General Motors employees gather outside the plant for a protest, Wednesday, March 6, 2019, in Lordstown, Ohio.
Photo: Tony Dejak (AP Images)
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Where General Motors’ laid off employees currently stand, a Fiat Chrysler settlement approval, new land for a new plant and more await you in The Morning Shift for Monday, May 6, 2019.

1st Gear: Tough Situation

When General Motors announced last November that it would close five North American plants and slash about 14,000 jobs, the news was devastating to its employees. Now, nearly six months later, here is how things currently stand.

Some of the jobs that were at risk were 2,800 “active hourly jobs” and at this moment, about 500 of those employees don’t have jobs, reports the Detroit Free Press. Two of the plants—Detroit Hamtramck and Warren Transmission—are still operational and GM has told the outlet that it’s trying to put the 1,500 laid off employees back into the system.

From the story:

By the end of April, GM had transferred about 1,305 of the nearly 2,800 affected to jobs at its other U.S. plants, said company spokesman Dan Flores. Here is the breakdown:

  • 593 workers transferred from Detroit-Hamtramck after Chevrolet Volt and Buick LaCrosse production ceased.
  • 670 from Lordstown Assembly in Ohio.
  • 28 from Warren Transmission.14 from Baltimore Operations.

Lordstown is idled, but Detroit Hamtramck will run until January and employs 700 hourly workers who continue to build the Chevrolet Impala and Cadillac CT6 sedans.

Warren Transmission will idle in early August and Baltimore shuts down this week, said Flores.

The transferred employees have gone to:

  • Flint Assembly in Flint
  • Spring Hill Assembly in Tennessee
  • Toledo Transmission plant B
  • edford Casting Operations in Indiana
  • Fort Wayne Assembly in Indiana
  • Wentzville Assembly in Missouri
  • Tonawanda Engine plant in New York

Presently, 508 U.S. hourly workers that have been laid off still need transfers. The outlet reports that 700 others are still at Detroit Hamtramck and 265 at Warren Transmission (GM confirmed that the Free Press’s math was accurate).

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A GM spokesperson told the outlet:

“There are employees that are still in the process of being placed. We will have opportunities at other locations as we work our way through 2019, including at Bowling Green, Kentucky, and Arlington, Texas, as they prepare for launches.”

It’s a really difficult situation. Many of these workers have families and children to take care of, as well as long histories, some spanning generations, with the company at these plants; a relocation isn’t always easy. But they also need the money and the health insurance because they have bills and mortgages to pay.

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And there’s no guarantee that more cuts won’t come in the future.

2nd Gear: Fiat Chrysler Settles

Way back in the faraway land of 2017, the U.S. government sued FCA over violations of the Clean Air Act because the company allegedly installed “defeat devices” in its 3.0-liter diesel vehicles and didn’t tell anyone about it.

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On Friday, a federal judge in San Francisco approved a $307.5 million civil settlement from FCA to almost 100,000 United States owners of the cheating vehicles, reports Reuters.

From the story:

Under the settlement approved by Judge Edward Chen, about 100,000 owners and lessees of Ram 1500 and Jeep Grand Cherokee 3.0-liter diesel vehicles from model years 2014 to 2016 will receive payments for having a software reflash completed. Most owners will receive $3,075 payments.

Current owners and lease-holders have until February 2021 to submit a claim, and until May 2021 to complete the repair and receive compensation, while former owners have until August to submit a claim.

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This approval follows FCA’s first announcement of its intent to settle in January. The total value of the automaker’s various settlements is estimated to come out to about $800 million. The payouts, according to Reuters, include:

  • $27.5 million from Robert Bosch GmbH to resolve claims from owners because it provided the emissions control software (FCA is paying $280 million of the $307.5 million total)
  • $311 million from FCA in total civil penalties to regulators in the U.S. and California, with $105 million’s worth of extended warranties
  • $72.5 million from FCA in state civil penalties
  • $33.5 million from FCA to the state of California to “offset excess emissions and consumer claims”
  • $66 million from both FCA and Bosch to the lawyers that represented the owners

There is no doubt that increased scrutiny in emissions cheating from Dieselgate was part of the reason why FCA got caught.

