Tuesday, April 8, 2014

State of the Union April 8, 2014

April 8, 2014 online at www.uawlocal2250.com

• Reminder: Runoff elections for Financial Secretary, Recording Secretary and Trustee are today. Polls are open until 4:30 am Wednesday morning.

• From the Women’s Committee: We will be stuffing Easter eggs this Wednesday and Thursday from 3 pm to 6:30 pm at the Union Hall. Any help will be greatly appreciated. Our annual Easter Egg Hunt will be this Sunday, April 13 at the Union Hall. Doors open at noon and the hunt will begin promptly at 2:30 pm. There will only be ONE hunt. From noon to 2:30 the Easter Bunny will be available for pictures and there will also be a balloon artist, face painting and clowns. There will also be hot dogs and soda. Bring the kids and grandkids out for a great time and bring your cameras! Hope to see you there.

• From the Veterans Committee: There will be a Veterans Committee meeting this Thursday, April 10 between shifts at the Union Hall. Also, the 26th Annual Run for the Wall will be Monday, May 19. You are invited to come and welcome more than 500 motorcycles making their way across the heartland of America to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington DC to honor the men and women still unaccounted for, from all of our wars. We will meet at the Wentzville VFW Post 5327, located on Hwy Z ½ mile south of I-70 at 6 pm. Please remember all of our Veterans and pray for the troops who are currently in harm’s way.

• The Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain with available forward collision alert technology, earned 2014 Top Safety Pick+ ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the only midsize SUVs of nine evaluated to earn Good ratings in the Institute’s small overlap front crash test. The Equinox and Terrain join the 2014 Chevrolet Malibu midsize sedan in earning the institute’s highest safety rating. The test, in which 25 percent of a vehicle's front end on the driver side strikes a 5-foot-high rigid barrier at 40 mph, is designed to replicate what happens when the front corner of a vehicle strikes another vehicle or an object like a tree or a utility pole. “Having the only two midsize SUVs that earned the Top Safety Pick Plus designation speaks to GM’s focus on improving our vehicles by offering advanced crash avoidance technologies that can help avoid a crash, and by enhancing vehicle structure and occupant protection if a crash occurs,” said Gay Kent, director of General Motors Global Safety Strategy and Vehicle Programs. “We are very pleased that the IIHS has recognized the safety of both the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain with this prestigious rating.”

• From the Detroit Free Press: Daimler is hoping its updated Mercedes/Freightliner Sprinter will hold off competition from Ford and Chrysler in the competitive and profitable commercial van segment. The third-generation 2014 Mercedes Sprinter, shipped in kit-form from Germany and assembled at the Freightliner plant in Charleston, S.C., faces a new round of competition that looks strikingly similar to what it faced more than a decade ago. Ford is replacing the E-Series that accounts for 51% of the market with the European Transit after spending $1.1 billion to retool its Kansas City plant to build the full-size van. Chrysler is selling the Ram ProMaster. Nissan entered the segment in 2011 with the NV cargo van it builds in Canton, Miss. “A major change is happening,” Glaser said. “Core competitors are updating their fleets to Euro-style vans.” General Motors will be alone in offering traditional American styling with the Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana. The 2014 model, starting at $37,000, has a new grille and flat hood, new safety features to assist with parking, staying in the lane, blind-spot detection, counteracting strong wind and avoiding collisions. The infotainment system has a better screen, navigation and Bluetooth, said Antje Williams, Sprinter brand manager. Mercedes added a new 4-cylinder diesel engine and 7-speed transmission which will offer 18% better fuel economy than the 6-cylinder diesel and 5-speed transmission that will continue to be offered for an extra $910. Starting early next year, Mercedes will offer four-wheel drive for the first time in the U.S.

• From the AP: Expansion talks at Volkswagen's lone U.S. plant have ground to a halt amid disagreements about the role of organized labor at the factory in Tennessee. Labor representatives on Volkswagen's supervisory board were "indignant at the strong attempts made by outside forces to influence the outcome" of the vote, Bernd Osterloh, the head the company's global works council, said in a letter read to all the workers at the Chattanooga plant 10 days after the vote. "Local Republican politicians such as Mr. Corker and (Gov) Mr. Haslam interfered outrageously with the ballot," said Osterloh, who reiterated the company position that only economic factors would decide whether the plant would be expanded. "We want you to see that people like Mr. Corker can have no influence over the decisions made by an international group," Osterloh added. By German law, labor representatives make up half of the company's 20-member supervisory board, meaning they have veto power over major management initiatives including the expansion or construction of plants.

