This is The Morning Shift, our one-stop daily roundup of all the auto news that's actually important — all in one place every weekday morning. Or, you could spend all day waiting for other sites to parse it out to you one story at a time. Isn't your time more important?
1st Gear: UAW Recognized At VW Plant, So Now What? After a protracted battle with anti-Union forces, the UAW will officially be recognized as an agent of workers at VW's plant in Tennessee. That's great and all, but what does it actually mean?
Here's as close as you'll get to an explanation via David Shepardson:
Harley Shaiken, a labor professor at the University of California, Berkeley, said Monday the policy “is not collective bargaining. But it is a step in the direction of recognition, which ultimately could lead to collective bargaining. This is not the end point.”
The next step could be a future election or VW could ultimately opt to recognize the UAW down the road if the UAW had a majority of support. It’s not clear what’s next. “We don’t know what’s next. We’re in unchartered territory,” Shaiken said.
The VW decision granting the UAW access but not authority as the collective bargaining agent is nearly unprecedented in U.S. labor history. While it may make it easier to win eventual recognition, it’s not clear what it means the long term — especially if anti-UAW forces win access as well.
So, my read on this is that the UAW might have something like 46% of the vote, which means that the anti-union forces could get a 46% share of unaffiliated workers for an anti-union union. Then what?
2nd Gear: Ze Germans Are Trading Execs Again
BMW, Daimler, and Volkswagen keep swapping execs like they're at some sort of swinger lemon party, with Volkswagen taking BMW R&D chief Herbert Diess to head VW in place of Winterkorn and BMW CEO Norbert Reithofer going away in May and giving his job to Harald Krueger.
So what's going? I think Reuters has it right that Diess saw the writing on the wall and decided he'd have better luck at VW.
But it's not like Reithofer is out, he's just moving to chairman of the BMW supervisory board. The same goes for Winterkorn, who will retain his job as head of the entire VW Group.
3rd Gear: Is GM A Safer Bet Than Ford?
Options traders have looked into their crystal balls/terminals and decided that GM stock is slightly less volatile than Ford stock.
Ford’s implied volatility, an indicator of demand for contracts that protect against losses in stocks, has risen to 1.003 times GM contracts, according to three-month data compiled by Bloomberg. Two weeks ago, it was the highest ever.
The catalyst for the jump came when the second-largest U.S. carmaker said in September it will miss profit forecasts this year, according to Max Breier at BMO Capital Markets Corp. Ford hedges have cost more than GM’s for 18 straight days, the longest streak since 2011.
Options trading is its own special world you should about but the basic idea are you're buying the option (or agreeing to sell) a stock in a certain time frame for a certain price. This protects you from extreme volatility but also provides a lower payoff.
Right now, the market is assigning a higher cost to buying a Ford hedge as opposed to a GM hedge, implying that they think GM is going to be more stable going forward.
It sounds counterintuitive given the bad news on the GM front lately, but it's actually quite intuitive. Frankly, GM can't be expected to do much worse, they've got a lot of good product coming up, margins are good, and their sales aren't as vulnerable to developing markets like Russia and South America as Ford.
Sure, Ford is eventually going to have success with the F-150 (we think) and Mustang (right?) so there's a huge upside potential for people buying blue oval stock but that's not how the options market sees the world.
4th Gear: GM Ignition Deaths Up To 38
The Feinberg-run GM compensation fund has updated their number of claims eligible for money to 89 according to the AP. That's 38 deaths and 51 injuries.
People can still submit claims up until January 31st and so far GM says they've had 239 death claims and 2,023 injury claims. We should know next year the total number approved versus denied.
5th Gear: Honda Will Help Out Takata
Honda announced that they'll do what they have to do to keep Takata operating as the airbag supplier deals with ongoing issues related to a massive global recall of its products.
Why? They don't have much choice.
Honda, which is Takata’s biggest customer and holds 1.2 percent of its shares, is willing to shoulder part of the added costs from the wider recalls to get to the bottom of its supplier’s air-bag problems, the newspaper cited Ito as saying.
In a move reminiscent of Ford/Firestone, the two historically aligned companies are no longer entirely on the same page though as Honda has looked to outside suppliers to get replacement parts.
Reverse: The Only Downside Was The Lead Poisining
On this day, a young engineer at General Motors named Thomas Midgeley Jr. discovers that when he adds a compound called tetraethyl lead (TEL) to gasoline, he eliminates the unpleasant noises (known as "knock" or "pinging") that internal-combustion engines make when they run. Midgeley could scarcely have imagined the consequences of his discovery: For more than five decades, oil companies would saturate the gasoline they sold with lead—a deadly poison.
Neutral: Ford Or GM, Which Would You Buy? Forget the options for a moment, where would you put your chips?
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