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February 1, 2010 to April 30, 2010



Ford Fiesta a game changer in
world of small, nimble rides

After a few minutes in the Fiesta, you'll forget all about subcompacts because the Fiesta is just a good small car.

April 30, 2010
Scott Burgess - Det News

It takes guts to give a car a name that rhymes with siesta.

But Ford Motor Co. seems pretty confident its 2011 Fiesta is no sleeper.

An all-new entry and its first foray into the U.S. subcompact car segment since 1997, the Fiesta offers a slew of new tricks for an old dog.

From the modern design and aggressive stance to the comfortable high-tech interior and well-mannered ride and handling, the car's name would be better served rhyming with caliente. It's hot.

Europeans are lining up from Bulgaria to Brussels for this little road runner; Ford sold 69,000 Fiestas in Europe in March. Americans will get their turn this summer.

For decades, very small cars in the United States have lived humbly at the bottom rung of the automotive social ladder. Cheap, cheerful and decidedly inexpensive, these cars were typically undersized, underpowered and understyled.

But then a revelation hit Americans: Gas costs money.

Now, high-mileage subcompacts have become hip. Other than the sporty Honda Fit, most of the little cars have offered little more than an affordable price tag. Until now.

The Fiesta ends the subcompact trade-off many buyers talk themselves through at dealerships. "Yeah, it's a little noisy on the highway, the door sounds like I'm closing a breadbox, and my Rollerblades produce more torque, but my car payment is only 99 (euros, dollars, dinars, baht) a month."

After a few minutes in the Fiesta, you'll forget all about subcompacts because the Fiesta is just a good small car.

Town & country
It's nimble on mountainside switchbacks. It's graceful in tight city traffic and it's quiet on the highway. It parks just about anywhere and has enough room to carry you and four friends. There's not even a trade-off between considering a four-door sedan or hatchback -- Ford will sell both.

The Fiesta looks longer than its 98-inch wheel base suggests. The hood stretches out nicely and the low-lying greenhouse of windows gives the car an aggressive look. Ford has added elongated headlamps, a tiny grille and a big honking intake below the bumper to create a face ready to stare down the Toyota Yaris and say, "Gimme that lunch."

There are stylish touches, such as the silver inserts with an LED bar below the bumper that wraps around the corner of the front end. The elegant body creases along the side of the car. The car's well-planned proportions make it look nice.

2011 Ford Fiesta


Fitch upgrades Ford's credit rating

Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News
April 30, 2010

Fitch Ratings has upgraded the Ford Motor Co. and its lending subsidiary, Ford Credit to 'B' from 'B-' and says the rating outlook for both remains "positive."

That means further upgrades could be in the works.

The firm says the moves "reflect Fitch's expectation that Ford's credit profile will continue to strengthen as the global economy recovers and as the company leverages its increasingly competitive product portfolio and improved cost position to increase production and unit sales.

"Coupled with Ford's solid price performance, margins are expected to grow over the medium term, driving stronger levels of free cash flow," Fitch continued. "This, along with Ford's strong liquidity position, will allow the company to begin the process of de-levering its balance sheet."


Volume 40, No. 17
April 30, 2010

Extendicare Breaks off Talks With the CAW

Talks between the CAW and Extendicare broke off April 26 after the company walked away from negotiations. The for-profit long term care home provider is demanding a two-year wage freeze, in addition to a number of other concessions.

This company is attempting to use the provincial government’s wage freeze (Bill 16) despite the fact that it is not a government agency, but a for-profit provider. Extendicare made $2.2 billion in profits last year, according to its own figures.

“This company even admits that it is not covered by the provincial wage freeze, but is trying to take advantage of its staff,” said CAW President Ken Lewenza. “This company’s attitude and demands are wholly unfounded and are unacceptable to the workers and their bargaining committee.

“This company is highly profitable and workers deserve to be justly compensated for their efforts,” said Lewenza.

The CAW will begin rotating protests on Thursday, April 29 in Oakville.

The CAW represents 1,200 workers at Extendicare at 10 homes in London (CAW Local 302), Port Stanley (CAW Local 302), Kingston (CAW Local 830), Windsor (CAW Local 2458), Sault Ste. Marie (CAW Local 1120), Oakville (CAW Local 504) and Ottawa (CAW Local 830).

Newfoundland Government Must Support Crab Fishery, CAW Says

The Newfoundland and Labrador government must step in immediately with financial support to get the province’s crab fishery started, CAW President Ken Lewenza says.

It’s also critical the government play a role in finding long term solutions to the crisis in the crab fishery, which affects 20,000 harvesters and processing workers, Lewenza said.

Lewenza’s comments were made after Newfoundland crab harvesters staged a protest outside of the Confederation building in St. John’s recently to highlight the urgency of the crisis. The CAW/FFAW represents fish harvesters and fish processing workers throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.

Several crab harvesters sold freshly landed crab outside the Confederation building for $1.35 per pound, which is same price that the province’s fish price setting panel established recently. The problem is that most producers refuse to pay that much and the crab fishery remains stalled with a concern that producers are going to dump their product into the market driving prices down further.

“The provincial government has a responsibility to help get this fishery started and ensure a future for these hard working fish harvesters and processors,” said Lewenza. “These workers are struggling with a major crisis and this is when they truly need government support the most.”

“The government must stop hiding behind claims that taking action to help Newfoundland fish harvesters would somehow violate trade laws. Fish harvesters, their families and many Newfoundland and Labrador communities are suffering while the government refuses to act,” Lewenza said.

Can YOU Live on Ontario Social Assistance? Do the Math.

The STOP Community Food Centre, located in Toronto's west end, has issued an online challenge to Ontarians to take action on inadequate social assistance rates in the province.

STOP's Do the Math challenge tasks individuals to manage a personal financial budget based on income rates that are currently distributed through provincial social assistance programs.  Participants must account for housing expenses, transportation costs, food, health care and a variety of other standard items factored into a monthly budget.

Results and tabulations are done automatically in an easy-to-navigate, online calculator - with helpful tips along the way.

Visit: http://dothemath.thestop.org/

It takes approximately 6 minutes to complete. Over 5000 people have taken part so far.

One of Canada’s first food banks, The Stop Community Food Centre has blossomed into a thriving community hub where neighbours participate in a broad range of programs that provide healthy food, as well as foster social connections, build food skills and promote engagement in civic issues.

CAW Honoured at York Region Labour Awards

The 2010 York Region Labour Awards resulted in a number of honours for CAW members, locals and projects. York Region is located north of Toronto:

- Best Website Award: CAW Local 112’s website at www.caw112.on.ca/ The Local 112 website was cited for being attractive, informative and exceptionally easy to navigate. It was also noted for making great use of interactive and multimedia functions, like video and online polling as well as practical, up to date information for members;

- Equity Leadership Award: Vinay Sharma, CAW National Director of Human Rights. Prior to his appointment as national director of human rights for the CAW, Vinay served as a full-time health and safety representative at York Region’s Woodbridge Foam. He led numerous organizing drives at diverse workplaces across the region;

- Community Activist Award: Fa Lim, internal coordinator, Progressive Moulded Products (PMP) Workers Action Centre. Fa Lim was one of the 2,400 workers fired without warning from PMP in July 2008. The company owed workers approximately $30 million in severance pay. Fa Lim had worked at PMP for 13 years. The York Region Labour Awards honoured him for being a positive, inspiring force and leader in the establishment of a non-unionized picket against PMP. They also honoured him in the broader effort to encourage all workers - union and non-union - to act together in the mutual fight for change. CAW helped set up the action centre and supported PMP workers in their fight for justice.

The awards were presented by the Toronto and York Region Labour Council and Labour Community Services.

Restarted Ajax Parts Plant Brings Union Members Back to Work

After almost a year of being shut down, workers at the former BBI auto parts plant in Ajax, Ontario will be gradually returning to work.

Under new owners and a new management team, Acoustex International has taken over the parts facility and is scheduled to begin production of parts for General Motors in June of this year and potentially other major auto assemblers in the coming months.