• From Automotive News: The average fuel economy of new U.S. light vehicles sold in March rose to 25.4 mpg, according to University of Michigan researchers, the highest since they began collecting data in October 2007. The 25.4 mpg figure is up 0.3 mpg from the revised figure for February and 5.3 mpg from the October 2007 average, a monthly report from the university's Transportation Research Institute said. Average sales-weighted fuel economy was calculated using the monthly sales of individual models and the combined city-highway fuel economy ratings from the EPA Fuel Economy Guide for each model. In a separate study, fuel consumption by American drivers was found to be 11 percent lower in 2012 than in 2004. The reduction, said researcher Michael Sivak, "reflects the decline in distance driven and the improvement in vehicle fuel economy." He said: "The combined evidence from this and the previous studies indicates that -- per person, per driver and per household -- we now have fewer light-duty vehicles, we drive each of them less and we consume less fuel than in the past."

Thursday, April 3, 2014

State of the Union April 3, 2014

April 3, 2014 online at www.uawlocal2250.com

• March van sales were up 6% at 7444 units despite the stop sale order. Here’s how the rest of the segment fared:

2014 2013 Change Share Ford Econoline 11,642 11,316 +2.9% 49.0% GM 7,444 7,020 +6.0% 31.3% Mercedes Sprinter 1,915 1,529 +25.2% 8.1% Nissan NV 1,645 1,290 +27.5% 6.9% Ram ProMaster 1,106 --- --- 4.7% Ford Transit connect 3,046 3,655 -16.7% --- Nissan NV200 1,090 47 --- ---

Field supplies as measured by days fell slightly from 57 at the end of February to 55 at the end of March. Net field stock in units was down 600 with cargo vans accounting for the lion’s share of the decline. Chevy passenger vans are at a 17 day supply. Looking at midsize pickups, Toyota sold 14,445 Tacomas, down 5% from last year while Nissan sold 7140 Frontiers, up 4.7%. And in full size pickup sales, the Ram 1500 outsold the Silverado for the first time since 1999 - 42,532 vs. 42,247. Commenting on that development, GM spokesman Jim Cain said, “The 1980s called. They want their marketing strategy back. It’s really easy to deeply discount your truck, mine the subprime market and offer cheap lease deals to buy market share.”

• From the International Union UAW: UAW members in Missouri: Earlier this week, Jefferson City extremists ignored voter demands and passed Paycheck Deception through the Missouri House. There is overwhelming evidence that Paycheck Deception and Right to Work harm working families and the economy. But state lawmakers are now just one vote away from turning this dangerous bill into law. Call your legislators right now and tell them to stop this attack on Missouri workers. Paycheck Deception will be a major step backward for working families. Not only will this law attack free speech, but it will stifle job creation and bring more outsourcing. Time is of the essence to protect the middle class: dial (888) 825-1418 to defeat this anti-worker bill.

• From Reuters: The UAW on Tuesday asked a U.S. agency to stay an April 21 hearing related to a mid-February union vote it lost at a Tennessee Volkswagen plant, citing what it called new evidence of collusion between Republican lawmakers and anti-union groups. The union was referring to a report aired on Nashville's NewsChannel5 late on Monday that cited email exchanges between anti-union groups, members of the staffs of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and U.S. Senator Bob Corker and other public officials. According to the broadcast, the correspondence showed that Haslam's administration offered $300 million in economic incentives to help VW expand its operations in Chattanooga so long as the plant did not unionize. The parties also discussed anti-UAW messaging strategies in the days leading up to the union vote, according to the report. The UAW told the National Labor Relations Board in its filing on Tuesday that the news report was further evidence that outside groups were working on behalf of politicians who oppose organized labor. Tennessee Democrats called for a full investigation of the Volkswagen financial incentives initiative, called "Project Trinity", and questioned why the documents in the broadcast had not been produced when legislators filed a request last September for public documents related to the election. Clint Brewer, assistant commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, said in a statement on Tuesday, "The offer did not preclude the creation of a works council or union representation as a condition for the incentives." He said the incentive offer had been withdrawn in January before the UAW filed for an election at the plant. Last September, Rep. Mike Turner, head of the Democratic Caucus in the Tennessee House, requested that Haslam release documents of communication between the governor's office and VW officials regarding incentives. At the time, the governor's office said it would work to fulfill Turner's request. On Tuesday, Turner asked the leader of the Republican-controlled Tennessee house for an investigation into the incentives issue.

