General Motors is considering delving into its strategic Mitten Reserve as its critical Missouri truck plant faces absenteeism in the face of coronavirus. All that and more in The Morning Shift for Tuesday, July 29, 2020.
This is an interesting one. GM workers in its Wentzville, Missouri plant are not showing up for work for fear of being exposed to COVID. In a perfect world, GM would just shut the plant down. Not that complicated.
But Wentzville makes pickup trucks.
As anyone following the auto industry here in America knows, nothing will stand in the way of Americans and their pickup trucks. It’s all we’re buying, and it’s all the Big Three want to make. It comes as no surprise to me, then, that GM is not closing the place down for concerns of worker safety, but instead talking about shipping in workers to take their place. The Freep reports:
General Motors is reversing course at Wentzville Assembly plant, even as it continues to experience high worker absenteeism by a fearful workforce as coronavirus cases surge in the surrounding community.
On Monday, GM was supposed to be in the process of idling its third shift at the factory located near St. Louis. The move would have meant some of the 1,250 people on that shift would be reassigned to other shifts or some would be put on furlough.
But GM says it will now continue to run the factory on three shifts by shuffling staff, including possibly transferring some Michigan workers to Wentzville, Missouri.
“We have a plan in place that will enable Wentzville to keep operating on three shifts. It’s been a challenging time to accommodate people who were not returning to work due to concerns about COVID-19,” said GM spokesman Dan Flores. “The new operating plan will include GM transfers from other locations and that certainly will help. Any transfer is handled in accordance with the terms of the union contract.”
GM went on to tell the press that “most of the workforce does feel safe” at Wentzville, which I’m sure is very reassuring when talking about a contagious disease particularly dangerous when dealing with large numbers of people indoors.
All that being said, I’m sure that GM is operating in the best interests of its employees, and in no way is feeling pressure to pump out high-profit-margin pickup trucks at this moment.
Oh and also GM just posted a $758 million loss this quarter, as Automotive News reports:
General Motors reported a $758 million second-quarter loss as the coronavirus pandemic sharply cut production and revenue by more than half.
GM said cost cutting and strong pricing allowed the automaker to nearly break even in North America despite its plants being closed for eight weeks.
Ever one to put a positive spin on things, GM noted that it only lost $100 million in North America, versus $270 million losses in international markets. Naturally, stock prices have gone up, as AN explains:
Shares of GM rose 4.5 percent in premarket trading Wednesday.
“GM deserves credit for pivoting quickly and rolling out blockbuster incentive programs that arguably kept the industry afloat through its most challenging period in more than a decade,” Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds’ executive director of insights, said in a statement.
“With the worst quarter now behind GM, the company — like all automakers — is challenged to sell in a world filled with uncertainty for consumers, employees and operations.”
I’m sure the worst of all of this is over, I keep screaming at the mirror, sweating profusely.
Car companies have been making electric cars in small numbers for decades now and spent most of the past 10 or 12 years watching idly as a little company run by a Twitter obsessive out of California sprinted past them. This is all to say that the auto industry’s stalwarts have been incredibly, incredibly slow at building EVs. Any talk of making the transition to EVs is a joke given how much of every major manufacturer’s lineup is still, after all these years, based on internal combustion.
What is the result of all of this slowness? Costs! They need to come down, as head of Peugeot Carlos Tavares recently explained to the press. The Financial Times reports:
Carmakers need to take radical steps to lower the price of electric vehicles by cutting costs across offices, dealerships and suppliers, according to the chief executive of Peugeot owner PSA.
Carlos Tavares said bridging the gap between the cost of developing electric vehicles and selling them at a profit, which is currently only possible through subsidies, must be the first priority for carmakers.
“Affordability will be the challenge for the next five years in terms of costs,” he told the Financial Times. “Those breakthroughs need to come from real estate, distribution costs, sourcing all the components of cost structure will have to be combined to bring this affordability.”
I wonder what EV costs would look like if anyone took making them seriously at any point before now.
The case of Aston Martin has been interesting, as the company took on a billionaire backer to shuttle out a late-to-the trend luxury SUV just as we all entered a global health and economic crisis. Another wrinkle is that shit has been worse there than it had been telling people, as the FT reports:
The new owners of Aston Martin have identified accounting errors at its US business that led the luxury carmaker to understate the scale of last year’s losses.
The discrepancies saw payments to US dealers booked later than they should have been, which inflated profits and affected the company’s balance sheet. The errors date back to 2018, the year Aston held its initial public offering, the company said on Wednesday.
As a result of the accounting problems, pre-tax losses in 2019 were understated by £15.3m. The revision means Aston made a loss last year of £70.9m compared with the £55.6m initially reported.
I’m sure the timeline of these discrepancies lining up with their IPO is completely coincidental.
For once, some good news for app drivers, as the New York Times reports:
The ruling resulted from a lawsuit filed in late May by drivers and an advocacy group called the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, who argued that the state was taking months to pay unemployed drivers while typically processing benefits for other workers in two to three weeks.
Although the lawsuit was filed against the state rather than Uber and Lyft, the judge called out the companies for extensive delay tactics that had made it difficult for drivers to receive the benefits they are owed.
This is maybe not as big a win as I would like to see—tearing down the whole world of rideshare driving—but I am happy with any step along the way.
NACA just never got on the trendwatch blogs, I guess. Via History:
The U.S. Congress passes legislation establishing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), a civilian agency responsible for coordinating America’s activities in space, on July 29, 1958. NASA has since sponsored space expeditions, both human and mechanical, that have yielded vital information about the solar system and universe. It has also launched numerous earth-orbiting satellites that have been instrumental in everything from weather forecasting to navigation to global communications.
If your job wanted you to transfer to a worksite where people weren’t showing up for fear of catching COVID, would you make the trip?