Good morning! Welcome to The Morning Shift, your roundup of the auto news you crave, all in one place every weekday morning. Here are the important stories you need to know.
1st Gear: Daimler Expansion Will Add 600 Jobs To Alabama Plant. Sad!
German automaker Daimler AG plans to drop big bucks on ramping up production of their EQ sub-brand of electric vehicles, and they’re doing so by putting Americans to work, reports Automotive News.
The company over Mercedes-Benz plans to invest $1 billion in expanding their 20-year-old Vance, Alabama, facility to build EQ battery packs and utility vehicles, with construction slated to start in 2018. The expansion will add over 600 jobs.
Mercedes-Benz board member Markus Schaefer confirmed to Automotive News that this will give the brand facilities that are strategically located around the world in China, Europe and the U.S. that will help them electrify (there’s that word again) Mercedes’ entire range of light vehicles by 2022. Fifty electric and hybrid options are planned across Mercedes’ entire range, offering at least one electrified car per segment.
Of course, this also comes in a year when German automakers have been heavily criticized by Donald Trump for selling so many cars in the United States but not building enough cars here when in fact, they’re the biggest exporter by value of cars from the United States. Daimler’s expanded plant in Alabama will no doubt pad that stat.
Daimler has already invested $5 billion in its Alabama plant, which currently builds the GLE, GLS and C-class. Three cheers for actually putting Americans to work!
2nd Gear: Tesla Claims It Didn’t Block Unionization Efforts Because Of Course That’s What They’d Say
Tesla denies claims made in a National Labor Relations Board complaint that they have been dramatically hindering unionization efforts at its Fremont, California, plant.
Tesla has been accused of a laundry list of intimidating tactics, including preventing workers from airing safety concerns, refusing to let off-duty employees hand out pro-union literature, and interrogating and even threatening to fire pro-union workers.
The Detroit News writes:
Tesla denied all of the allegations in a response filed late last week, which The Associated Press obtained Thursday through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Tesla also said the complaint was insufficient because it didn’t name the security guards who allegedly stopped the leafleting. Tesla said it can’t verify if the allegations are true unless those guards are identified.
Of course, it may be harder to get specifics like the names of specific security guards if people do, in fact, feel threatened at work. Employees are considerably less willing to fork over any potentially identifying information (such as the names of workers they frequently encounter) when they don’t feel like their job is secure.
Regardless, there will be a hearing on Nov. 14 regarding the matter. It is illegal for companies to prevent union solicitation when employees are off duty or not at work, and it is also illegal for companies to prevent employees from discussing union matters at work as well.
3rd Gear: The Pen Is Not Mightier Than The Feds
A $35,700 bejeweled pen, among other extravagant purchases may land one Fiat Chrysler Automobiles exec in huge trouble with the feds, reports The Detroit News. FCA executive Alphons Iacobelli allegedly bought two of a a 1-of-50 pen with money siphoned off from a United Auto Workers training center, according to federal prosecutors.
The pen in question sounds thoroughly ridiculous, as The Detroit News describes:
The Montblanc pen was sold in 2013 as part of a limited series honoring President Abraham Lincoln and cost $35,700 each – that’s $7,600 more than the median household income in Detroit. The black pen features solid, 18-karat gold fittings, a blue sapphire embedded in the clip, a mother-of-pearl cap ringed by three diamonds and an 18-karat gold tip engraved with 13 stars.
Iacobelli was indicted as part of a federal corruption investigation into a $4.5 million scandal where UAW funds were diverted into the pockets of FCA higher-ups. The funds were intended to help blue-collar workers.
The pens, which were part of an alleged $1 million shopping spree with ill-gotten funds, were seized from Iacobelli’s McMansion Hell-worthy $1.3 million Rochester Hills, Michigan, home. Iacobelli also paid off some of his personal debt and bought a Ferrari with the funds, as The Detroit News explains:
More than $403,000 was spent paying Iacobelli’s personal credit card expenses, and he used more than $350,000 to buy a 2013 Ferrari 458 Spider, according to the indictment.
Another $96,000 in training center funds paid for a pool at Iacobelli’s mansion, an outdoor kitchen and spa.
Hilariously, the president of a regional pen club didn’t hesitate to call his pen purchase a hot new money garbage thing to buy to The Detroit News:
“This is a guy trying to live like how he thinks rich people live,” said Eric Fonville, president of the Michigan Pen Club, a collectors group of about 130 members. “Nobody would buy a $40,000 Montblanc. True millionaires don’t spend money like that.”
Iacobelli couldn’t even figure out how to live like a rich bro even when he allegedly scammed the money. Ouch.
Iacobelli’s alleged role in the scandal could land him in a federal penitentiary for five years.
4th Gear: Volkswagen CEO Opens Up
Volkswagen CEO Matthias Mueller is tired of the company’s reputation as “secretive and autocratic,” writes Automotive News. He’s come up with a “Meeting Mueller” program to allow rank-and-file employees to ask him questions directly.
It sounds like a rejected The IT Crowd plot, but bless him for trying. While the first meeting’s 10 attendees were selected by lottery, the second one attracted about 300 employees. It’s been mutually beneficial for Mueller, too, who knows that people aren’t always honest around the company. Automotive News explains:
The format is designed to focus on explicitly confidential and hotly debated issues. The openness is important to Mueller. In his position, he is well aware that people do not always tell him the truth, according to the program. VW said Mueller “is dependent on employees’ opinions and comments.” In return, he shares knowledge that is crucial for managing the company.
So far, they’ve discussed a number of important issues, including a new division of responsibilities for Volkswagen’s board, the rollout of 80 electric models by 2025, the sale of customer data, and plans to hire fewer consultants to do more in-house.
Volkswagen hopes to hold these four times a year and is looking into involving more of its executives in the future.
5th Gear: Bentley Wants One Of Jaguar Land Rover’s Execs
Bentley CEO Wolfgang Duerheimer has already announced his plans to step down from his role in Volkswagen’s upper management. So, the Volkswagen Group is looking to Jaguar Land Rover for a replacement, reports Germany’s Manager Magazin. Jaguar Land Rover Head of Strategy Adrian Hallmark is expected to become Bentley’s next CEO.
Duerheimer leaves a big hole at Volkswagen, having been a former manager at Audi and Porsche as well as the CEO of Bugatti before taking the Bentley role. His leaving is part of “a number of management changes” at Bentley, reports Automotive News.
Volkswagen and Bentley officials both declined to comment on the report.
Reverse: Great Innovations In Crawling Along In Stop-And-Go Traffic!
Neutral: What do you think is the best way to stay informed as to what’s going on at your company as a big CEO? Is Mueller on to something or is there a better way?