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3rd Gear: A New FCA Assembly Plant

While we’re on the topic of FCA, here’s some tentatively good news for employees in the Detroit area: The city just agreed to pay for a giant swath of land, on which a new FCA assembly plant will be built.

The city is willing to fork over $107.6 million for almost 215 acres of land for a new, $1.6-billion FCA assembly plant, reports Reuters. The cost will be divided between Detroit and the state of Michigan.

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FCA has also said that it wants to invest $900 million in order to “retool and modernize” the Jefferson North Assembly Plant, which will apparently create 5,000 new jobs.

But what will be built at this new plant? Perhaps the rumored FCA mid-size truck? A return of the Viper??? I’m probably getting way ahead of myself, though; plants take years and years to build.

Will there even be a world left after it’s completed? Who’s to say!

4th Gear: A Good Reminder for Sedan Stans

If you love, love, love sedans and hate, hate, hate that the world is currently being taken over by large trucks and SUVs/crossovers, then I have a helpful reminder for you: Sedans are generally thousands of dollars cheaper than their larger counterparts.

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Data pulled from KBB by the Detroit Free Press shows this quite evidently. Here a list of popular cars and the average amount of what buyers pay for them:

  • Honda CR-V $28,387; Accord $26,330
  • Nissan Rogue $27,938; Altima $26,241
  • Toyota RAV4 $29,817; Camry $26,919
  • Ford Escape $28,572; Focus $20,887
  • Ford Ecosport $24,365; Fiesta $17,267
  • Hyundai Kona $24,137; Elantra $19,625
  • Chevrolet Equinox $30,296; Cruze $21,330
  • Mazda CX-5 $29,899; Mazda 6 $26,556
  • Mazda CX-3 $23,964; Mazda 3 $21,969

So the next time you’re in the market for a car and feel drawn to the crossover because all of your basic friends have them, look deep within yourself. Ask yourself why it is that you want that crossover. Because if you can live with sitting just a little lower in traffic and you realize that you don’t really need all that storage space, then maybe you should go for the sedan.

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Plus it’ll probably save you money. Everyone likes money.

5th Gear: A Very Ambitious Plan

Currently, Los Angeles is known as gridlock hell. Traffic is terrible, the smog is a problem, but driving is really the only way to get around because the public transit system still isn’t where it needs to be yet. But the city’s mayor has a plan for a more sustainable LA. And it’s, uh, ambitious.

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Here’s how Mayor Eric Garcetti’s grand vision plays out, according to the Detroit News:

The mayor’s sustainability plan imagines a city where, by the mid-2030s, 80% of the cars run on electricity or zero-emission fuel, 80% of the electricity comes from renewable sources and Angelenos drive 2,000 fewer miles each year than they do now.

On the transportation front, the mayor’s office hopes to reduce the amount of time Angelenos spend driving, from an average of 15 miles a day now to 13 miles by 2025, and 9 miles by 2035. The plan envisions making that possible largely through initiatives already underway, including a massive build-out of public transit and a proposed “congestion pricing” pilot that would make driving more expensive in some traffic-choked areas.

More significantly from a climate emissions standpoint, the plan calls for increasing the percentage of electric or zero-emission vehicles in the city from 1.4% last year to 25% by 2025, 80% by 2035 and 100% by 2050.

Garcetti’s sustainability plan also calls for all new buildings constructed in the city to be “net-zero carbon” by 2030, with the city’s entire building stock converted to zero-emission technologies by 2050. That’s also likely to be a huge lift, because it could require households, landlords and buildings owners to replace all gas-powered heating and cooling systems, clothes washers, dishwashers and stoves with electric appliances or cleaner fuels.

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As EVs get more affordable and the city installs more charging stations, then people will be more willing to make the change. It’ll be a huge lift for sure, but it needs to happen.

Recently, cars and the transportation sector have overtaken power plants as the biggest source of greenhouse gas pollution in the U.S.

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That is not a race you want to win.

Reverse: ‘Oh, the Humanity!’

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Neutral: Do You Think GM Is Making the Right Decisions?

Businesses need to profit. That much is obvious. But at the cost of thousands of employees, some of whom have given decades of their lives to working for GM? Is that the way to stay in the black?