In the process the company expects to potentially recall 120 former BBI workers and members of CAW Local 1090.

The union and company negotiated a new collective agreement, based on the previous agreement with now-bankrupt BBI in December 2009, that recognizes the current seniority and service dates for laid-off workers and maintains the contract wage rates.

"This agreement recognizes the hard work of our members and at the same time justifies the importance of well-paying, union jobs in our community," said CAW Local 1090 President Steve Batchelor. “Low-balling wages and exerting influence over lower-cost, non-union suppliers does more damage to business in the long-run, and it seems some employers are starting to get their heads around that.”

The union also negotiated an order-of-hiring agreement that requires Acoustex to hire former BBI employees with recall rights first, followed by BBI employees whose recall rights have expired. The agreement also provides for preferential hiring of laid-off CAW Local 1090 members.

In June 2009, CAW members at BBI staged a two-week blockade of the parts facility after the company abruptly announced its closure, notifying workers that outstanding monies owed (including severance pay) would not be paid. The blockade resulted in workers receiving almost three-quarters of the severance money being paid.

Canada’s Green Economy Network Launched

As the threat of irreversible damage to Canada’s environment continues to loom large, a concerned group of major labour, environmental and social justice organizations, including the CAW, announced the launch of a newly formed Green Economy Network (GEN) on April 22. 
The 21-member GEN aims to develop a series of research papers, on topics that include intra-city and inter-city high speed rail, public investment in renewable energy and building retro-fits and conservation – that will help guide public policy and union education work through the lens of job creation, sustainability and equity.

In the absence of a clear and ambitious strategy from the federal Conservatives to deal with the climate change threat we face, the progressive movement in our country is uniting like never before to develop strategies and political momentum to address environmental issues and create thousands of new good-paying jobs in our communities, said Peggy Nash, Assistant to the CAW National President.

“The work being done through this Network will certainly provide our union with additional tools and capacity to continue our community campaign, educational and political work in building an inclusive, healthy and prosperous economy for all.”

For more information on the Green Economy Network, visit: http://www.greeneconomynet.ca/.

CAW Local 1917 Members Ratify New Agreement at Hitachi Truck

CAW Local 1917 members who work at Hitachi Truck in Guelph, Ontario have overwhelmingly ratified a new three-year collective agreement which rejects concession demands and instead ensures wage, benefit and pension gains.

Workers at the truck maker voted 88 per cent in favour of the tentative agreement on April 25.

Despite company demands for concessions and a tough bargaining environment, the membership supported the work of the bargaining committee in negotiating the new agreement, said Robin Dudley, bargaining committee chairperson and CAW Local 1917 president.

There are wage increases of one per cent in year two and 1.5 per cent in year three of the agreement as well as an increase in the Defined Benefit Pension Plan. There were also gains in vision benefits and other areas. Recall rights were also extended for laid off members.

“This is a good three-year collective agreement considering the tough bargaining environment and a global economy that has hammered manufacturing in Canada including the auto sector,” said Dudley.

Support the Robin Hood Tax

As governments around the world deal with the after effects of a massive economic meltdown caused by greedy financial speculators, money managers and irresponsible bank lenders, many are warming up to the idea of instituting a small tax on global financial transactions – a tax that would be paid by banks, not people.

A tax of this kind has the potential to raise $650 billion in revenue that would be earmarked to help fight global poverty and climate change.

Some have dubbed this the “Robin Hood Tax,” since its aim is to take from the world’s wealthiest banks and lending institutions and give to those most in need.

Social justice group At the Table is spearheading the Robin Hood Tax campaign in Canada, and is urging the Stephen Harper government to support this initiative. This campaign is supported by a number of organizations throughout the country, including the CAW.

Not surprisingly, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has publicly stated he will not support a global tax on banks - despite the fact that the House of Commons previously passed a motion to support a global tax on financial transactions in 1999.

There’s still time to make things right. Canada is about to play host to world leaders at the G8/G20 summits in June of this year and citizens need to express their support of the Robin Hood Tax. Demand that our federal government lead the charge for positive change, and not be cast aside as an international laggard once again.

Make sure your voice is heard.

Learn more about the Robin Hood Tax campaign and find out how you can get involved. Visit: www.robinhoodtax.ca.

CAW Women’s Conference

The 2010 CAW Women’s Conference will be held August 15-to-18 at the CAW Family Education Centre in Port Elgin, Ontario.

The conference which is titled ‘CAW Women – 25 Years of Activism: Looking Back to Move Forward’ – will examine the struggles of the past and consider what can be learned in the on-going fight for equality. Through a combination of workshops, plenary sessions and creative activities, delegates will learn more about these struggles as they prepare for the challenges yet to come.

For more information on the conference contact the CAW Women’s Department at 1-800-265-1891 ext. 2471 or email women@caw.ca.

CAW New Members

►        Stock Transportation, Toronto, Ontario – 281 new members in CAW Local 4258;

►        Sunrise of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario – 89 new members in CAW Local 2458;

►        Hakim Optical Laboratory, Toronto, Ontario – 69 new members in CAW Local 303;

►        Hotel Dieu Grace Hospital (Pharmacy Techs), Windsor, Ontario – 26 new members in CAW Local 2458;


PEL Spring 2010 Schedule


Human Rights (Sign Language Available)
Stress: The Workplace Hazard
Introduction to Ergonomics

May 16 – 21
May 16 – 21
May 16 – 21

Time Study – Auto
WSIB – Medical Orientation
(Ontario only)

May 30 – June 4
May 30 – June 4

Building Strong Local Unions
Grievance Handling & Workplace Leadership

June 20 – 25
June 20 - 25

To register for these programs, contact your Local Union Executive.


Ford profits fueled
by tough changes

Daniel Howes
April 29, 2010
Det News

Behind the high-fives over Ford Motor Co.'s $2.1 billion first-quarter profit and the promise of more to come is hope driven by real change -- and not just in Dearborn.

In different ways, Detroit's automakers are getting off their collective knees in the right shape to capitalize on a recovering national economy and the unforeseen stumbling of a chief nemesis, Toyota Motor Corp. When's the last time you could honestly think that in this town, much less say it credibly and not sound like a homer?

Yes, you read that right -- the burgeoning "green shoots" of recovery, touted Wednesday at the Michigan Chapter of the Turnaround Management Association's spring meeting, are likely to include at least a couple of Detroit's automakers and key suppliers so recently given up for dead.

So much for inevitability.

In recession after recession, Detroit traditionally emerged on the leading edge of the recovery. Sales moved higher, followed by production volumes, revenues, added shifts and the collective exhale that another slowdown had passed, the better to get back to the old ways.

Which was the problem. Sclerotic business models, sporadically competitive lineups and strengthening rivals limited the upside more each time, eventually pushing General Motors Co. and Chrysler LLC into federally funded bankruptcy and others to the brink.

The Great Recession, aggressive management (at Ford) and prodding by the funder of last resort -- Team Obama's Treasury Department -- changed that, fundamentally. Whoever says that Detroit merely cut costs to reach this recovery doesn't appreciate how much has changed since the darkest days of 2008 and before.

The structure of these companies, each in their own way, is dramatically different than a few years ago. Each increasingly is poised to generate cash, deliver profits and reinvest in new cars and trucks in ways only their foreign-owned competition could do over much of the past generation.

Their management is new, and not just in the C-suite. Their product lineups, from small cars like the Ford Fiesta and Chevrolet Cruze to luxury Cadillacs and large pickups like the Ford F-Series, are more competitive, more critically acclaimed and more likely to contribute to the bottom line than anytime in decades.

Their balance sheets are cleaner. Their brand portfolios are leaner, the better to focus scarce marketing resources. Their break-even points are sharply lower, as much a testament to historic changes in legacy labor agreements as the usual cutting of jobs and closing of plants.

Their retiree health care obligations, worth billions in liabilities every year, now are managed by trusts controlled by the United Auto Workers and are in the process of being funded. Their all-in labor costs are sharply lower, and new hires will be paid a fraction of legacy union wages.