• From Automotive News: Wholesale prices of General Motors vehicles with faulty ignition switches are unscathed by the highly publicized recall of the vehicles, analysts say. That's because the recalled 1.6 million 2003-07 small cars are valued at about $2,000 to $5,000 each in the wholesale market so there is little room for the prices to fall, says Larry Dixon, an analyst with NADA Used Car Guide. Dixon says he doubts the recalled vehicles' wholesale prices will impact GM vehicles' general residual values because the recalled units are "light-years" from the vehicles the company builds today in terms of quality and technology. Since the recall was announced in February, wholesale auction prices of the recalled vehicles have held up better than those of their peers. For example, NADA guide data show that the average price of a 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt, one of the recalled nameplates, rose 14 percent from Feb. 10, the week the recall was announced, until March 10. During the same period, the average price of 2007 compact cars increased 7 percent.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

State of the Union March 25, 2014

March 25, 2014 online at www.uawlocal2250.com

• There will be a Women’s Committee meeting today at 4:45 pm at the Union Hall. T-shirts are also being sold in the cafeteria at lunch time.

• From the Community Services Committee: Thanks to everyone who donated canned goods or bought raffle tickets. We collected $2594 for the raffle and lots of canned food! All of this goes to the St. Louis Food Bank. The raffle winners are: 1st prize (Cardinals tickets) – Darrell Pullen, 1st shift final; 2nd prize (Blues tickets) – Ann Stewart, 2nd shift trim; 3rd prize ($100 gas card) – John Duncan, 1st shift body shop.

• You can still submit applications for the Pre/Post Retirement classes. They are available at the entrances and cafeteria and can be dropped in the suggestion boxes. Those who have applications in will be notified when they are to attend the class.

• Here is an excellent oped from John Logan, who is professor and director of Labor and Employment Studies at San Francisco State University:
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will soon decide on whether to overturn the union election at Volkswagen in Chattanooga, Tennessee because outside interference undermined workers’ choice. The facts demonstrate that third-party interference by GOP politicians and anti-union groups created “a general atmosphere of fear or reprisal rendering a free election impossible.” The NLRB must overturn the tainted VW election for five main reasons.

First, leading state lawmakers – including state House Republican leaders Beth Harwell, Gerald McCormick and Bo Watson, and state Senate Republican leaders Jack Johnson and Mark Green – publicly threatened the job security of Volkswagen workers if they voted for the UAW. They threatened to withhold financial incentives from Volkswagen, which would have imperiled future employment at the plant. Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam also warned that a union victory would undermine job security for Volkswagen workers. Broadcast, print and social media disseminated their statements. Workers had good reason to believe that these politicians would act on their threats, if the union won. Second, Tennessee’s most senior politician, Sen. Bob Corker, misled and pressured workers into voting against the union. Corker announced he had received “assurances” that the company would locate a new product in Tennessee if they rejected the UAW. On the first day of the three day election, Corker's office issued a press release that stated: “Corker: Conversations Today Indicate a Vote Against UAW is a Vote for SUV Production.”

• Corker’s deliberately misleading comments, which he doubled down on even after the company categorically refuted them, played a decisive role in the outcome. Volkswagen workers were concerned primarily about the impact of the vote on their job security, and Corker told them that security would be diminished if the union won. His comments, which dramatically escalated the GOP’s threats, should by themselves be sufficient grounds for the NLRB to toss out the tainted election. A U.S. Senator using his office to intimidate workers in a union election at a private company is unprecedented.

