Good morning! It’s Thursday, September 7, 2023, and this is The Morning Shift, your daily roundup of the top automotive headlines from around the world, in one place. Here are the important stories you need to know.
We’re now just a week away from the September 14th deadline that the United Auto Workers union has set to agree to a new contract with Ford, Stellantis and GM. So far, the parties have been locked in talks over the future deals, we’ve seen the UAW vote in favor of strike action if an agreement can’t be reached, and both sides have called out the other for coming to the table with unrealistic demands.
Now, it looks like the talks might finally be getting somewhere, as the UAW has issued Ford with a counter offer and Stellantis is reportedly on the precipice of making a contract offer of its own. According to a new report from Reuters, The UAW’s counter offer for Ford focused on economic issues, such as pay and compensation, and the union is expecting Stellantis’ offer on the same issues later this week. Reuters reports:
“They chose to follow the same path they have in the past, which is delay, delay,” UAW President Shawn Fain told CNBC Wednesday night. “They waited now until the last eight days to want to start talking — so we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Last week, Ford said it had offered a 9% wage increase through 2027, much less than the 46% wage hike being sought by the union. The UAW expects to receive a proposal from General Motors on Thursday, a source told Reuters, who spoke on condition of anonymity. GM confirmed it will meet with the UAW Thursday but declined to provide any details.
Ford, Stellantis and GM have until midnight on September 14 to agree details of a new contract. If the deadline isn’t met, UAW members have voted overwhelmingly in favor of industrial action, with 97 percent of the 146,000 workers employed at the Detroit Three automakers prepared to walk off the job.
BMW got itself all kinds of bad press when it decided to start charging owners of its cars to use in-car features like heated seats. Now, it promises that it’s learned its lesson as it prepares to take another crack at in-car subscriptions.
According to a new report from British outlet Autocar, BMW is getting ready to “expand its offering of paid-for on-demand services,” in its future models, but company execs assured that the German automaker is not thinking about charging owners to use “hardware-based functions.” As Autocar explains:
Pieter Nota, the firm’s board member for sales and marketing, said: “We have some experience with that, and testing how the customer responds is part of that process. We actually are now focusing with those ‘functions on demand’ on software and service-related products, like driving assistance and parking assistance, which you can add later after purchasing the car, or for certain functions that require data transmission that customers are used to paying for in other areas.
Nota was keen to explain to the outlet that the move would categorically not include things like heated seats, which he says “you either have it or you don’t have it.” Instead, with its next rollout of subscription-based features, BMW will look to “software-based services,” which Nota says could include things like parking assist.
If you read the news today, you’d be forgiven for thinking that automakers have all but given up on gas-powered models. With an increasing number of electric cars filling forecourts across America and everyone from Lincoln to Lamborghini committing to add battery-powered models to their lineups.
However, Stellantis has told Reuters that it sees a long road ahead for gas-powered cars before we finally kick them to the dust. According to the site, the Jeep and Fiat owner believes that gas-powered cars could still be on the road into 2050, which is 15 years after states like California and New York plan to ban sales of new gas cars.
Stellantis isn’t suggesting that we keep the same cars burning the same fuels forever, though. Instead, its vision for gas-powered cars in 2050 is all about ensuring its models can run on sustainable e-fuels. As Reuters explains:
The world’s third-largest carmaker by sales, whose brands include Fiat, Peugeot and Jeep, said this week tests it ran with Saudi oil giant Aramco (2222.SE) showed 24 types of internal combustion engines in European vehicles it produced since 2014 can use advanced e-fuels without modification.
Cars that can run on e-fuels are exempt from some gas-powered sales bans, including across the European Union. As such, the tech could prove key to cleaning up global transport without the need for everyone to go out and buy a new car. But before that can happen, sustainable fuels need to get much, much cheaper as a tank today would cost up to $25 per gallon to refill.
While Stellantis is figuring out a way to justify continuing to make gas-powered cars, the brains behind China’s pivot to electric vehicles is adamant that, actually, hydrogen might be the future. Wan Gang, who convinced China’s government to push for electrification more than 20 years ago, believes that hydrogen fuel cells will have a place in our sustainable transport of the future.
According to a report from Bloomberg, Gang with a sustainable hydrogen infrastructure in place, hydrogen-powered cars could one day become “more prevalent than fully electric models” in some locations around the world. The site reports:
Promoting hydrogen is “very beneficial” as the fuel can also be used in maritime and rail transport, said Wan, a mechanical engineer trained in Germany. Especially China’s commercial-vehicle fleet could benefit from hydrogen drivetrains, he added.
This, Bloomberg reports, is a belief shared by Germany’s BMW, which has created several hydrogen-powered prototypes in recent years. Toyota has also been a firm backer of hydrogen tech, and is currently the only carmaker to offer a hydrogen car in the U.S.
However, the tech has struggled to take off globally due to the high cost of hydrogen-powered cars and the investment needed to build the infrastructure for refueling.