That's not necessarily good news for per capita incomes in plant cities and states or the UAW's dues stream. But it's a change that needed to happen if GM, Chrysler and, yes, even Ford hoped to compete effectively against foreign-owned rivals operating in the States.

A harsh adjustment? Yes. The only alternative? Probably. A sad fact of the unraveling of Detroit is that the reckoning had to be as harsh as it was -- and is -- to force the change in thinking and doing that had to happen.

Today, you hear the CFOs of GM and Ford say they're less interested in managing the car business to maintain market share than they are in managing a profitable business, with the assumption that the market share will follow. Yep.

Today, top product developers talk about fielding cars and trucks that are the best in their class -- and increasingly are -- not second-class metal with middle-of-the-road interiors, underperforming engines and consistently dodgy quality.

Today, it's clear that the worst fears of a collapsing supply base were oversold, just as the ability of suppliers to rip apart their businesses in the face of declining sales is underappreciated.

None of it should be called victory so much as seen as clear, independent evidence that change in Detroit's auto industry runs deeper than the sheet metal -- which is the most hopeful thing of all.


Ford caution may hurt stock

Prices drop two straight days after report

April 29, 2010

Ford might have taken the wind out of its own stock price momentum on Tuesday when it warned that it might not be able to match first-quarter profits over the next several quarters.

Ford's stock dropped 89 cents Tuesday and another 32 cents Wednesday, closing at $13.25.

The declines came after Ford said it made $2.1 billion for the January through March period -- nearly twice what Wall Street analysts expected.

But some analysts have latched onto Ford's warnings about lower quarterly profits -- even though the automaker is on track to achieve its most profitable year in 11 years.

"Ford had a very strong first quarter, but we do not think this level of profitability is sustainable" on a quarterly basis, Credit Suisse analyst Chris Ceraso said in a report Wednesday.

"I think yesterday we saw the market swinging from an outlook that was looking a year or two out to worries about the second half" of the year, said Barclays Capital analyst Brian Johnson.

Even though Ford said it now expects to be "solidly profitable" in 2010, Ford Chief Financial Officer Lewis Booth also said quarterly profits might shrink.

"It would be unwise to think of the $2 billion as a running rate for the year," Booth said Tuesday.

Booth said rising commodity costs for materials such as steel as well as the cost of launching several new vehicles could hold down Ford's quarterly profits.

Johnson, however, estimates that Ford will report a profit of $1.57 per share, or about $4.9 billion, this year and $1.85 per share, or about $5.8 billion, for 2011.

That means Ford is on track for its most-profitable year since 2000, when it earned $3.48 billion, and would cap off a turnaround effort that was launched in 2006 with the company's Way Forward plan.

Johnson also said some investors expected Ford's first-quarter cash flow to be higher and speculated that the general market woes of the past several days caused by concerns about Greece's ability to make its debt payments also hurt Ford's stock price.

However, Ford's modest cash flow didn't faze Standard & Poor's, which raised its Ford outlook to positive from stable.

Ford Stock


Toyota recalls 50,000 '03
Sequoia SUVs

David Shepardson / Detroit News Washington Bureau
April 28, 2010, 11:50 AM

Washington -- Toyota Motor Corp. recalled about 50,000 2003 Sequoia SUVs today to replace a computer sensor -- the latest in a string of callbacks by the Japanese automaker.

The recall of the full-sized SUV, disclosed in a letter obtained by The Detroit News, comes 16 months after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened an investigation. It had received 50 complaints over sudden unexpected braking or slowing of the vehicles.

Toyota said in a four-page letter that it still believes "these vehicles do not present an unreasonable risk to motor vehicle safety" but was recalling them in an effort to resolve NHTSA's concerns.

Toyota said it is moving quickly to address issues even when there are no injuries -- even an 8-year-old vehicle and even when it doesn't think it is legally obligated to do so. Toyota noted in its letter, "There are no reports of crashes, injuries or fatalities associated with this alleged defect."

Toyota said a steering angle sensor may not be stored properly and that could allow the stability control system to activate at low speeds -- about 9 mph -- after acceleration from a stopped position. Toyota will replace the skid control "Electronic Control Unit."

Toyota will start notifying customers at the end of May and will cover repairs previously made since April 2002.

NHTSA opened an investigation into 68,000 2003 Sequoia vehicles in December 2008 and upgraded it to an engineering analysis in April 2009.

NHTSA says it has now received at least 64 complaints of "inappropriate activation of the electronic stability control or the traction control system." Toyota has received at least 96 reports.

"During the activation of either system, the driver loses throttle control and one of more brakes may apply, causing the vehicle to slow suddenly," NHTSA said in a filing. "During these activation events, the brake lights are not illuminated to signal to following traffic that the vehicle is slowing."

Some complaints, NHTSA said, assert that they were hit or nearly hit by following traffic because of the unexpected braking.

Toyota said in an earlier response to NHTSA that it believed several issues are responsible. The automaker said it is "most likely related to the application of the traction control system" and not its vehicle stability control systems -- but Toyota didn't believe a recall was necessary at the time.

Toyota is expected to announce a fix to the traction control system in its recall. The company has notified NHTSA of its plans to recall the vehicle.

It's at least the sixth separate recall campaign Toyota has opened in the last three months, as the company as suffered a spate of bad publicity over its sudden acceleration issues.

NHTSA has received more than 3,000 complaints since 2000 alleging at least 51 deaths. Congress has held a series of hearings and Toyota agreed to pay a $16.4 million fine for failing to issue a recall by at least four months -- the largest ever imposed by NHTSA.

Toyota will hold a new hearing on May 6.

The Sequoia recall is not connected to sudden acceleration issues.

NHTSA said Toyota has issued at least three Technical Service Bulletins to address concerns about vehicle stability control dashboard warning lights -- but at least 20 customers declined to get the repairs since they can cost $1,500. All three bulletins called for replacing computers with revised software.

Toyota has recalled more than 6 million vehicles in the United States over sudden acceleration concerns, including 5.4 million for pedal entrapment issues.

Earlier this month, Toyota recalled about 600,000 1998-2010 model Toyota Sienna minivans in cold weather states over corrosion concerns. Last week, Toyota recalled 9,400 Lexus GX 460 SUVs to upgrade the software over rollover concerns first raised by Consumer Reports.

Toyota said in February it would recall 133,000 2010 Toyota Prius and 14,500 Lexus 2010 HS 250h vehicles to update software in the vehicle's anti-lock brake system.

Toyota also recalled 7,300 early production 2010 Toyota Camry vehicles to inspect for a power steering hose that may be in contact with a front brake tube.

The automaker in February said it is recalling about 8,000 2010 four-wheel-drive Toyota Tacoma pickups produced between mid-December and February. Some models have a crack in the front propeller shaft that could cause the pickups to lose control.

Toyota Letter on The Sequoia Recall to NHTSA (Click Here)

Brampton has April 28th Day of Mourning Memorial for Workplace Deaths and Injuries

Day Of Mourning April 28

The year 2009 saw over 425 work related deaths in Ontario and sadly, the trend continues upward. The theme for this years "Day of Mourning for the dead and injured" on April 28 at city hall in downtown Brampton was "KILL A WORKER, GO TO JAIL" Deaths and injury will always be an issue in the workplace but we must put pressure on government and WSIB to maintain and increase vigilance in the workplace to counter violations along with being more pro-active.


The passage of legislation to put management behind bars if found negligent would at least help put a spotlight on their responsibility to make certain, as much as humanely possible that the workplace they supervise is as safe as it can be and that they are responsible to make it that way.

Ken Donaldson & Gary Rumboldt From CAW Local 584

I was joined by Brothers Ken Donaldson and Gary Rumboldt at this solemn event. Let's pray that next years body and injury count will be much, much lower.

Doug Berry

Brampton City Hall


MORE THAN TWENTY YEARS AGO the Canadian Labour Congress declared April 28 a National Day of Mourning for workers who have been killed, suffer disease or injury as a result of work. Every year since, unions, labour councils, families and community partners gather by the thousands to 'mourn for the dead'. What began through the efforts of Canada's labour movement is now observed in more than 100 countries.

