suffering walkouts. Since then, it has expanded to about 34,000 workers at 44 facilities across the country.

2nd Gear: GM’s Cruise Under Investigation

Auto safety regulators have reportedly opened a probe into whether General Motors’ self-driving unit Cruise has taken enough precautions with its autonomous vehicles to keep pedestrians safe. From Reuters:

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said its Office of Defects Investigation has received two reports from Cruise of incidents in which pedestrians were injured, and has identified two further incidents via videos posted to public websites.

NHTSA said the reports include Cruise autonomous vehicles “encroaching on pedestrians present in or entering roadways, including pedestrian crosswalks, in the proximity of the intended path of the vehicles”.

“This could increase the risk of a collision with a pedestrian, which may result in severe injury or death,” the agency added.

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A spokesperson for Cruise said the company communicates regularly with NHTSA and “has consistently cooperated with each of NHTSA’s requests for information – whether associated with an investigation or not – and (plans) to continue doing so”.

The probe comes just a couple of weeks after a hit-and-run incident in San Francisco where a pedestrian was hit by a driver, thrown into the next land and hit a second time by a Cruise vehicle which didn’t stop in time. Officials in California and the federal government say they have been talking to Cruise about the situation.

In August the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) said it was investigating incidents involving Cruise in San Francisco, after a Cruise robotaxi was involved in a crash with an emergency vehicle.

The California Public Utilities Commission voted in August to allow Cruise robotaxis as well as Alphabet’s Waymo to operate around the clock despite the fact that one one in San Francisco wanted that to happen.

3rd Gear: Supplier Accident Leads To Trouble For Toyota Factories

Toyota has extended a partial production halt for another day at two assembly plants in Japan because of an accident at a supplier’s facility. The incident at the supplier, Chuo Spring, which makes engines and valve springs for some Toyota vehicles, also halted production at Toyota Auto Body and Toyota Industries. From Reuters:

The impacted lines would remain halted due to the incident, while a line at a plant of another group company, Gifu Auto Body, used for manufacturing of the Toyota Coaster minibus would also be stopped, the spokesperson said.

A spokesperson for Chuo Spring said an accident involving an explosion in a building at its Fujioka plant around 12:15 p.m. (0315 GMT) on Monday resulted in damage to the facility, adding that the police and the fire department were investigating.

Production in five lines at three Toyota Auto Body plants – all of the unit’s lines – was stopped due to the accident, affecting production of minivans such as the Alphard as well as some Land Cruiser models, including for overseas markets.

According to Reuters, both the Takaoka and Tsutsumi plants are impacted by the production halt. They are both located in Toyota City in central Japan, which is also home to the automaker’s headquarters.

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It’s the second production halt in just three months. Back in August, all 14 of Toyota’s domestic assembly plants stopped work because of a system malfunction.

4th Gear: Zipcar Hasn’t Been Doing Recall Fixes To Its Cars

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has hit Zipcar, owned by Avis Budget Group, with a $300,000 fine after finding the car-sharing company has been allowing customers to rent vehicles with open recalls. As you may have expected, this violates federal motor safety law.

The civil penalty is reportedly part of a consent order that NHTSA announced earlier this week. It’s actually the Administration’s first enforcement action against a rental company over recalls. From The Associated Press:

“Vehicles with open, unrepaired recalls pose a safety risk to everyone on the road,” NHTSA Acting Administrator Ann Carlson said in a statement. “The agency will continue to use the full scope of its enforcement authorities to protect the public from safety defects in their personal vehicles or in a vehicle they rent.”

Under the consent order, half of the $300,000 penalty is set to be paid up front — while the other $150,000 will be deferred and could become payable in the event of future violations, NHTSA said. In addition, the company is required to submit an audit of all Zipcar vehicles with recalls open at any time within 150 days after the consent order and provide updates to employee training materials, among other compliance reviews.

Zipcar agreed to the consent order. According to the NHSTA, the company also says it’s made multiple improvements to recall policies and procedures since 2018 — when the agency opened an investigation after getting information that Zipcar rented at least one vehicle recalled in 2017, the Ford Transit, without making repairs.

[…]

“At Zipcar, we prioritize our members’ safety and take manufacturers’ recalls very seriously,” the company said in a statement, adding that the NHSTA agreement relates “a 2017 recall in which less than 50 vehicles out of (Zipcar’s) 12,000 global fleet were found in violation.”

Based on the inquiry, NHTSA determined that “certain unredeemed recalled vehicles” were rented by Zipcar in 2017 and 2018.

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