Stellantis has joined many other big companies in dropping its vaccine requirement, Uber’s congratulating itself in Canada, and the Chinese auto industry is looking to Latin America. All that and more in this Friday edition of The Morning Shift for January 28, 2022.
According to Stellantis, 97 percent of its salaried and non-union workforce in the U.S. — numbering 14,000 employees — has either been vaccinated or granted a medical or religious exemption. That “tremendous support” is good enough, the company says, that it doesn’t need to enforce its own vaccination deadline that had originally been planned for January 5, then pushed back indefinitely.
Stellantis had been working toward a mandate for more than two months, Automotive News reports:
The automaker adopted a vaccine mandate in November as it prepared for a phased reopening in 2022, while getting ahead of a potential federal requirement. At that time, around 80 percent of the company’s work force was fully vaccinated.
This all comes about two weeks after a pending OSHA rule was blocked by the U.S. Supreme Court that would have forced companies employing 100 or more people to require vaccinations or regular testing. That law was formally struck down by the Biden administration this past Wednesday. From the Detroit News:
The maker of Jeep SUVs and Ram pickup trucks is the latest corporation to end a vaccine mandate after the U.S. Supreme Court blocked a federal emergency temporary standard from the U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration from taking effect. It would’ve required employers with 100 or more workers starting next month to ensure their employees are vaccinated or tested weekly.
And if you’re wondering how any of this would have affected employees that also happen to be United Auto Workers members, it wouldn’t have:
Health and safety requirements for employees represented by the United Auto Workers are subject to negotiations. Vaccines have been encouraged, but not mandated, for those workers. Earlier this month, Stellantis said more than 50% of its employees have self-certified their vaccination status.
Stellantis isn’t alone within corporate America in easing planned restrictions this week. Starbucks and General Electric walked their own back in recent days. Meanwhile some outliers, like Carhartt, have continued with their mandates, Fortune reported via Yahoo. Unsurprisingly, Stellantis is still encouraging all employees to get vaccinated and boosted — so it knows what the right course of action would’ve been, if it was legally required to follow it.
Uber drivers in Canada will be permitted to use representation from United Food and Commercial Workers union members when settling disputes with the rideshare and delivery company, Uber announced Thursday. However, this isn’t tantamount to organization for Uber workers, as those employees are still legally considered independent contractors under Canadian law. From the Globe And Mail:
“This does not mean that those who do work for Uber are in any way collectively unionized,” said Andrew Monkhouse, managing partner at Monkhouse Law, a Toronto-based labour and employment law firm. “In fact, it seems like this is a half-measure which could prevent full unionization and counter the efforts to reclassify Uber workers as employees,” he told The Globe and Mail.
Independent contractors do not contribute to federal programs such as the Canada Pension Plan and Employment Insurance. Nor do they qualify for a minimum wage and other benefits.
The UFCW has been down this road with Uber before:
UFCW has been fighting for the unionization of Uber drivers for years, in part by representing 300 Uber Black drivers in Toronto – who drive luxury vehicles – in applying for unionization with the Ontario Labour Relations Board. The union is also leading organizing efforts in British Columbia and Alberta. Two of its key demands have been to end what it calls the “unfair” deactivation of driver’s accounts and the “unfair” ratings system.
Like most moves from Uber, Lyft and the like, this seems to be a quarter-measure intended to pacify workers just enough that they might not be so invested in unionizing, without meaningfully changing their status. And it has many critics:
“What this does is it enshrines Uber’s current business model, under the progressive guise of allowing its workers to unionize,” said Jennifer Scott, an Uber Eats delivery courier and president of Gig Workers United. Ms. Scott said that the agreement between UFCW and Uber caught Gig Workers United by surprise, even though both unions have worked alongside the Ontario Federation of Labour to push for full employee status for gig workers. “We did not know this was in the works,” she said.
Perhaps the UFCW’s involvement will do some good in advocating for drivers and couriers, but it needs to be careful not to let Uber define the narrative that the company’s suddenly become pro-union.
You know Mercedes-Benz? Sure you do. You know Daimler? Because you’re on this website I’d assume as much. Wall Street, however, does not. And so what was Daimler will soon complete its separation of Mercedes-Benz passenger cars from its truck division, effective with a name change due to take effect on Feb. 1. Daimler AG will rebrand as Mercedes-Benz. From Reuters:
“The goal is certainly to unleash the value potential of the company,” Ola Kaellenius told reporters on Friday, without naming a specific target valuation for the firm currently worth just under 77 billion euros($85.70 billion).