On April 28 honour those who have lost their lives or paid with their health. You can:

  • encourage others to attend a Day of Mourning event
  • draft a message for your organization's publication or web site
  • work with local media to promote the Day's significance, write about worker monuments and cover Day of Mourning events
  • lobby politicians to recognize the Day through proclamation
  • invite faith communities and social justice groups to observe the Day
  • convince employers and public institutions to lower flags to half-mast.

The Day of Mourning though, is also intended to focus attention on what we can do to break the silence of indifference and say enough to the suffering caused by hazardous working conditions. On April 28 let's resolve to action that restores and promotes dignity and health in our workplaces and our communities. On this day and each that follows you can:

  • educate others about basic health and safety rights and prevention measures
  • help social justice and other groups educate at-risk members of our communities
  • negotiate greater decision-making power for worker representatives and joint committees
  • make health and safety a collective bargaining priority
  • encourage local media to report on health, safety and environmental issues
  • encourage MPs and/or MPPs to support ergonomic and violence regulations and stronger enforcement of existing legislation
  • create monuments to promote public awareness of workplace health and safety.


Would you buy a Ford?


April 28, 2010 - Globe & Mail

Jeremy Cato

Yesterday Ford Motor announced net income of $2.1-billion in the first quarter. Yes, Ford is starting to make bags of money (figures in U.S. dollars).

Auto analysts as a group expected Ford to earn about $1-billion, thus Ford greatly exceeded expectations. Ford's sales in Canada are up 29.3 per cent on the year and 37 per cent in the U.S. Ford now says it will be “solidly profitable” this year. Ford previously expected “solid” profitability in 2011.

Autodata Corp. in the U.S. says Ford is doing less discounting than other Detroit auto makers and buyers are spending more for costly options. That means Ford is grabbing more revenue per car sold.

Ford vehicles are now consistently scoring well in a broad range of quality studies – from Consumer Reports to J.D. Power and Associates. The safety testers at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety report that Ford's models are turning in good scores in crash tests. Ford is also pushing technologies that improve fuel economy and make using in-car gadgets easier, too.

Add all this in with the latest profit news and here's the question: Would you buy a Ford? Would you buy one even if you've never before considered a Ford, or if you gave up years ago? Would you reconsider?

Apparently more Americans are having second thoughts. An Associated Press and GfK Roper Public Affairs and Media survey of 1,000 adults in early March showed that 38 per cent of Americans said that they think American cars are the best-made vehicles and 33 per cent said Asian cars are the best.

As David Welch reports in Businessweek, the same survey done in December 2006 showed that 46 per cent of Americans thought that Asian cars were the best and just 29 per cent favored American cars.

Ford is firmly profitable now, sales are up, new models such as the Fiesta subcompact and Focus compact are coming and expansion in growing markets like China is going ahead aggressively. It's early still, but Ford is starting to take on the look of a winner.

So I ask you: Would you buy a Ford now – especially if you'd never, ever considered one before?


Ford Blue Oval NewsWire
April 27, 2010

Ford Motor Company 2010 First Quarter Financial Results

A note from President and CEO Alan Mulally
This morning, we announced our financial results for the first quarter.  Once again, the Ford team delivered solid results and strong progress against our plan. It is clear that the basic engine of our company is getting stronger each quarter.

This continued improvement is the result of unwavering focus, hard work, tough choices and working together. We all should take pride in what we have accomplished.  That said, the global business environment remains challenging and the competition will continue to be intense. We must maintain our unwavering focus on making progress on our plan and delivering profitable growth for all.

Our fundamental plan to deliver One Ford is working, and it remains solid and unchanged:

  • Aggressively restructure to operate profitably at the current demand and changing model mix
  • Accelerate the development of new products that customers want and value
  • Finance the plan and improve the balance sheet
  • Work together effectively as one team, leveraging Ford's global assets

It is important for all of us to read the attached news release and to understand our story.  We will meet with financial analysts and representatives of the news media throughout the day to discuss this information and answer questions. 
One Team. One Plan. One Goal. ONE Ford.
Alan Mulally
Alan Mulally
President and CEO
Ford Motor Company

Below is the company's press release regarding Ford Motor Company's 2010 first quarter financial results. To see additional information, including financial tables, click here.

Ford Posts First Quarter 2010 Net Income of $2.1 Billion as Strong New Products Fuel Profitable Growth Ford Motor Company today reported first quarter 2010 net income of $2.1 billion, or 50 cents per share, a $3.5 billion improvement from first quarter 2009, as strong selling new products, improvements in its global Automotive operations, and higher profits at Ford Credit boosted results.

Excluding special items, Ford reported pre-tax operating profit of $2 billion, or 46 cents per share, an improvement of $4 billion from a year ago. It marked Ford’s highest quarterly pre-tax operating profit in six years.

Ford North America posted first quarter pre-tax operating profit of more than $1.2 billion, a $1.9 billion improvement from first quarter 2009, as a result of higher volume and mix and favorable net pricing. Ford operations in South America, Europe and Asia Pacific Africa as well as Ford Credit also posted pre-tax operating profits in the first quarter and improved results over the same period in 2009.

"The Ford team around the world achieved another very solid quarter, and we are delivering profitable growth," said Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally. "Our plan is working, and the basic engine that drives our business results – products, market share, revenue and cost structure – is performing stronger each quarter, even as the economy and vehicle demand remain relatively soft."

At the end of March, Ford entered into a definitive agreement to sell Volvo and related assets to Zhejiang Geely Holding Group for $1.8 billion, subject to customary purchase price adjustments. The sale is expected to close in the third quarter of 2010. As a result of the agreement to sell Volvo, all of Volvo’s 2010 results are being reported as special items and excluded from Ford’s operating results; 2009 data include Volvo.

Ford’s first quarter revenue was $28.1 billion, up $3.7 billion from the same period a year ago. If Volvo had been excluded from 2009, Automotive revenue would have increased by $7 billion, or more than 30 percent.

Ford finished the first quarter with $25.3 billion in Automotive gross cash, an increase of $400 million since year end. Automotive operating-related cash outflow was $100 million during the first quarter, as Automotive pre-tax operating profit was more than offset by changes in working capital and other timing differences, as well as a $300 million payment to Ford Credit reflecting up-front subvention payment. The company ended the first quarter with total Automotive debt of $34.3 billion, an increase of $700 million compared to year-end 2009.

On April 6, Ford paid down $3 billion of the drawn amount of its 2013 revolving credit facility. This payment has reduced Automotive gross cash and debt by $3 billion, which will be reflected on Ford’s second quarter 2010 balance sheet. The action did not affect Automotive liquidity, as the repaid amounts remain available for borrowing.

Special items were a favorable pre-tax amount of $125 million in the first quarter of 2010, or 7 cents per share. Ford recorded a $188 million gain related to held-for-sale adjustments for Volvo, which was offset partially by $63 million of global personnel reductions and dealer-related charges. If Volvo had continued to be reported as an ongoing operation, Ford would have reported a first quarter pre-tax operating profit of $49 million for Volvo.

"We are seeing the benefits of our One Ford plan around the world," said Lewis Booth, Ford executive vice president and chief financial officer. "All of our business operations – North America, South America, Europe, Asia Pacific Africa and Ford Credit – were not only profitable, but also showed substantially improved results over a year ago."


