Blame being thrown around in Washington for GM’s plant closures, GM’s president joins self-driving car unit, more discussions about U.S. manufacturing plants and so much more for The Morning Shift of Friday, Nov. 30, 2018.
1st Gear: Anger Over GM’s Plant Closure Has Reached a ‘Fever Pitch’ In Washington: Report
Ever since GM announced on Monday that its restructuring would involve shutting down five manufacturing plants in North America, and possibly a 15 percent workforce reduction, lots of folks have been pissed. Not just locals in those assembly plant communities, but also politicians in D.C., as we reported earlier this week.
Now, the Detroit News reports in its story “GM bashing reaching fever pitch in DC,” things have gotten pretty heated in our nation’s capital, as blame gets thrown in all directions. The news site says that, at a recent press conference aimed at discussing President Trump’s campaign promises to auto workers, democratic members of the House Congressional Automotive Caucus “accused GM of putting profits before people” and also accused the Trump administration of “creating economic conditions that reward companies for moving factory jobs overseas.”
The story mentions comments from Debbie Dingell, U.S. representative for Michigan’s 12th congressional district, writing:
“We need to, as a Congress, be addressing public policy issues that keep manufacturing in this country,” said U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, a former GM employee who struck a rare note of public anger at her old company.
Dingell said she is “bound and determined” to make sure Congress does not approve the Trump administration’s proposed replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement unless it ensures “that we’re not moving jobs to Mexico.
“That’s what all of us are going to fight for, and that’s why we’re so upset,” she said. “We want strong, healthy manufacturing.”
There’s also been some blame thrown onto Trump’s tariffs, with representative Brenda Lawrence telling the Detroit News:
“If you make it more expensive to get metal and steel, the profit margin goes down,” she said. “You give a tax cut to the corporation, oh by the way we want to make more, so throw away the employee. Not on my watch.”
And of course, President Trump has voiced his disdain on GM’s plant closures, tweeting again for the third day on the topic:
“General Motors is very counter to what other auto, and other, companies are doing,” Trump tweeted Thursday morning. “Big Steel is opening and renovating plants all over the country. Auto companies are pouring into the U.S., including BMW, which just announced a major new plant. The U.S.A. is booming!”
Politicians are pissed. More importantly, workers and their families are pissed. Everyone’s pissed. Nice going, GM.
2nd Gear: GM President Appointed CEO of Self-Driving Unit “Cruise”
General Motors and its self-driving unit, Cruise, have appointed GM president Dan Ammann as the unit’s new CEO. He will work with Cruise’s co-founder Kyle Vogt, who will be chief technical officer and president with the aim of “[transform] mobility through the safe deployment of self-driving technology,” GM says in its press release.
Bloomberg breaks down why a company that just announced the closure of a number of U.S. plants and the potential layoff of thousands of workers is so focused on self-driving car development, writing:
GM is betting it can dedicate more resources to developing self-driving cars and transportation services in a quest for future profits while cutting back in the rest of the company. As Ammann takes over Cruise, which has hired 1,000 people in two years, the automaker is closing plants and cutting staff in its core business.
Here’s why, according to Bloomberg, the move makes sense for Cruiser:
For Cruise, the move is about building a bigger management team to transcend from a technology skunkworks focused on creating autonomous cars to a more developed business that brings in revenue. The reshuffling will allow Vogt and [Chief Operating Officer] Kan to focus on technology while Ammann runs the business and looks for new partners and sources of capital — and possibly even preparing to spin out the company one day.
And here’s what it means to the GM president, Dan Amman:
For Ammann, the move allows him to lead a tech company that he brought into the GM fold when the automaker acquired it for $1.5 billion in 2016. The automaker’s venture capital fund, GM Ventures, scouted Cruise and Ammann then spearheaded the deal.
GM is clearly trying to be as lean as possible, while also staying—or at least appearing to stay—on the cutting edge of technology.
3rd Gear: Could More GM Plants Be on the Chopping Block?
After General Motors announced its plant closures, Bloomberg got to thinking about what other plants might also be vulnerable to GM’s recent “restructuring.”
The news site says America’s biggest automaker “may have more cutting to do,” writing:
GM’s Chevrolet Camaro plant in Lansing, Michigan; Corvette factory in Bowling Green, Kentucky; and Chevy Malibu facility in Fairfax, Kansas, all have been operating well below production capacity, according to data compiled by just-auto and Bloomberg Intelligence.
These plants, the news site writes, employ around 5,100 people in total. And while Bloomberg thinks some of them could be next to go, the news site also acknowledges a few reasons why they might not be, writing:
There are reasons to keep them open. Sports cars including the Corvette and Camaro typically see wild sales swings, with demand surging for revamped versions, then tapering off once they’ve been on the market a while.
Also, Cadillac has a series of new models planned for the next few years. GM could be keeping a few underutilized plants around to add production of these vehicles.
It must be stressful to work in a GM car plant right now, especially one that’s not running anywhere near capacity.
4th Gear: Trump Praises BMW For Announcing They’ll Build a New Plant Even Though It’s Just a Consideration
Earlier this week, we reported on a Bloomberg story saying that BMW was considering building a new engine and transmission plant in the U.S., as the company tries bolstering its supply chain for its Spartanburg, South Carolina factory in the wake of U.S. import tariff and Brexit-related uncertainty.
A key part of the previous paragraph is the term “considering,” as in, not finalized. Still, U.S. President Trump was quick to sing the Bavarian automaker’s praises, as Bloomberg writes:
President Donald Trump congratulated BMW AG for building a “major new plant” in the U.S., taking a swipe at General Motor’s move to close several factories. The only problem is that the German carmaker’s decision hasn’t been finalized.
“Big Steel is opening and renovating plants all over the country,” Trump posted Thursday on Twitter. “Auto companies are pouring into the U.S., including BMW, which just announced a major new plant.”
Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean the president misread the reporting—it could just be his way of trying to put pressure on BMW to follow through.
According to Bloomberg, this plant could help the company meet local content requirements, which dictate that a certain percentage of a vehicle’s parts should come from domestic sources.
5th Gear: VW Is Working With a Big British Grocery Store Chain to Build an EV Charging Network
Volkswagen just announced that it is working with British retailer Tesco to install over 2,400 EV charging stations in 600 store parking lots around the nation.
The charging bays will be installed by Pod Point, which VW says is the UK’s biggest independent public charging network company. People shopping at Tesco Extra and Tesco Superstore will have the option of using a free 7 kilowatt charger or a 50 kilowatt charger for a “small cost.”
The project, VW claims in its press release, will result in the “UK’s largest retail network of EV chargers.”
Reverse: ‘Unsafe at Any Speed’ Changes America’s Auto Industry
On this day in 1965, 32-year-old lawyer Ralph Nader publishes the muckraking book Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the American Automobile. The book became a best-seller right away. It also prompted the passage of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966, seat-belt laws in 49 states (all but New Hampshire) and a number of other road-safety initiatives.
Neutral: How Do You See the Future of U.S. Auto Manufacturing?
Tariffs. Plant Closures. New Plants. When it all shakes out, where will we be?