Good morning! Welcome to The Morning Shift, your roundup of the auto news you crave, all in one place every weekday morning. Here are the important stories you need to know.
1st Gear: Opel Isn’t Leaving Germany If They’re Bought By PSA
Ze Germans had a bit of an oh-scheiße moment now that talks of General Motors selling its money-bleeding European subsidiary Opel to PSA Peugeot-Citroën are moving along pretty fast. Chief among their concerns are major layoffs and plant closures, reports the Financial Times.
Fortunately for all those Germans who work hard to put wurst on the table at home, PSA Group CEO Carlos Tavares says that he’ll be keeping Opel a German brand for sure, reports Automotive News.
PSA and GM went on a charm offensive Wednesday to reassure worried German officials and workers that they’re going to do right by Opel’s large workforce. Automotive News writes:
Tavares will pledge to “maintain Opel as a German company in full compliance with German labor law” when he meets government and union officials, a source told Reuters. He will present the deal as “an alliance between a French carmaker and a German carmaker.”
As many as 15,000 jobs are at risk should PSA close Opel’s Rüsselsheim plant, along with two other European GM plants in the United Kingdom. Apparently the companies’ buttering up worked, though: German government officials who initially found GM’s sale of Opel to be an unpleasant surprise softened their stance on the merger, telling Automotive News that they have a “strong interest in a successful future” for GM’s German branch.
2nd Gear: What’s Good For You Is Good For Me
GM really, really wants approval for this Opel/Vauxhall deal, y’all. GM CEO Mary Barra reassured workers Wednesday that selling its Opel and Vauxhall brands to Peugeot would be beneficial to everyone.
Barra explained to GM Europe staff, as quoted by Reuters:
While there can be no assurance of any agreement, any possible transaction would enable PSA Groupe and Opel Vauxhall to leverage their complementary strengths, enhancing their competitive positions for the future in a rapidly changing European market.
In other words, Europeans might know something about this European car business—especially since they’re doing crazy things like turning a profit.
3rd Gear: Mercedes’ Formula One Team Gets A New Technical Director
Mercedes absolutely nailed F1's V6 hybrid spec when it debuted several years ago—so well that other teams were just now starting to catch up. We can’t have that, can we?
To help assure that they’ll continue running away with races, Mercedes hired longtime F1 engineer James Allison as their new Technical Director, reports WTF1. Allison fills the technical-side hole left now that Executive Director Paddy Lowe has left for Williams, and comes with prior experience on championship-winning Ferraris and Renaults. Allison also helped Lotus improve for a while before joining Ferrari again, which he left in July 2016.
Allison joins the team in March.
4th Gear: The UAW Wants You!
The United Auto Workers union isn’t the behemoth it used to be. So the union is stepping up its efforts to organize foreign automakers’ plants as well as Tesla’s, reports the Detroit Free Press. They’re using different strategies to try and organize more plants—specifically, Nissan in Mississippi, Tesla in California and Volkswagen in Tennessee—in the face of what will likely be a very union-unfriendly next four years.
The UAW has shifted into high gear in response to both Donald Trump’s election—and presumably coming anti-organized labor policies—as well as higher interest from foreign automakers’ plants. The Free Press writes:
UAW Treasurer Gary Casteel told the Free Press there has been a spike in interest for union representation at multiple auto plants operated by foreign automakers in recent months.
Casteel said he isn’t sure what is driving the interest but he has a few theories. Casteel said the increased attention on the loss of manufacturing jobs and on the North American Free Trade Agreement during the presidential campaign, along with President Donald Trump’s focus on U.S. jobs, has, in some ways, benefited the UAW.
Trump’s nominee for Labor Secretary, Andrew Puzder, withdrew his nomination on Tuesday, which buys groups like the UAW time before a labor secretary gets into office and establishes an agenda—which, given Trump’s big-business ties, probably won’t be very friendly to the labor movement.
Casteel also credits the 2015 contract renegotiation with the Big Three as driving some interest, which he says gave workers more of a voice.
Likewise, the UAW has been tailoring its message to each plant more, focusing on global social justice and workers’ rights at Nissan’s plant, and setting up a local chapter to recruit interest at Volkswagen, the Free Press writes. Meanwhile, Tesla workers are fired up about the high costs of living around its California facility. You can read the Free Press’ complete rundown of what the AW is doing at each plant here.
5th Gear: Prepare Yourselves, The New Wrangler Is Coming
Jeep will be temporarily laying off 3,200 jobs at its Toledo, Ohio, assembly plant while it retools it for the next-generation Wrangler, reports the Detroit Free Press. The retooling will cost the automaker $700 million and workers could be on break for up to six months.
While they’re on break now, they’re all expected to be called back when the Wrangler comes into production, with an additional 700 jobs added to meet demand.
And here’s why some of those non-union plants might be eager to unionize: UAW workers at the plant will receive 95 percent of their take-home pay during the layoff through a combination of state benefits and union contracts with Fiat Chrysler, per the Free Press.
Production of the Jeep Cherokee, which had been made at the Toledo North Assembly Plant in question, is moving to a plant in Belvedere, Illinois. That truck’s old news, though. Bring us the Wrangler.
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