Third, out-of-state billionaire-funded “AstroTurf” organizations repeated and publicized the threats and intimidation of GOP politicians, thereby ensuring that every Volkswagen worker had them foremost in their minds when they voted. Southern Momentum, Inc. (SMI), a Tennessee-based corporation funded by anti-union businesses, also played a critical role in highlighting in the media the threatening statements of various Tennessee lawmakers that “financial incentives…. simply will not exist if the UAW wins this election." Shortly before the election, a banner headline on SMI’s Facebook page announced: “Chattanooga Will Get New Line of SUVs if UAW Is Not Approved.”

Fourth, anti-union groups coordinated their interference in a way that rendered a free election impossible. It is implausible that these anti-union carpetbaggers descended on Chattanooga and subjected workers to identical high-pressure campaigns without a significant degree of coordination. These groups regularly cooperate on anti-union legislative initiatives at the state level. The cumulative effect of GOP threats and intimidation, together with the wide-reaching and coordinated campaign by anti-union groups to publicize them, led workers to believe that at vote for the UAW would severely damage their future employment prospects.

Finally, if the NLRB fails to overturn the tainted election, third party interference will become the norm in union campaigns in the South. The anti-union roadshow that misled Volkswagen workers in Chattanooga will be repeated elsewhere. Grover Norquist’s Center for Worker Freedom, which spent a year in Chattanooga fighting the organizing campaign, intends to move on to Mississippi and Alabama to fight the UAW at Nissan and Mercedes-Benz. In Alabama, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and other GOP politicians have vowed to join efforts to stop workers from joining the UAW.

Given the widespread prevalence of low-wage employment in Chattanooga – New York Times reporter Steven Greenhouse wrote this week that over one quarter of the city’s residents live below the federal poverty line – it is no surprise that most Volkswagen workers were concerned above all with the outcome of the vote on their job security. Some 80,000 workers applied for only 2,000 jobs when Volkswagen opened its facility in the city in 2011. Thus, when virtually the entire political establishment of Tennessee told them that a vote for unionization would threaten their positions, the lucky 2,000 that had won the jobs lottery paid close attention and many voted accordingly. The economic desperation that pervades Chattanooga and surrounding areas made the threats and intimidation of Republican politicians all the more potent.

After the election, Sen. Corker tried to downplay the significance of his comments. He disingenuously asked: “How many people even read the paper today?” But everyone heard his coercive statements. He has attempted to intimidate the Board into upholding the result. If the NLRB fails to act, however, dirty tricks by GOP politicians and anti-labor groups will become a standard feature of organizing campaigns, thereby enabling right-wing billionaires to buy union elections, just as they are already buying political elections.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

State of the Union March 11, 2014

March 11, 2014 online at www.uawlocal2250.com
• From Chairman Mike Bullock: Welcome to the 50 new members who were hired this week to Wentzville Assembly Center. Congratulations! There will be one more group next week.

• The Community Services Committee will be having a Food Drive from March 14 to March 25. You can donate canned goods beginning March 17 at all the entrances. There will also be a raffle, with 1st prize being two Cardinal tickets for April 13; 2nd prize is 2 Blues tickets and 3rd prize a $100 gas card. Drawing will be March 25 at 10:30 am in the cafeteria. Tickets will be available from any committee member and all proceeds will go to the St. Louis food bank. Also, if there is no production this Thursday, the Community Services committee meeting will be rescheduled.

• Tryouts for the UAW Softball team will be held Saturday, March 22 at 3:30 pm at Ozzie’s Park in O’Fallon, Mo. If you are interested or have any questions you can call Kelly Walsh (636-459-5423) or Brent Price (314-922-8553).

• The Pre/Post Retirement classes that are scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday will still be held regardless of production schedule.

