Were GM's Closed Plants Always Bargaining Chips For Union Negotiations?

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The fate of the “unallocated” Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant is in question, some advice for saving some money at the car dealership, Germany’s aggressive next steps to fighting pollution and more await you in The Morning Shift for Friday, Sept. 20, 2019.

1st Gear: Was This Always The Plan?

Back in 2018 when General Motors announced it would “unallocate” certain plants in 2019, it included the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly in Detroit. During the ongoing United Auto Workers strike this week, the Detroit Free Press caught up with a worker on the picket line in front of the Detroit-Hamtramck plant, who seems to believe the plant “has been a bargaining chip for contract negotiations.”

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“Unallocated” means that no new cars would be allocated to the plant to be assembled, the outlet explains. The union took issue with this wording because its contract protected its members from plant closure. “Unallocated” doesn’t strictly mean “closure.” And there have been rumors that GM’s electric pickup will be built at the plant.

The newspaper asks:

Was the original intent to use D-Ham as a bargaining chip in UAW negotiations when the company long intended to retool the plant as a showplace for a new electric vehicle?

All the infrastructure and workforce is already there. And it’s definitely more efficient than simply closing the plant. But will it employ the same number of workers?

From the story:

Karl Brauer, executive publisher of Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book, said that it may never be known whether GM always intended to keep production at D-Ham, but an electric truck announcement for the plant would serve both the company’s ends and the union’s.

“Seems like everyone wins,” he said.

Although an electric vehicle plant, and the companies that would supply it, are likely to employ fewer workers than a comparable internal combustion engine plant and its suppliers, the prospect of more new jobs remains a plus, Brauer said.

“Dropping numbers may not be the best news. … But it’s better than no numbers,” Brauer said. “If electric vehicle demand really starts to swing around, then who’s to say we couldn’t have more plants and more workers even if (the individual plants have) fewer workers.”

Whether electric trucks are a commercial success is not a given, at least in the short term, however.

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All of these seem like this was meant to be a bargaining chip on GM’s part. Obviously, it knew the unallocation announcement would get the union involved, especially when the contract was set to expire right around the corner. I suppose that depends on how much forethought GM has, and willingness it has to roll the dice with its’ own workers lives and futures.

In any case, the UAW said it’s made progress in its talks with GM, according to Reuters. Still, many issues “remain unresolved” and discussions might stretch into the weekend.

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2nd Gear: Do Your Research

You know the drill. Or, if you don’t personally know it, you know of it. You go to the dealer, you look at the car you want, test drive it, decide you want it and then you sit down with the salesperson and negotiate a deal for yourself. Because everyone knows it’s silly to pay sticker for most cars.

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But if you do some targeted research, you might be able to save yourself a few thousand bucks, USA Today writes.

Here’s the scenario it creates:

[A] couple spots the new car... Later, they check online pricing sites to see what the car is selling for, which is their target price. Then, they look up the value of their trade-in and the interest rate their credit score will get them.

Next, they put all of this data into an auto loan payment calculator and get a reasonable monthly payment. Later, they shop their offer at several places and make a deal at or below their target price — all because their research showed them how to spot a good deal.

The difference between these two deals? Easily $2,000, and in some cases much more.

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It’s true that salespeople deserve a commission, but you also deserve to save some money. It’s not all about sweet talking, it’s about finding the numbers to back up your deal.

3rd Gear: How Germany’s Fighting Pollution

Germany will implement a ban on internal combustion engines by 2030, but don’t think it’ll just happen overnight. There will be steps leading up to it that will make driving carbon-emitting cars more difficult and expensive—and one of them is a cap-and-trade system.

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The German government is getting ready to implement a cap-and-trade system “on carbon emissions from the heating and transport sectors,” reports Bloomberg, which will raise the cost of driving.

From the story:

The program that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition is considering would require oil companies to buy allowances costing 30 euros to 50 euros ($33 to $55) for each ton of carbon dioxide their fuels emit, according to officials familiar with the discussions. They asked not to be named before the information is public.

It’s aimed at bringing a more rapid reduction in greenhouse gases across Germany, which is on track to miss targets it set under the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change. Gasoline and diesel distributors led by BP Plc and Royal Dutch Shell Plc would be required to record the carbon content of their sales and buy allowances. Those costs would trickle down to what consumers pay at the pump.

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Because it always trickles down to consumers.

It’s fine, though. Will there even be a world left by 2030? Probably not!

4th Gear: New Jersey Dealers Are Mad

It concerns Tesla, yes. But this time the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers is also pissed at the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission and other state agencies because they apparently didn’t enforce consumer protection laws, franchise and dealer licensing laws and advertising laws in regard to Tesla, reports Automotive News.

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It’s filed a lawsuit against both Tesla and the state with the Superior Court of New Jersey. From the story:

“It may appear ironic that the head of a trade association that represents new car dealers is suing the State of New Jersey to urge enforcement of the strict laws that regulate new car dealers,” Jim Appleton, president of the coalition, said in a statement “But NJ CAR has spent decades advocating for firm and fair rules that create a level playing field and promote a competitive marketplace that benefits consumers and honest business owners, alike.”

“Neighborhood new car dealers don’t fear competition from Tesla — which accounts for less than 1 percent of the new car market in New Jersey — they simply object to unfair competition which places consumers at risk and local businesses at a competitive disadvantage.”

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In 2015, New Jersey let Tesla operate four direct-sales stores in the state. The coalition says Tesla should never have been allowed to do that because it violates dealer franchise laws. Even more so because Tesla now has five locations and has plans for a sixth.

Additionally, the coalition alleges Tesla pulled a “bait and switch” with the Model 3 when it advertised a $35,000 version and then tried to get buyers who’d put down deposits to buy a more expensive option.

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When it comes to Tesla, it’s almost always a fight.

5th Gear: The Strike Is A Song

While the the UAW’s strike of GM is ongoing, it’s become the inspiration for a new song called “On Strike” by a Detroit-based rapper and comedian, GmacCash, according to the Detroit News.

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GmacCash told the outlet he tries to make quick music about topical issues and current events. He’s written a song about the Popeyes chicken sandwich, for example. He says he’s not a current employee of the automotive industry or UAW member, but he used to work for Chrysler.

The lyrics, obviously, are quite charged. “We goin’ on strike so you’d better listen. We ain’t ‘bout to keep working under these conditions. Work in a hot plant with no air condition... We gotta stick together, do this for each other. We goin’ on strike ‘til they get this shit right.”

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He uploaded the song to YouTube and you can listen to it below:

Reverse: Happy Birthday, MGB!

From 365 Days of Motoring:

The MGB was launched. In structure the MGB was an innovative, modern design in 1962, utilizing a monocoque structure instead of the traditional body-on-frame construction used on both the MGA and MG T-types and the MGB’s rival, the Triumph TR series. Wind-up windows were standard, and a comfortable driver’s compartment offered plenty of legroom. The MGB achieved a 0–60 mph (96 km/h) time of just over 11 seconds. The 3-bearing 1798 cc B-Series engine produced 95 hp (71 kW) at 5,400 rpm — upgraded in October 1964 to a five-bearing crankshaft.

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Neutral: Do You Think The GM ‘Unallocated’ Plants Were All Part Of The Bargaining Plan?

Seems too convenient for them not to be.

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About the author

Kristen Lee

Writer at Jalopnik and consumer of many noodles.