  • Increased U.S. market share by 2.7 percentage points to 16.6 percent and a 14.1 share of the retail market, fueled by strong sales of Fusion, F-150, Taurus and Focus
  • Achieved market leadership in Canada, boosting market share to 15.5 percent and increasing sales by 29 percent
  • Increased sales by 14 percent in the South American region and sold a record 88,000 vehicles in Brazil
  • Increased sales in Europe and achieved a 9.4 percent market share. In March, Ford was the best selling brand in Europe for the 19 markets we track
  • Ford Asia Pacific Africa increased sales by 39 percent as the Fiesta gained momentum in several markets
  • Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles achieved the highest customer satisfaction and the fewest number of "things gone wrong" among all full-line manufacturers, according to the first quarter Global Quality Research System survey for the U.S.
  • Revealed new global Ford Focus, which goes on sale early next year in North America and Europe, and in 2012 for Asia
  • Revealed 2011 Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX, which reach showrooms this fall and will be the first vehicles to feature MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touch
  • Unveiled the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, expected to be America’s most fuel-efficient luxury sedan
  • Announced partnership with Microsoft to use Microsoft Hohm as a platform to help future owners of Ford’s electric vehicles manage energy use
  • Began production of Figo small car for India; received 10,000 orders in first month on the market
  • Began production of the next-generation F-Series Super Duty lineup with new fuel-efficient diesel and gasoline engines
  • Announced Ford’s electric vehicles plan is extending to Europe with plans to launch five full-electric or hybrid vehicles for European customers by 2013
  • Announced plan to increase investment in Brazil and Argentina by $450 million to more than $2.6 billion by 2015
  • Announced $2.3 billion investment in U.K. manufacturing facilities over the next five years to support production of low-carbon emission vehicles
  • Announced $400 million investment in South Africa to support production of Ford’s next-generation compact pickup truck and Puma diesel engine
  • Confirmed $400 million investment in Chicago Assembly Plant and the addition of 1,200 jobs to support production of the next-generation Ford Explorer


For the first quarter of 2010, Ford’s worldwide Automotive sector reported a pre-tax operating profit of $1.2 billion, compared with a loss of $2 billion a year ago. The improvement reflected higher volume and mix, as well as improvements in net pricing across all Automotive segments.

Total vehicle wholesales in the first quarter were 1.3 million, compared with 986,000 units a year ago. Worldwide Automotive revenue in the first quarter was $25.4 billion, up from $21 billion a year ago.

North America: For the first quarter, Ford North America reported a pre-tax operating profit of more than $1.2 billion, compared with a loss of $665 million a year ago. The improvement was more than explained by higher volume and mix and favorable net pricing. First quarter revenue was $14.1 billion, up from $10 billion a year ago.

South America: For the first quarter, Ford South America reported a pre-tax operating profit of $203 million, compared with a profit of $63 million a year ago. The increase was more than explained by favorable exchange and net pricing, offset partially by higher costs. First quarter revenue was $2 billion, up from $1.4 billion a year ago.

Europe: For the first quarter, Ford Europe reported a pre-tax operating profit of $107 million, compared with a loss of $585 million a year ago. The improvement was explained primarily by higher volume, lower costs, and higher parts profit. First quarter revenue was $7.7 billion, up from $5.8 billion a year ago.

Asia Pacific Africa: For the first quarter, Ford Asia Pacific Africa’s pre-tax operating profit was $23 million, compared with a loss of $97 million a year ago. The improvement was more than explained by higher profits of unconsolidated China joint ventures driven by higher industry volumes , favorable net pricing, increases in industry volume outside of China and favorable exchange. First quarter revenue was $1.6 billion, up from $1.2 billion a year ago.

Other Automotive: Other Automotive consists primarily of interest and financing-related costs and resulted in a first quarter pre-tax operating loss of $391 million, more than explained by net interest expense of $492 million.


For the first quarter, the Financial Services sector reported a pre-tax operating profit of $815 million, compared with a loss of $62 million a year ago.

Ford Motor Credit Company: Ford Credit reported a pre-tax operating profit of $828 million in the first quarter, compared with a pre-tax loss of $36 million a year ago. The improvement primarily reflected lower depreciation expense for leased vehicles due to higher auction values and a lower provision for credit losses, offset partially by lower volume.


Ford said it continues to make progress on all four pillars of its plan:

  • Aggressively restructure to operate profitably at the current demand and changing model mix
  • Accelerate the development of new products that customers want and value
  • Finance the plan and improve the balance sheet
  • Work together effectively as one team, leveraging Ford's global assets

Overall, Ford said its performance this year is off to a more encouraging start than anticipated. Based on Ford’s improving performance, the gradually strengthening economy, and its present assumptions, Ford now expects to deliver solid profits this year with positive Automotive operating-related cash flow.

Ford expects full-year 2010 U.S. industry sales will be in the range of 11.5 million to 12.5 million, consistent with the guidance previously communicated by the company.

In Europe, Ford now expects full-year industry volume will be in the 14 million to 15 million range, which is somewhat higher than the previous guidance. The change reflects strong first quarter results, although uncertainty remains in Europe about the extent of payback from scrappage programs.

Initial quality improved across all of Ford’s regions based on the latest Global Quality Research System survey. Ford is on track to meet full-year quality targets.

As mentioned previously, Ford has achieved significant structural cost reductions over the past four years, and in 2010 expects full year Automotive structural costs to be somewhat higher as Ford increases production to meet demand.

Ford expects full year U.S. total market share and its share of the U.S. retail market to be equal or improved compared with 2009 and Europe market share is expected to be equal to 2009.

Ford expects second quarter 2010 production to be up compared with year-ago levels and up compared to first quarter 2010 production. The increase reflects strong customer demand for our products, the maintenance of competitive stock levels, and the non-recurrence of prior year stock reductions.

Ford now expects Ford Credit’s 2010 profits to be about the same as 2009. The recent improvements in used vehicle auction values and credit loss performance are expected to offset the effects of lower average receivables and the non-recurrence of certain favorable 2009 factors.

"We are absolutely committed to building great products, a stronger business, and contributing to a better world," Mulally said. "Our product lineup is stronger than ever, and our leadership in quality, fuel efficiency, safety, smart design and value is resonating with consumers.

"We remain cautiously optimistic about positive signs emerging in the global economy, while knowing that the recovery is fragile and the global auto industry continues to deal with excess capacity. For us, the most important thing we can do is to stay focused and continue to make progress on our plan," Mulally said.


Ford posts highest
quarter in six years
Auto maker says it was profitable in North America, Asia, Latin America and Europe

Globe & Mail - April 27, 2010

Ford Motor Co. said Tuesday it earned $2.1-billion (U.S.) in the first quarter, another sign the economy is improving as people spend more on big-ticket items like cars. The auto maker expects to be solidly profitable this year, a year earlier than its previous guidance.

Ford said its net income per share was 50 cents during the quarter. That's an about-face from the same period last year when it lost $1.4-billion, or 60 cents per share, at the height of the recession. It was Ford's highest quarterly profit in six years.

The company was profitable in its key North American market, but it also made money in Asia, South America and Europe.

“The Ford team around the world achieved another very solid quarter, and we are delivering profitable growth,” Ford chief executive officer Alan Mulally said in a statement.

Revenue rose 15 per cent to $28.1-billion.

Ford reported a one-time gain of $188-million related to the sale of its Volvo brand to Geely Holding Group, which was completed at the end of March. That was offset by a $63-million loss from personnel reductions and dealer payments.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had expected revenue of $30.- billion and a profit of 31 cents per share. Analysts typically don't account for one-time items.

Ford's U.S. sales climbed 37 per cent for the quarter and its market share rose nearly three percentage points. The company made $1.2-billion in North America, which had been draining cash in prior years.

It also reported an 84 per cent sales increase in China.

In a sign of its confidence in the economic recovery, Ford said it's boosting North American production in the second quarter to 625,000 vehicles, a 9 per cent increase over first-quarter levels. The increase could mean additional hiring by Ford, but chief financial officer Lewis Booth said Tuesday it's too early to say if the company will be adding workers.

Ford, the only Detroit-area auto maker to shun government aid and stay out of bankruptcy protection, gained market share from crosstown rivals General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC. It also benefited from Toyota's safety recall problems.

The first-quarter profit was the fourth straight positive quarter for Ford, which has gradually cut costs and improved sales since the depths of the recession a year ago. Ford made $2.7-billion last year.


GM to invest $890M to upgrade 5 plants, including one in St. Catharines, Ont.