• From Autoblog: Volkswagen doesn't normally consider General Motors to be a prime competitor in the US, but it's keeping a keen eye on the company's new midsize pickup models, eager to see how they perform in the market. That's because the German automaker is reevaluating its truck strategy, and it's closely watching the reception of the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon to help decide whether to reenter the American pickup market, a segment it hasn't populated since the 1980s. Back in 2009, Volkswagen introduced its Amarok midsize pickup, and during the run-up to that model, there was some discussion of bringing it to US, the largest pickup market in the world. In the end, VW decided it wasn't a good fit, but that hasn't stopped the Amarok from becoming successful in other markets around the globe. That success, and renewed interest in the midsize segment, has put the pickup truck discussion back on the table at VW, with North American CEO Michael Horn telling Autoblog, "It's a question mark, but it starts to be discussed. Let's put it this way: we start to discuss it again and whether it's attractive for us." But those talks may not be about the current truck – "The Amarok is too small for the US," says Horn. Dr. Heinz-Jakob Neu├čer, head of VW Group powertrain development, echoed his colleague's sentiment at the same Geneva Motor Show roundtable, saying "We are just reworking our truck strategy, and this is part of thinking about it. But the Amarok fits not very well to the efforts of the market."

• Consumer Reports is well known for their “recommended” label they attach to vehicles they deem worthy. Less known is their “Disappointing Dozen” list – the 12 vehicles that got the lowest scores, regardless of category. Perusing the list, you would find one GM vehicle, the gas-engine Chevrolet Spark minicar. You would also find 5 Chrysler products, including 3 Jeep models (Wrangler, Compass, Patriot). You would also find – brace yourself – 4 Toyota products. They would be the Scion iQ (another minicar, with the Smart ForTwo also making the list), the FJ Cruiser SUV, the Yaris compact car and (drumroll please) the Toyota Tacoma. The midsize pickup sales leader has set the bar low for our Colorado/Canyon to leap over. Per CR: “clumsy handling makes it a chore to drive long distances. The 4.0-liter V6 provides strong performance but is noisy. However, the Tacoma's incessantly jiggly ride grows fatiguing and it's particularly stiff with the TRD suspension package. The cabin's high floor and low roof makes access tricky and the driving position is too low and uncomfortable” In addition, they note a low rear seat that “provides almost no thigh support” and give it the dreaded full black circle in fuel economy.

• Here is a comparison of the three competitors in the midsize truck category, which included the Honda Ridgeline. We haven’t include the Ridgeline in the sale updates because the volume is so low – typically around 1000 units a month. But Honda intends to do a next generation Ridgeline and it will be competition for our pickups. Note that this comparison is for extended cab 4wd versions only.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

State of the Union March 6, 2014

March 6, 2014 online at www.uawlocal2250.com

• From Chairman Mike Bullock: Management informed employees yesterday that they are scheduling March 29, 2014 as a production Saturday. Management explained that they are down 300 jobs for the first quarter as of today and that we were missing key delivery dates of our vans to our major customers, U-Haul, Enterprise Leasing, Ryder. Per the National Contract Memorandum of Understanding on Overtime Plan B, Management shall have the right to designate, during a model year period, six Saturdays as non-voluntary overtime work days.
If we work March 8, 22 and 29 that will have been the 4th, 5th and 6th Saturday. Our obligation per Plan B will have been fulfilled if we work all three.
The Memorandum goes on to state in Paragraph 10 that the “provisions of the memorandum that limit or restrict the right of the Corporation to require employees to work daily Overtime or Saturdays or Sundays shall be ineffective in each assembly plant (a) beginning on a date two weeks preceding the announced build-out date and ending on the build-out date, i.e., when the plant produces for sale the last unit of the model it has been producing; provided, however, the above-mentioned provisions may be ineffective for up to two additional weeks provided the Corporation gives advance notice of supply or other problems which would interfere with the build-out and (b) for the week in which it launches, i.e. after the build-out , frames the first unit of a new model, and for three weeks thereafter or until the line reaches scheduled production, whichever is later.” Model change this year is July 21, 2014.


• Pity Sen. Bob (I’m not antiunion) Corker, the self-proclaimed Public Enemy #1 of the UAW (no argument here). Feeling persecuted for saving VW workers from the clutches of the union, he now fears he will be “muzzled” if the NLRB rules that he, in fact, illegally influenced the employees into voting against representation.

In an op-ed piece published by the Wall Street Journal (Bob Corker: Now the Auto Union Wants to Muzzle Public Officials) Corker proposes a ghastly hypothetical election scenario “where an entity is given nearly unfettered access to voters for two years and then is allowed to call for a surprise vote with only a few days' notice.”