“We have a real chance to raise the multiple.”
Shares of Daimler Truck AG spun off from the newly anointed Mercedes-Benz last December last year, have risen slightly since their market debut to trade at 32.23 euros on Friday. Mercedes-Benz shares have risen since the spin-off was announced in February to their highest levels since 2015, reaching 74.25 on the day of the split, but have trended slightly lower since to trade at 71.15 euros.
The split was intended to provide pure-play investors with a more differentiated product as shareholders are increasingly rewarding legacy automakers, whose valuations are dwarfed by that of electric carmaker Tesla, for providing a clear electrification strategy of their own.
They should capitalize every “E” in Mercedes-Benz just to drive the point home. mErcEdEs-bEnz. See? Looks great.
Great Wall Motor has announced a $1.9 billion plan for manufacturing in Brazil, involving a São Paulo factory that used to belong to Mercedes-Benz. It’s emblematic of a trend of Chinese carmakers flocking to the resource-rich region in the name of — you guessed it — electric vehicle production. From Financial Times:
The Brazil venture by one of China’s biggest carmakers follows a series of Chinese deals in Latin America focused on mining, materials processing and production assets in the electric vehicle supply chain, an industry prioritised by Beijing. Parts of the region are rich in lithium and copper, metals that are critical for electric vehicle production.
Part of it’s also down to the slowing growth of the Chinese auto sector, which is consolidating as the market’s been saturated with EV startups in recent years. Companies like Great Wall and its domestic rivals recognize a need to expand elsewhere:
Tu Le, managing director of Sino Auto Insights, said international expansion has become a priority for Chinese auto groups, including BYD and Geely in addition to Great Wall.
Geely, another big Chinese automaker, is also planning to enter the Brazilian market this year, a spokesperson told the Financial Times.
The companies are searching for markets as growth in China, the world’s biggest car market, slows. They are also working to strengthen supply chain resilience following the shocks caused by the trade war with the US and the coronavirus pandemic.
“Affordable [electric vehicles] in Latin America seems like a formula for success if the local governments can be pushed to invest in the infrastructure,” Tu said.
The offshore pivot by Chinese electric vehicle makers reflected “collective confidence . . . that they can finally compete on equal footing with all of the foreign automakers,” he added.
EVs aren’t hot in Latin America yet, especially not Brazil. Great Wall will concentrate on gas- and ethanol-powered vehicles for the region — supporting ethanol is big business in Brazil due to its sugarcane production — while drip-feeding some electrified vehicles into the market. Of course, it’ll be exporting the bulk of EVs it builds in Brazil elsewhere so it can capitalize on those sweet, sweet raw materials.
I’m paraphrasing of course; Honda CEO Toshihiro Mibe actually said he believed Sony’s entry into the auto manufacturing space was good for the industry. It’s important to note Mibe was wearing his Vice President of the Japanese Automobile Manufacturers Association hat while he said this, rather than his Honda boss hat. If he was wearing the latter, yeah — maybe there would have been more playful trash talk. From Automotive News:
“You already see in Europe, the United States and China many new players coming into EV manufacturing. Sony is one of them,” Mibe said Jan. 27 at a regular briefing by the Japanese auto industry group. “Having additional players in the industry brings about positive competition.
“A new entry like Sony will really revitalize the industry,” the Honda chief said.
Of course, Sony being the entertainment and tech powerhouse that it is, it does Honda nor any of its contemporaries no good to burn such a bridge. Cars are to be the living room of the future, after all.
It was 23 years ago on January 28, 1999 that Ford completed its purchase of Volvo’s passenger car division. Volvo comprised Ford’s short-lived Premium Automotive Group alongside Jaguar, Aston Martin and Land Rover And it really was short-lived; Ford divested itself of Aston Martin in 2007, sold Jaguar and Land Rover as a package to Tata in 2008, and finally sent Volvo to Geely in 2010 — where it’s remained ever since.
They still make it! As someone who works for an automotive news site, you’d think I knew this, and I guess I sort of did know it. But god, I haven’t thought about the current Legacy in so long, maybe ever. You could have told me Subaru stopped selling it here in 2019 or 2020 and I’d have believed you. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one on the road, though if I did, I might have looked at it only briefly enough to register it as “maybe an Impreza” and gone on with my day.