In this Jan. 12, 2009 file photo, the General Motors logo is seen on display at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Paul Sancya, File)
In this Jan. 12, 2009 file photo, the General Motors logo is seen on display at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Paul Sancya, File)

April 27, 2010

TORONTO - General Motors Co. is expected to announce today, Tuesday that it will invest $890 million to upgrade five plants in North America, including an engine plant in St. Catharines, Ont.

Media reports say the upgrades will help the automaker build more fuel-efficient engines and will create or retain about 1,600 jobs. The reports say the St. Catharines, Ont., plant will receive a $235 million investment.

A GM news release said Tuesday's news conference would involve "positive manufacturing news." A company spokesman would not elaborate.

Officials with the Canadian Auto Workers union could not be reached for comment.

Nearly half of the money - $400 million - will be spent revamping GM's engine plant in Tonawanda, N.Y., affecting 710 jobs.

The other plants receiving upgrades are in Defiance, Ohio; Bedford, Ind.; and Bay City, Mich.

The announcement comes less than a week after GM said it had repaid US$8.1 billion in U.S. and Canadian government loans five years ahead of schedule.

The U.S. government still owns 61 per cent of GM. The automaker is counting on a public stock offering to allow the U.S. government to begin recouping its remaining $45.3 billion investment.

The Canadian government's $8.1 billion stake, which equals a 12 per cent ownership interest, also could be unlocked if GM sells shares to the public.

GM lost $88 billion between 2004, when it last turned a profit, and last year when it declared bankruptcy.

The automaker received $52 billion from the U.S. government and $9.5 billion from the Canadian and Ontario governments starting in 2008. At first the entire amount of U.S. aid was considered a loan as the government tried to keep GM from going under and pulling the fragile economy into a depression.

But during bankruptcy, the U.S. government reduced the loan portion to $6.7 billion and converted the rest to company stock. Canadian governments also converted part of their debt to shares, reducing its loan balance to $1.4 billion. The final installments on those loans were repaid Tuesday, comfortably beating a 2015 deadline.

GM Canada shed about 2,600 jobs with the closure of a truck plant in Oshawa in Ontario last year. It also announced plans to shut down a transmission plant in the southwestern Ontario city of Windsor this year, affecting more than 1,000 workers.

However, the company has announced the recall of hundreds of workers to its Canadian plants to meet strong demand for some of its products. Most recently, it was announced that more than 700 laid-off workers are slated to be recalled to its assembly plant in Oshawa and its CAMI plant in Ingersoll, Ont., to produce Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain.


Did Ford's CEO actually
earn his salary?
Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally speaks at the New York International Auto Show in New York, Wednesday, March 31, 2010. (AP / Seth Wenig)

Jeremy Cato, Autos.CTV.ca

Date: Monday Apr. 26, 2010 1:57 PM ET

Ford Motor CEO Alan Mulally earned $1.4 million in salary for 2009, but his total compensation equaled $17.9 million because of stock-based awards (all figures U.S. dollars).

In fact, Mulally earned more in 2009 than he did in 2008 -- $13.6 million. In his first 28 months as Ford's CEO, Mulally earned $63.4 million in salary and bonuses, even as the company was losing billions.

So the question is: Has he been worth nearly $100 million in salary and bonuses since 2006?

Tuesday we'll know more. Ford will announce its first-quarter results and analysts are expecting a big profit jump after months of increased sales, market-share gains and stumbles by one of its chief competitors, Toyota Motor.

Ford sales are up 37 per cent in the U.S. this year and 29.3 per cent in Canada. Ford is currently the No. 1 auto maker in Canada, too - and closing in on that title in the U.S.

Among individual models, two of the Top 10 best-selling cars in Canada are Fords (Fusion and Focus) and three of the Top 10 best-selling light trucks are Fords, too (F-Series pickup, Escape SUV and Ranger compact pickup). What's remarkable here is that the Focus, Escape and Ranger are all aging products that continue to sell well thanks to aggressive pricing, good quality and smart marketing.

A new Focus is coming in January, and Ford of Canada president and CEO David Mondragon thinks it will be a smash hit. This summer, Ford will launch the Fiesta subcompact with a starting price at about $13,000. It looks to be the most refined car in a segment that includes the Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris. In addition, an updated Mustang sporty car is just entering dealer showrooms.

Ford is also pushing ahead aggressively with various power train technologies - from direct injection with turbocharging (called EcoBoost) to hybrids to pure EVs (electric vehicles). As well, new models are incorporating fuel-saving technologies that improve performance. For instance, the six-speed automatic transmission in the new Fiesta is actually an advanced dual-clutch manual/automatic the likes of which we normally see in pricy European models like the BMW M5.

"One of the big changes," says one senior Ford engineer, "is that Derrick (Kuzak, the global product boss) has challenged us not to be just among the best in class, but to be first - to be best in class in fuel economy and performance, safety, you name it. That's a big change."

Which brings us back to Mulally, because leadership is critical in this story. His pay awards are all about Ford's share price, so a big jump in profit can only be good for the CEO's bottom line. When I last checked, Ford's stock was trading at $14.15, near the 52-week high of $14.54 and $10 higher than the 52-week low of $4.05.

But forget about Ford's stock for the moment. Mulally may be one of those exceptionally rare examples of a CEO who has actually earned his pay. What he's been doing since coming to Ford in 2006 has long-term implications. He has led a turnaround based on fixing the company for long-term growth. The juiced stock only reflects increasingly good fundamentals.

For instance, Ford was a star in J.D. Power & Associates latest Vehicle Dependability Study. This particular study measures problems experienced by original owners of three-year-old (2007 model year) vehicles, covering 198 different problem symptoms. As a measure of quality and durability, the VDS matters.

Also, several Ford models now consistently score above Honda Motor and Toyota Motor in widely followed rankings by Consumer Reports magazine. Overall, CR says Ford is tracking very close to the quality leaders in the auto industry.

In fact, for what it's worth (and you be the judge), a study commissioned by Ford says the auto maker now has the highest customer satisfaction with vehicle quality of all the major automobile manufacturers. Eighty-four percent of customers who purchased a 2010 Ford, Lincoln or Mercury said they were satisfied with the quality of their car or truck, according to the quarterly survey by the RDA Group of Bloomfield Hills. It conducts similar research for other automakers, and its findings have historically mirrored the results of research by J.D. Power and Associates, Consumer Reports and others.

No wonder Moody's Investors Service recently raised its ratings on Ford's debt, as well as the debt of Ford Motor Credit, which makes loans to dealers and customers. That will help Ford's debt servicing on the $20 billion-plus Ford borrowed to fund its turnaround.

Right now paying for the little "home improvement loan," as Mulally likes to call the borrowed billions, takes about $300 out of every car the company sells. The sooner Ford pays down its debt, the better it will be for the company and its employees. Mulally knows this too well and talked about the importance of slashing Ford's debt at the recent New York Auto Show.

The real point here is that Mulally may be a rare exception to the obvious conclusion that most CEO pay is obscenely out of line with corporate results and the work done by the CEO. I mean, obscene in the extreme, particularly in the financial services sector.

But Mulally is leading a turnaround at Ford based on new products, lower costs, a focused vision and streamlined processes. What's going on at Ford does not look like a short-term fix designed to juice the stock. Not at all.

Mulally has earned his multi-millions, at least so far - and even whatever Ford pays for his housing in Michigan, which is also part of his compensation package. Look for more details on how he's earned his pay on Tuesday.

CAW Contact April 26, 2010

CAW Calls for Doubling of CPP at Federal Pension Roundtable

The CAW participated in the latest pension roundtable organized by the federal Department of Finance in London, Ontario on April 19, stressing the need for a doubling of the Canadian Pension Plan benefit, among other reforms.

CAW President Ken Lewenza commended the federal government for its attention to the issue of retirement security, through the public consultations, but urged the government to add more consultation locations to the agenda.

“The federal government is clearly hearing Canadians say that we need pension reform,” said Lewenza.

Up to 72 per cent of employed Canadians do not have a workplace pension plan, and as many as 70 per cent do not have RRSPs – this points to a very obvious shortcoming in the retirement system which leaves people to fend for themselves in their senior years. The CPP is the one plan that most Canadians do have and it must be strengthened.