Surprise vote?? This couldn’t have been more telegraphed. Did Corker think there wouldn’t be a vote? But we digress. Re-spinning his infamous guarantee that a new SUV would be awarded to the plant within 2 weeks upon union rejection, he writes, “based on years of experience and relationships with the company, I sought to assure the workers that Chattanooga would be Volkswagen's first choice for the new SUV line even if they did not choose to have the UAW represent them.” Had that been all he had said in the first place he wouldn’t be getting fitted for a muzzle now.


UAW President Bob King says unions are needed more than ever before
In recent weeks, there has been a lot of chatter about union versus nonunion, what value unions can bring, and whether a union has any value in a state like Tennessee.
The best response is to take a look at how collective bargaining and collaboration saved nearly 2,400 jobs of Tennesseans and created more than $350 million in investments for workers and communities in Tennessee.
Two years ago, when the gates to the General Motors Co. assembly plant in Spring Hill reopened, it was a testament to what can be gained and who wins with sound collective bargaining and strong collaborative relationships. The UAW’s 2011 collective bargaining agreement reopened the idled GM plant, since infused with new life to the tune of nearly 1,800 new jobs and that hefty $350 million product investment.
Those jobs were in or headed to Mexico. Now, they belong to workers in Tennessee. In April 2011, when Zeledyne was on the brink of closing or selling its glass production plant in Nashville, collective bargaining between the UAW and Carlex Glass America saved that plant along with about 600 jobs.
Workers win with positive results that only can be achieved when companies and unions work together. Without that cooperation and collective bargaining the Spring Hill plant would not have received a second chance and the Nashville Glass Plant would have closed.
Those results trump politics and ideology because good jobs make a difference and good union jobs not only help build the middle class, but help set a higher standard for the type of benefits union and nonunion workers alike can win.
The UAW is working with many domestic manufacturing companies, making sure they are efficient and profitable. In auto and other manufacturing sectors UAW members have been sharing in the success of their employers through collectively bargained, transparent and rewarding profit sharing plans.
While some politicians have put ideology and their personal interests above those of citizens facing high unemployment and good jobs being shipped overseas, the UAW has helped create more middle-class paying jobs in Tennessee than any other entity.
Tennesseans know firsthand the difference it makes when good jobs come to town. When the Saturn plant closed, county unemployment rose as high as 17 percent, downtown storefronts emptied and homes went into foreclosure. That year’s graduating high school class lost 85 students after the shutdown, according to a Sept. 22, 2011, story in the New York Times.
This kind of turnaround does not just happen in Tennessee, it happens in communities throughout the country when unions and companies bargain collectively. And it happened in town after town across the country where the UAW negotiated to bring vehicle production back to the U.S. from overseas. The UAW takes great pride is fighting for good jobs for workers who create quality products and deliver top-notch services in one sector after another across this country. In 2014, unions are more relevant than ever before and the UAW will continue to fight for the right of all workers to bargain for the good jobs that keep America strong.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

State of the Union March 4, 2014

March 4, 2014 online at www.uawlocal2250.com

• From Chairman Mike Bullock: Pre/Post retirement classes are beginning this week at the Union Hall. The first class for day shift is today (5 – 7pm) and the second class, for night shift (3 – 5pm), is Thursday. If you haven’t filled out an application you can find them next to the suggestion boxes at the entrances. Fill one out and put in the suggestion box. If you have already filled out an application last year there is no need to do so again. I also want to welcome the 50 new employees that started Monday as well as the 5 Division 2 journeyman electricians that started yesterday.
• Van sales picked up somewhat in February. Here’s how the rest of the segment shook out:
  2014 2013 Change Share
Ford Econoline 8489 8336 +1.8% 45.3%
GM 6970 6390 +9.1% 37.2%
Mercedes Sprinter 1421 1228 +15.7% 7.6%
Nissan NV 995 1252 -20.5% 5.3%

Ram Promaster

597
--- --- 3.2%
Ford Transit connect 2239 3610 -38% ---
Nissan NV200 793 --- --- ---

