Welcome to a shiny new week! It’s Monday, September 11, 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.
The clock is ticking down on contract talks between Ford, Stellantis and General Motors and the United Auto Workers union. The four parties have until Thursday (September 14) to agree a new contract, with the union threatening to walk off the job if a deal can’t be reached. Now, those talks have been struck a knockout blow as the UAW rejected the Big Three’s latest contract offer.
According to Reuters, the union rejected the latest offer from Ford, GM and Stellantis and UAW president Shawn Fain said the parties “remained far apart.” Reuters reports:
“We want a deal. We are ready for a deal. But it’s got to be a deal that honors our sacrifices and contributions,” Fain said on Facebook Live. “If we hit 11:59 p.m. on Thursday ... there will be a strike at all three, if need be.”
The union’s self-described “audacious” demands include a 46% pay hike over four years including a 20% immediate wage increase, defined-benefit pensions for all workers, 32-hour work weeks and additional cost-of-living hikes.
So far, the parties are yet to agree on many important items. After the UAW requested a hefty pay rise over four years, Ford, GM and Stellantis countered with offers of nine percent, 10 percent and 14.5 percent respectively. The three automakers are also offering inflation protection payments, and Stellantis agreed to raise the minimum salary to $20 per hour.
However, the talks aren’t progressing at a rate that the UAW expects, and the union has even filed unfair labor practice complaints with U.S. labor regulators that accuse Stellantis and GM of “refusing to make timely economic proposals.”
Volvo, like almost every automaker out there, is rushing to bring its lineup into the electric age. The Swedish automaker already has two EVs on sale and has two more standing in the sidelines ready to go, with the EX90 set to lead the lineup alongside the “affordable” EX30 EV. But, as everyone knows, you’ve got to break a few eggs if you want to make an omlette, so the company is cutting jobs and spending in the U.S. as it amps up “efficiency” in the switch to battery power.
According to a new report from Automotive News, the Swedish company will cut jobs across almost every area of its business in the U.S. and Canada as part of an $88 million plan to “tighten spending, drive efficiencies and update the work force” around the world. Automotive News reports:
The Swedish automaker is cutting more than 10 percent of its about 700 white-collar work force in the U.S. and Canada, a source briefed on the plan told Automotive News. Volvo will also trim its regional ranks through early retirement offers. The head count reduction is expected to take effect by early October.
According to two sources that Automotive News spoke with, Volvo has slashed the teams at both its Silicon Valley Tech Center and its Southern California design center. Much of the remaining work at the hub will be relocated to Volvo’s U.S. headquarters in Mahwah, NJ, the site adds.
The company’s restructuring stateside follows similar moves in its home country of Sweden. Over in Europe, Volvo has cut “about 1,300 jobs in Sweden” as it tightens its budgets ahead of a switch to EVs. Following the initiative, Volvo hopes that all-electric models will account for half of its 1.2 million-vehicle sales by 2025.
While Volvo cuts costs as part of its pivot to EVs, BMW is taking the opposite approach and will plow millions into its plants to prep them for the electric vehicle revolution. Now, the German automaker is preparing to invest more than $750 million in its Mini plant in the UK to ready the site for full EV production by 2030.
According to a report from Bloomberg, BMW will plow $750 million into the 110-year-old plant near Oxford. The investment in the site, which employs more than 3,000 workers, will prepare it for production of the electric Mini Cooper hatchback and Aceman crossover from 2026. From 2030, the site will exclusively produce battery-powered Minis, as Bloomberg reports:
BMW AG will invest in the 110-year-old plant where the Mini brand was born to make electric models, tapping the UK government for support in the fight to prop up the country’s flagging automaking industry.
The company’s more than £600 million ($751 million) outlay averts what would have been a disaster for the UK, where car production slumped last year to the lowest since 1956. The Oxford factory employing more than 3,400 people was dealt a setback 11 months ago when BMW announced it was shifting electric Mini output to China.
Despite the under-pinnings of the new Mini EV being co-developed by BMW and Chinese automaker Great Wall Motor Co, the new electric Mini won’t exclusively be built in China as BMW previously announced. Instead, production will be split between China and the Oxford plant, where BMW first started assembling electric Minis back in 2019.
And talking of mini electric cars, Stellantis is hoping to downsize its EV batteries in the future in an effort to make its cars lighter and more efficient. According to UK news site Autocar, the Fiat and Jeep owner is eyeing a way to make EV batteries much lighter to help reduce costs and emissions as it pivots to electric power.
The site reports that by 2030, Stellantis hopes to have cut the weight of its EV batteries by as much as 50 percent, which it says would help “lighten electric cars nearer to their combustion-engined equivalents.” Autocar reports:
“The battery today is just too heavy; the vehicle is too heavy. We shouldn’t be going backwards,” said Ned Curic, head of engineering and technology, at the opening of the company’s new Mirafiori battery technology centre in Turin, Italy.
Curic said the company’s goal was to halve the weight of the battery pack through the introduction of new lightweight battery technologies and more efficient cell packaging.
The firm’s mission to lighten EV batteries has so far seen it partner with U.S.-based company Lytten, which is working to create lithium-sulfur batteries that are much lighter than current EV cells. As well as meeting Stellantis’ demands for lighter batteries, this tech would also cut costs and emissions by “using less exotic materials than lithium ion batteries,” Autocar adds.