Dozens of CAW protestors, including former Nortel workers, gathered outside the University of Western Ontario to greet the finance minister, reiterating a demand for pension protection where an employer goes bankrupt.

CAW Applies for Certification at Niagara Casinos

The CAW submitted an application with the Ontario Labour Relations Board April 14 to unionize workers at Casino Niagara and Fallsview Casino.
The union’s application comes after a flurry of organizing activity among casino workers in Ontario’s Niagara Region over the past few months.

“Casino workers in Niagara have shown tremendous resolve in their efforts to join the CAW over the years, despite the employers’ consistent and coordinated approach to deter them,” said CAW President Ken Lewenza.

“We are looking forward to making a real difference in the lives of these workers, alongside thousands of other casino workers we represent in Canada.”

Workers at the Niagara casinos participated in a secret ballot vote over three days (April 21 – 23)

Votes will be counted by the Ontario Labour Relations Board and results will be made public in the coming days.

The CAW is Canada’s largest gaming sector union, representing over 7,000 workers at Caesars Windsor Casino, Brantford Charity Casino, Slots at Sudbury Downs, Great Blue Heron Casino, Edgewater Casino and the Woodbine Racetrack as well as other locations.

Repayment of Loans Good News for Industry, Says CAW President

CAW President Ken Lewenza said that the April 21 announcement that General Motors has repaid government loans in Canada and the U.S. is another positive sign that the domestic auto industry is beginning to recover.

“The repayment of the loans is further proof that the money for the auto industry was indeed a loan, not a bail-out as it was often called,” said Lewenza.

“Timely intervention by the federal and Ontario government was crucial in saving tens of thousands of jobs in the major auto and auto parts industry right across Canada,” said Lewenza. “Without this support, many communities would have been devastated – making the recession even worse for thousands of families.”

Although the operating loans will now be paid off, Lewenza urged continued support for the auto industry, and the maintenance of a manufacturing footprint here in Canada.

“The rapid response by government more than a year ago was a clear indication that this industry is important for the economy of our country,” said Lewenza.

Canada Protects Auto Parts Jobs in Landmark Deal with GM

The jobs of over 70 unionized auto parts workers are expected to be saved thanks to a landmark job security deal between the CAW and General Motors. The automaker recently announced it will sever a supply contract with parts-maker Automodular in Oshawa, Ontario and move the work to a new, non-unionized facility.

Once the parts contract is severed, CAW members at Automodular will report to work at the new facility (owned by Inteva Products) and will continue producing parts for GM vehicles. They will also be taking their union cards, their collective bargaining agreement, as well as their existing wage rates, along with them.

The decision to recognize the collective agreement and secure work for these would-be laid off CAW members was the product of some creative negotiations between the union and General Motors, said Steve Batchelor, president of CAW Local 1090 representing Automodular workers.

“This is certainly a unique deal and an incredibly important victory for our union,” Batchelor said. “It ends months of uncertainty for our members, who faced the daily burden of not knowing whether they’d have a job by the end of the year. They can now rest assured that the work will be there.”

In an interview with the Toronto Star, Assistant to the CAW President Jerry Dias said the deal with GM was something he had never experienced before and expects to see more deals of this kind as competition intensifies in the Canadian auto industry, and assemblers continue looking down the supply chain to cut costs.

“They (GM) and other automakers must know that, as the industry changes and turns around, workers at unionized parts makers can’t be left behind.”

CAW Local 1090 represents 70 active and 270 laid off trades workers at Automodular, which manufactures a variety of car parts used for instrument panels and steering mechanisms for GM.

Trade Justice Network Concerned Over Controversial Canada-EU Trade Deal

Representatives of the Trade Justice Network (TJN), a newly-formed coalition of Canadian civil society organizations that includes the CAW, publicly released a leaked draft of the negotiating text for a proposed Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the European Union at a news conference held on Parliament Hill on April 19. The news conference coincided with the start of the third round of trade negotiations between the two countries.

The group says it is seriously concerned about the agreement’s potential impact on public and environmental policy, public procurement rules as well as public services in both Canada and Europe, among other issues.

Controversial provisions in the draft text would open Canada’s telecommunications sector to full foreign ownership and stop provincial and municipal governments from implementing local or ethical procurement strategies, among other issues, as highlighted by the TJN in a public statement.

The proposed deal also includes an investor-rights dispute settlement mechanism, which grants private investors the right to sue governments over trade and investment decisions.

Peggy Nash, Assistant to the CAW National President, considers the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement an example of a new, more aggressive approach to free trade deals and that Canada should steer clear.

“This trade deal is more than about breaking down barriers to trade in goods, rather it’s about dismantling the instruments of Canadian democracy and undercutting our collective ability to make decisions over social, economic, cultural and environmental policies.” Nash said.

Canada and the EU have been in official negotiations since the fall of 2009. Unlike trade talks in the past that have bound governments at the federal level (including the NAFTA), the proposed Canada-EU deal will also bind provincial governments to its terms and conditions.

To learn more about the Trade Justice Network and read the civil society declaration on the CETA, visit: www.tradejustice.ca.

CAW Health and Safety Conference: June 4 – 6

The CAW’s 2010 National Health and Safety Conference ‘No Health and Safety without Mental Health – from Slogan to Reality’ will focus on mental health in the workplace.

The conference runs from June 4 – 6 at the CAW’s Port Elgin Family Education Centre, in Port Elgin, Ontario.

Delegates will attend four ‘Knowledge Cafes’ which offer interactive tools, information, thought-provoking exercises, informed dialogue and help develop shifts in perspective.

The registration deadline is May 14. Contact cawhse@caw.ca for more information.

CLC Atlantic Canada Rep – Sebastien Bezeau

CAW Local 4501 member Sebastien Bezeau was appointed the new Canadian Labour Congress Atlantic Canada Field Representative on March 15, working out of the Congress’ Moncton, New Brunswick office.

Bezeau will be responsible for working with affiliate unions, local labour councils and federations of labour on collective bargaining, education and other needed assistance in the provinces of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick.

Bezeau leaves his post at the New Brunswick Federation of Labour where he assisted locals and labour councils in delivering union programs and campaigns. He held the position of Local 4501 youth committee chair and the Federation’s Youth Vice President.

Unemployment Insurance Conference

The CAW’s Unemployment Insurance Conference will be held at the CAW Family Education Centre in Port Elgin, Ontario from May 28 – 30.

Participants will learn about EI rules and policies, advocacy skills, training, adjustment and action centres, Canada Pension Plan benefits, fixing EI to secure better benefits for layoffs and more.

For more information contact CAW national representative Laurell Ritchie at laurell.ritchie@caw.ca.

The registration deadline is May 7.

CAW Calls on Ontario Government to Reinstate Special Diet Allowance

CAW President Ken Lewenza is calling on the Ontario Government to reconsider the decision to cancel the Special Diet Allowance program, offered to people receiving Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support.

As part of the 2010 budget, the Ontario government announced it would cancel the $200 million program and replace it with a "nutritional supplement" program which will help only people with severe medical needs, not those who need special dietary treatment to manage conditions and prevent worse health.

The Special Diet Allowance was intended to help people on social assistance who require a special diet because of a medical condition.

"Like other Ontarians who invested hope in the government's poverty reduction strategy, I am shocked and disappointed by this decision," said Lewenza in a letter to Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.

"Taking $200 million out of the pockets of the poorest members of Ontario communities is a set back to the government's own poverty reduction strategy."

Lewenza said that the link between poverty and poor health has already been proven. People living on low incomes are much more likely to have serious health issues, including twice the rate of diabetes, a 60 per cent higher chance of chronic health problems, three times the rate of bronchitis and twice the rate of arthritis.

Scrapping the program is a terrible mistake, according to Lewenza. While government points to abuse of the program as the reason for cancelling it, Lewenza said that entire programs are not usually cancelled because of abuse. He pointed to the e-Health program which was rife with financial mismanagement.