Nissan’s sales of the NV sagged despite $2500 in extra incentives. The Promaster, which had outsold the NV a couple of months ago, posted anemic sales numbers. For all the talk of the so-called Eurovans conquering the world, they still struggle to gain traction. Looking at field supplies, overall stock almost 1200 units and came in at a 57 day supply. This was down from 76 at the end of January. Almost all of the drop came in cargo van supplies. Passenger van supplies are also very tight with just 1006 in the field. In the midsize pickup category, an interesting phenomenon is taking place. Toyota Tacoma sales posted another drop while Nissan Frontier sales more than doubled and are up 100% for the year. Specifically, Toyota sold 10,942 Tacomas in February, down 13.5% while Nissan sold 5791 Frontiers, up 111.7%.

• With the NTEA Work Truck Show kicking off in Indianapolis tomorrow, a lot of attention is being focused on the new full size Ford Transit, which will replace the Econoline later this year. There are dozens of specs to digest but 2 you can’t – price and fuel economy. For the record, the Transit will come with 2 wheelbases, 3 body lengths and 3 roof heights (up to 81”!). The largest version will stand over 9 feet tall and stretch over 22 feet in length, providing 487 cubic feet of cargo space (our biggest van tops out at 288 cubic feet). These behemoths will be powered by a pair of V6 engines and a 5-cylinder turbodiesel, and Ford claims that they will achieve a 25% improvement in fuel economy (shouldn’t be hard given the fact that a 2014 E-150 passenger van powered by a 4.6-liter V-8 is rated at 13 mpg city/16 highway/15 combined). Gone are 60/40 doors, V8s and the V10 as well as lower transaction prices. Chris Lemley of Sentry Auto Group, which owns several Boston-area Ford dealerships, agrees: "Our only concern is it looks like it's not going to be an inexpensive product, and it is a much more complicated product than the Econoline." Stay tuned.

• Here’s a quote that may come back to haunt Sen. Bob (I’m not anti-union) Corker of Tennessee: “If the UAW is voted down they’re going to come here immediately, within a two-week period, and affirm they’re going to build a line here.” Ahem, Bob, it’s been 2 ½ weeks since you said that. Corker blames the silence on the UAW’s decision to file NLRB charges. “Unfortunately, I have to assume that … action may slow down Volkswagen's final discussions on the new SUV line.” And who exactly told you that the SUV announcement would come in 2 weeks? A “whole host of people both in and outside of the company that I’m constantly in contact with. Believe me,” Corker said, “I would never say anything that I didn’t believe to be 100 percent true.”

• From the Detroit News: “Old vans are dying, so small business is buying”: Aging vans are simply wearing out. Plus business confidence is growing. A January survey taken for Wells Fargo found that optimism among small-business owners hit the highest level in five years. Most expect increased cash flow and hiring this year. Also, once-tight credit for small businesses has loosened, and borrowing rose in the second half of last year, according to research by Experian and Moody’s. Commercial van sales last year were up more than 40 percent since 2010, and they rose 9 percent in January even as U.S. auto sales dropped 3 percent, according to Ward’s AutoInfoBank. “A lot of these contractors have been trying to keep their old products as long as they can,” said Peter Bedrosian, senior manager of product planning for Nissan North America. “The vehicles are really nearing the end of their useful life.” Van sales are a bellwether for the broader economic recovery since small businesses are reluctant to spend after a recession, said Mike Jackson, director of North American forecasting for the IHS Automotive consulting firm, which predicts commercial van sales will grow 27 percent between 2013 and 2015 to nearly 400,000 per year. Van sales began taking off in 2012 and 2013, and now they are accelerating, Ed Peper, Vice President of GM commercial sales, said. “We’ve seen just a lot more activity, a lot more confidence,” he said. “There’s more (price) quoting. To me that’s a very good sign.” Large van sales bottomed out at 159,000 in 2009 and rose to nearly 259,000 last year.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

State of the Union February 22, 2014

February 22, 2014 online at www.uawlocal2250.com

• There will be an Education Committee meeting Thursday, Feb. 27 between shifts in the cafeteria. All are welcome to attend.

