Volkswagen's Labor Unions Will Block A $1.4 Billion Turkey Plant

VW at the Frankfurt Motor Show this year
VW at the Frankfurt Motor Show this year
Photo: VW
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The auto execs of the world do all their top business at fancy lunches, as it turns out, so take that to heart and nab a couple hours to nosh today. All that news and more in The Morning Shift for Friday, November 1, 2019.

1st Gear: Powerful Labor Group Stands Up To Foolhardy Management Plan

It can be hard to get a good perspective on what labor looks like worldwide when you’re just looking at things from a U.S. perspective. Things are different in Germany, where labor is more tightly integrated into operations as a whole.


As such, things like this happen, like the boss of VW’s labor unions swearing that the company won’t get in bed with Turkey, as Bloomberg reports:

Volkswagen AG’s powerful labor unions vowed to block the manufacturer’s plan to build a 1.3 billion-euro ($1.4 billion) factory in Turkey until violence triggered by the country’s cross-border offensive in northern Syria has stopped.

“I want to say very clearly: the labor representatives repudiate approval as long as Turkey tries to reach its political goals with war and force,” VW’s global works council chief and supervisory board member Bernd Osterloh said in remarks published in a staff newspaper seen by Bloomberg.

The world’s largest automaker put the project on hold last month after tensions escalated following the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria. The U.S. move opened the way for Turkish forces to cross into northeastern Syria, forcing back Kurdish militants who controlled the border area.

Besides the ongoing conflict with Turkish troops in Syria, there’s also a lot of history between Germany and Turkey.

I’m sure this will all be resolved neatly and without any drama.

2nd Gear: Almost A Year On From Ghosn And Nissan Is Still Shuffling Execs

This is a fairly dry item on the face of it, but the more you look at it the more interesting it becomes. From Bloomberg via The Japan Times:

Nissan Motor Co. unveiled the responsibilities of its new top managers, appointing a new chief financial officer and making other executive moves as the automaker seeks to turn a new page almost a year since the arrest of former Chairman Carlos Ghosn.

Stephen Ma, corporate controller and former CFO of Nissan’s China joint venture, will take over as CFO from Hiroshi Karube, the Yokohama-based company said in a statement Friday. Newly appointed Chief Executive Officer Makoto Uchida will formally join the board, taking over from Dec. 1.

Nissan overhauled its top management a month ago, adopting a collective-style leadership aimed at moving past the outsized influence Ghosn was seen to have had over Nissan and its alliance with top shareholder Renault SA. Ashwani Gupta was appointed chief operating officer, and Jun Seki as deputy COO. The three face monumental challenges as they seek to restore profitability at a decade low while competing in an era of transition to “electrification” and autonomous vehicles.


It’s amazing to me that Nissan is still remaking its own image, still cleaning up from Ghosn. It’s been almost a year!

But long as that timescale seems in terms of structuring management, I fear that anyone looking at Nissan’s portfolio of cars will realize that meaningful change to what Nissan is, in dealerships and in sales, is going to take a lot longer than that.


3rd Gear: How The Peugeot Deal Happened

We spent all of yesterday talking up the FCA-Groupe PSA deal so I won’t go into things in too much depth, other than to highlight a nice rundown on how it all came together by The Financial Times. The key piece of the puzzle: dinner.

Following a year of on-again, off-again talks that were interrupted by a failed merger attempt between Fiat and French rival Renault, PSA’s chief executive Carlos Tavares and the chairman of FCA John Elkann finally thrashed out a deal over a four-hour private dinner on the outskirts of Paris on Sunday.


Bloomberg also goes into some of the more chummy connection between child-of-famous-auto-executive Lapo Elkann and child-of-auto-executive-dynasty Robert Peugeot. It’s a good read here.

4th Gear: GM Recalls 653,370 Trucks For Software That Could Hit The Brakes On One Side For No Reason

It’s time to change out your wheel sensors, folks, as you don’t want them steering you off the road, as The Detroit News reports:

Activation of the braking software is triggered by the failure of a wheel-speed sensor, leading to unintended braking on the opposite wheel. That would cause the vehicle to pull to one side, increasing the risk of a crash. That risk can be eliminated by driving in two-wheel drive mode until the recall repair is made, GM said.


