There’s really no way to frame this as anything but an anti-union tactic, and it just blew up in GM’s face. All that and more in The Morning Shift for October 18, 2021.
1st Gear: An Incredibly Dumb Appeal Ends Dumbly
I’m impressed at how long GM has been trying to claim that unions have been bribed into intentionally making bad deals with it, though I’m not surprised that GM tried to pull this off. The details of this case are fairly straightforward, as Bloomberg explains:
A Michigan judge dismissed General Motors Co.’s lawsuit that accused Fiat Chrysler of bribing union officials to reach an advantageous labor deal that ultimately hurt GM’s competitive position in its own 2015 bargaining agreement.
The dispute between the two Detroit automakers grew out of a federal probe into corruption at the United Auto Workers, which netted criminal charges against more than a dozen former auto executives and union officials. In July 2009, officials from Fiat Chrysler — now part of Stellantis NV — started funneling money from a company-funded UAW training center to union officials. Earlier this year, Fiat Chrysler pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and admitted in federal court that it plied labor leaders with millions of dollars in bribes over seven years.
GM had claimed the bribery scheme resulted in Chrysler winning favorable terms in labor agreements that it was unable to win in its own bargaining efforts. In July 2020, a federal judge dismissed a related racketeering lawsuit in which GM sought billions of dollars in damage from Fiat Chrysler; in March 2021, GM urged a federal appeals court to revive the case.
As someone who has served on a union bargaining committee, I’m simply shocked that a big company would do everything in its power to muddy union talks and try to paint organized labor as the bad guy.
2nd Gear: Toyota Putting $3.4 Billion Into Making Batteries In U.S.
Speaking of big companies not working with unions, Toyota’s U.S. operations are getting a ton of money to get battery production up and running here, as Automotive News reports:
Toyota Motor North America said it will invest $3.4 billion in the U.S. over the next nine years to develop and localize automotive battery production, including those for electric vehicles which would be made locally instead of in Japan.
The U.S. investment — part of a previously announced $13.5 billion program globally by the automaker for battery development and production — will include a $1.29 billion lithium ion battery plant, built in partnership with Toyota Tsusho, that will begin producing batteries by 2025. They will go in upcoming localized EVs as well as hybrids.
Toyota did not provide a location for the proposed plant nor details of its business model, but said it would result in the creation of 1,750 new American jobs.
We’ll see if unions are able to muscle in on new pushes to make batteries here in the States. Ford’s Kentucky operation may be the big watershed.
3rd Gear: Oh, And Ford Is Putting $316 Million Into Making EVs In UK
That’s 230 million pounds in local bucks, going into converting an existing factory to more EV-friendly operation. The Financial Times lays it all out:
Ford will spend £230m transforming its Halewood plant on Merseyside into one producing electric vehicle parts, a fillip for a UK car industry racing to prepare for the end of combustion engine models.
The US group will establish production of electric power units at the site from 2024 in a move that will safeguard 500 jobs. The investment is conditional on £30m of government funding, according to people familiar with the matter.
With the UK banning petrol and diesel vehicle sales from 2030, the car industry is under intense pressure to establish the infrastructure, including the supply of batteries, to produce electric cars at scale and protect jobs.
The Halewood plant should be supporting annual production of 250,000 electric power units, according to the FT. Ford’s annual European sales are about 1 million vehicles, for some reference.
4th Gear: Heavy-Duty Ram Diesels Are Reportedly Failing
NHTSA is probing diesel Rams again, this time with about two dozen reports of failures in fuel pumps. Automotive News explains the details:
The agency’s Office of Defects Investigation said it has received 22 complaints from vehicle owners and two field reports alleging incidents of stall or loss of power as a result of high-pressure fuel pump failures in Ram 2500, 3500, 4500 and 5500 heavy-duty trucks from those model years. The trucks are equipped with 6.7-liter Cummins turbodiesel engines.
Federal investigators found that most of the incident allegations occurred at speeds above 25 mph and resulted in “permanent disablement of the vehicle,” according to a NHTSA document.
Ram will always remain The Good Truck, comfortably sitting slightly to the side of Ford and GM. Stellantis has an obligation to keep it reliable.
5th Gear: I Am In Awe Of This Auto News Article
Normally media puff pieces are pretty blah affairs, but this one from Automotive News somehow captures the imagination. “Ghosn ‘still in the game,’ looking to rebuild rep,” Automotive News says of the cost-cutting auto exec-turned-international-fugitive. What game is he still in? What rep does one need, having gotten into so much shit with the Nissan side of the Renault-Nissan union that he got thrown in jail and had to escape inside the case of a Gregorian music band.
Read the full thing here. The pictures are great.
Reverse: “Hell Is in Space and It Belongs to Russia”
The Soviets had their first successful Venus mission in 1967 – with Venera 4 – after several failed attempts to reach the planet. On Oct. 18, 1967, Venera 4 became the first probe to transmit information back to Earth while entering the atmosphere of Venus.
From there, the Soviets experienced more success. On Dec. 15, 1970, Venera 7 was the first spacecraft to make a soft landing on Venus. The spacecraft transmitted information for 23 minutes on the surface before succumbing to the heat and pressure. Five years later, Venera 9 was the first to send back pictures from the surface.
Neutral: What The Hell, This Is My Bike Project Blotter Now
Two steps forward, one step back. I realized that the squeal I was getting from my cantilever brakes wasn’t from a mis-adjustment of my brake pads themselves, but rather that my rims have a non-machined brake track, so it’s going to squeal until the brakes wear the black anodization on the sidewalls down themselves. I also took the rims to a local wheelbuilder, who checked the tension and declared “this is … bad.” The wheel is decently true, but the spokes have loosened considerably since I first rode the wheel, as is to be expected, but I will need to see if I can borrow my buddy’s truing stand again and bring them back up to tension.
Annoyingly, my Stans ZTR 355 rims are soft and only like low spoke tension of 95 kgf. I’m using Sapim CX-Ray bladed spokes very kindly mailed to me by a reader. The problem is that 95 kgf corresponds to a very loose 12 or 13 units of deflection on my Park Tool tension meter. The spokes themselves want to be at like, 15 units, as the wheelbuilder told me. This puts me at an impasse. At least I have a spare 26″ wheelset lying around in case I don’t get these Stans wheels in shape before I go on a long bike trip this weekend.