• From the Wall Street Journal: General Motors Co. is accelerating efforts to field a largely aluminum-bodied pickup truck by late 2018, under pressure from federal fuel efficiency standards and archrival Ford Motor Co. according to people familiar with the matter. The No. 1 U.S. auto maker recently locked-in supply contracts with Alcoa Inc. and Novelis Inc., which are now working to increase their aluminum sheet production to supply the next-generation GM pickup, the people said. Aluminum sheet for automotive bodies is in such high demand that companies need to order it years in advance. The push to develop what the industry calls an "aluminum intensive" large pickup marks an apparent change of direction for GM, which has pursued smaller and lighter weight steel-bodied trucks. Before Ford's debut last month of its 2015 F-150, with a body made almost entirely of aluminum, GM executives questioned whether such a vehicle could be cost competitive or appealing to U.S. customers. Instead, GM developed two small pickups, the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, to meet rising demand for better fuel economy. Those two vehicles are due to arrive on the market as 2015 models this year. GM executives are betting they can offset Ford's lead by using more advanced welding techniques to produce a lighter, stronger and easier to assemble truck, according to people familiar with the company's plans. GM said it has a patented process that uses multi-ringed electrodes and eliminates lots of rivets from its assembly. The process has already been used in the production of the hood of the Cadillac CTS-V, the lift gate of hybrid versions of Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon and in the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. Ford invested hundreds of millions of dollars to overhaul its truck plants to accommodate a shift to riveted aluminum panels from welded steel body parts. GM executives had considered moving to a largely aluminum design for its Silverado and Sierra pickups in 2008, but abandoned the idea over cost concerns amid the industry downturn, the people said. Those discussion resurfaced last year before Ford displayed its aluminum truck, they added. Mark Reuss, GM's global product development chief, last month hinted at the auto maker's potential aluminum push, saying executives and engineers were preparing a critique of Ford's new F-150, which cuts up to 700 pounds off the current model. Ford hasn't disclosed its 2015 F-150's mileage rating. One version is light enough to come equipped with a 2.7-liter six cylinder engine, considered tiny for a pickup truck. "We need to see how much aluminum is in it, not what they say is in it but what is actually in it," Mr. Reuss said the night before Ford introduced its truck. "We are going to look at what they advertise as the weight savings from it and then we are going to go back and do some math.…We can play this game real easily."

• From the International Union UAAW: The UAW filed an appeal (“objections”) with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) today related to the interference by politicians and outside special interest groups in the union representation election held last week at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant.
A firestorm of interference from politicians and special interest groups threatening the economic future of the plant occurred just before and during three days of voting in an election supervised by the NLRB. Workers voted narrowly to reject representation, with a slim 44 vote swing. The objections detail a coordinated and widely publicized coercive campaign conducted by politicians and outside organizations to deprive Volkswagen workers of their federally protected right to join a union.
The campaign included publicly-announced and widely disseminated threats by elected officials that state-financed incentives would be withheld if workers exercised their protected right to form a union.
“It’s essentially saying, ‘If you unionize, it’s going to hurt your economy. Why? Because I’m going to make sure it does,’” said Volkswagen worker Lauren Feinauer. “I hope people see it for the underhanded threat that it is.”
The campaign also included threats by U.S. Sen. Bob Corker related to promises of a new product line awarded to the plant if workers voted against UAW representation.
The objections state, “Senator Corker’s conduct was shameful and undertaken with utter disregard for the rights of the citizens of Tennessee and surrounding states that work at Volkswagen. … The clear message of the campaign was that voting for the union would result in stagnation for the Chattanooga plant, with no new product, no job security, and withholding of state support for its expansion.”
“It’s an outrage that politically motivated third parties threatened the economic future of this facility and the opportunity for workers to create a successful operating model that that would grow jobs in Tennessee,” said UAW President Bob King. “It is extraordinary interference in the private decision of workers to have a U.S. senator, a governor and leaders of the state legislature threaten the company with the denial of economic incentives and workers with a loss of product. We’re committed to standing with the Volkswagen workers to ensure that their right to have a fair vote without coercion and interference is protected.”
An affirmative vote for union representation at the Volkswagen plant would have led to the establishment of a works council that would have been the first such model of labor-management relations in the United States.
The NLRB will investigate the election conduct and determine whether there are grounds to set aside the election results and hold a new election for Volkswagen workers.