The Freep clarifies that the models affected are: “2015-2020 Chevrolet Suburban, Tahoe and GMC Yukon SUVs. It also applies to 2014-2018 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500 pickups equipped with a 5.3-liter engine, a 3.08-ratio rear axle and four-wheel drive,” per GM.

No injuries have been yet reported. Tight.

5th Gear: Ford-UAW Deal To Close Romeo Engine Plant

On the other side of the labor world, Ford offered the UAW a $9,000 signing bonus as it goes on to close the Romeo engine plant, as The Detroit News reports:

Ford Motor Co.’s proposed contract deal with the United Auto Workers includes plans to close its Romeo Engine Plant — and a $9,000 ratification bonus if workers approve the tentative agreement, The Detroit News has learned.

The 600 hourly employees who work at the Romeo facility would be offered jobs at the Van Dyke Transmission Plant roughly 15 miles away. The engine plant closure is not expected to result in any jobs losses, according to two sources with knowledge of the terms of the proposed deal. The workers would have the option to take a buyout offer similar to that offered to GM employees as part of their new contract approved a week ago.


Solidarity, as always.

Reverse: Car Blogging Established

Legendary early automotive tome The Horseless Age publishes its first issue in November 1895, kicking off the era not just of cars but getting paid to write about them as well.


Neutral: What Was The Biggest Labor Action You Were Involved In?

We at Jalopnik are a union shop, and there are many of us still around from the original unionization drive. But I wonder if there are any of you who were part of an auto strike here in the States, or perhaps worked in part of the labor organization of a works council overseas. How’d it go down?

Raphael Orlove is features editor for Jalopnik.

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Shane Morris

Unions are integral to how labor works, and how management interacts with labor. Back in the early 2000s, I was working for an adult novelty and marital tools company called Head & Spin.

Unfortunately, we pushed the line a bit far once, and made a giant dildo named after a professional wrestler. (I mean, when you think about taking a pounding, you think wrestling, right?) We ended up getting sued, and eventually the company was bought out.

Under new ownership, things were... not good. The new CEO was this guy named Jim Spanfeller, and he wanted to switch our manufacturing up. He said, “When people think of the name Jim Spanfeller, I want them to think about big black cocks, and only big black cocks.” Granted, we did have a steady audience for big black cocks, but we also had people who liked our line of butt plugs, anal beads, etc. We liked to think of ourselves as being able to do more than one type of product.

But this Spanfeller guy, he just didn’t understand our company. Our customers were loyal because of our diverse line of products. I remember he sent out this long-winded email once saying, “When I said I only wanted big black dicks, I meant it. My name is Jim Spanfeller, and when I say you give me big, hard, black dicks, I mean it.”

The problem is, you can’t really have it two ways in business. In restaurants, they say, “The customer is always right.” You can’t have a situation where management and your customers are at odds with each other. Customers are what drive the business, and unions protect employees who are at the front lines, delivering your products to customers.

During that time, a lot of our people quit. Some of my co-workers would silently confide in me, because they thought Spanfeller was a bad fit, not just because of the black dick thing though. He had a problematic attitude towards women in leadership roles, and tended to think he had some insights that were basically just regurgitations of TED talks.

Eventually, our union was able to prevail. Our customers wrote emails, and also made their support of our company known. Like I said, there is a place and time for giant, orifice-invading black cocks, absolutely destroying an anus, but I just don’t see why Jim Spanfeller felt the need to pick out that one item. Usually, these kinds of things are just projections for people, who feel like they need to wield some power.

The good news for us is that Spanfeller’s failures drove him out of the adult novelty market. You can’t ruin a successful company and get away with it. Our union made sure of that. I’ll never forget the day he left, walking with his head hung in shame — hung like a giant black dildo, lifeless and rubbery.

That’s how I’ll always remember Spanfeller: As a giant, lifeless penis.