"The government didn't cancel the e-Health program. That's because there's still a need for it."
To read the entire letter, please visit: http://www.caw.ca/en/8848.htm

Provincial Minimum/Training Wages
 Listed below are the current minimum wage rates for Canadian provinces. 


Minimum Wage – 1st line
Training Wage – 2nd line

Effective Dates



April 1, 2009

British Columbia

$6.00 First Job Rate (500 hrs)

November 1, 2001



October 1, 2010
October 1, 2010

New Brunswick


April 1, 2010
September 1, 2010



January 1, 2010
July 1, 2010

North WestTerritories


April 1, 2010
April 1, 2011

Nova Scotia


April 1, 2010
October 1, 2010



September 5, 2008


$10.25 General Workers
$8.90 Liquor Servers          $9.60  Students under 18

March 31, 2010

Prince Edward Island


October 1, 2009


$9.00 General Workers
$8.00 If Gratuities Apply

May 1, 2009
May 1, 2008

May 1, 1010



May 1 2009



April 1, 2010


Ford touts fleet sales as priority

April 26, 2010

Ford said today that maintaining a leadership position in commercial and government fleet sales is a priority for the company.

Ford produces six of the top 12 best-selling commercial fleet vehicles, said Mark Fields, Ford’s president of the Americas, during a speech today before the National Fleet Management Association’s convention in Detroit.

“We love fleets at Ford … we love your business and we know how important it is to our country,” Fields said as he spoke to hundreds of buyers of vehicles from cities, counties and companies across the country.

Fields touted Ford vehicles ranging from the company’s new Police Interceptor which is expected to reach the market in 2011, Ford’s redesigned Super Duty pickup that was launched earlier this month and the company’s Fusion Hybrid sedan.

In 2009, Fields said fleet industry sales in the U.S. declined 29% to 1.7 million cars and trucks. However, Ford’s share of total sales increased two percentage points to 24.8%.

“The bottom line is, Ford vehicles tackle more emergency, law enforcement, highway construction, utility repair and other big jobs …than products from any other manufacturer,” Fields said.

In the past, Ford flooded daily rental buyers with fleet sales in an effort to boost sales and market share. That practice hurt Ford’s image and drove down resale values.

Now, Ford tightly manages its daily rental fleet sales and has increased its emphasis on government and commercial business fleets — areas of fleet sales that are both profitable and don’t hurt resale values.

“Ford remains focused on our disciplined approach to daily rental, making sure we help keep growing residual values,” Fields said.


Ford profit: $1 billion

Strong 1st quarter is another high for rebounding U.S. auto industry

April 25, 2010

Ford, a year ago in danger of being dragged down with a collapse of its nearly bankrupt Detroit rivals, is projected to report nearly $1 billion in first-quarter profits Tuesday, the strongest indication yet that the U.S. auto industry is bouncing back more quickly than expected.

The expected profit announcement will follow news last week of General Motors' early repayment of $5.8 billion in government aid and word that Chrysler is on the path to break even this year.

Though taxpayers might never be fully repaid the nearly $85 billion in aid they provided the industry, and a singed Michigan must move aggressively to diversify its economy, a more optimistic outlook is sweeping through parts of Detroit's hallmark automotive sector.

"A year ago at this time, we were fearful General Motors would fail and take the whole industry down with it," Bill Ford, executive chairman of Ford Motor, told the Free Press on Thursday. "What a difference a year makes."

David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, said the industry is at the cusp of "a really significant turnaround point," noting that it came "much faster than I think most people anticipated."

Business at Ford, which bypassed federal assistance, hasn't been stronger since the SUV craze collapsed. Customers increasingly prefer Ford's high-quality, technology-loaded, fuel-efficient cars, leading Ford to gain market share in the U.S. and Europe.

But Bill Ford says his great-grandfather's company has learned some hard lessons and won't return to the days of self-celebration.

"We're very pleased but very cautious," Ford said. "I know how quickly things can change, and I know how quickly self-satisfaction turns into self-destruction."


Obama: Auto bailout
unpopular but right

David Shepardson / Detroit News Washington Bureau
April 25, 2010

Washington -- President Barack Obama touted the progress that General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC have made in defending the government's $85 billion auto industry bailout.

In his weekly radio address today, the president defended his unpopular bailout after the automakers reported good news. GM repaid its $5.8 billion in U.S. and Canadian government loans, while Chrysler reported a first-quarter operating profit -- but an overall loss.

"I knew this wasn't a popular decision. But it was the right one," said Obama, who has previously called rescuing automakers the most unpopular decision of his presidency.

The White House noted in a report this week that 1.1 million or jobs could have been lost if the companies had been forced into liquidation.

Obama noted that just more than a year ago "our country faced a potentially devastating crisis in our auto industry."

"General Motors and Chrysler, two companies that for generations were a symbol of America's manufacturing might, were on the brink of collapse," he said. "The rapid dissolution of these companies -- followed by the certain failure of many auto parts makers, car dealers and other smaller businesses -- would have dealt a crippling blow to our already suffering economy."

Obama said automakers were to blame for much of the woes.

"Many of the problems in the auto industry were a direct result of poor management decisions over decades," Obama said. "So it wasn't an easy call. But we decided that while providing additional assistance was a risk, the far greater risk to families and communities across our country was to do nothing."

Obama suggested that new management was a requirement at both automakers.

"They had to fundamentally reorganize, with new management that would re-examine the decisions that led to this mess and chart a path toward viability," Obama said. "Many believed this was a fool's errand. Many feared we would be throwing good money after bad, that taxpayers would lose most of their investment and that these companies would soon fail regardless."

He argued that the positive news from the two arguments is evidence that critics were wrong.

Obama said the auto industry is more stable today.

President George W. Bush agreed to save GM and Chrysler in the waning days of his presidency with a $17.4 billion bailout. He also agreed to bailouts of GMAC and Chrysler Financial before he left office.

Separately, the Treasury Department told Congress on Friday it had reduced its estimate of the costs of the auto bailout to $28 billion from $30 billion.

The White House has proposed collecting a fee from the nation's 50 largest banks to pay for the taxpayer losses from financial and auto bailout. Some GOP members of Congress have questioned why banks should pay for the losses incurred by automakers.

But some in Congress have criticized the White House's touting of GM's repayment.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, called GM's repayment a "money shuffle" -- since the automaker used unused government bailout funds to make the repayment.

"The taxpayers are still on the hook, and whether TARP funds are ultimately recovered depends entirely on the government's ability to sell GM stock in the future," Grassley said.


Ford issues seat-recliner recall

April 24, 2010

Ford is recalling 33,000 midsize vehicles and SUVs in the U.S. to fix front-seat recliners.

The recall affects some versions of the 2010 Ford Fusion, Explorer, Explorer Sport Trac and Mercury Milan and Mountaineer with front-seat manual recliner mechanisms. The vehicles under recall were built from mid-December through early February.

The recliner's gears could have problems that would lead to the seat back and head restraint moving toward the rear in a crash, increasing the risk of injury. The government says the vehicles don't comply with federal requirements for head restraints.

Dealers will replace the manual seat recliners free of charge. Owners can call Ford at 866-436-7332.


Ford cuts new offers to suppliers

Purchasing boss Brown says market still has too many suppliers, sees more bankruptcies

Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News

April 24, 2010

Dearborn -- Ford Motor Co. purchasing boss Tony Brown says there are still too many parts manufacturers and warned that more suppliers will fail this year.

"We're not done yet," said Brown, Ford's group vice president in charge of global purchasing, during a briefing for reporters Friday. "There's still some excess capacity out there and, frankly, if it was an action I could take unilaterally, I'd take it out -- because as long as that excess capacity is in the system, it weakens those that remain."

He might not be able to weed out parts firms himself, but Brown said Friday he will offer new business to far fewer suppliers this year than he did in 2009.

Industry experts agree that too many suppliers exist for the deflated demand for cars and trucks, both in the United States and around the world.

"There is going to be more consolidation," said Neil De Koker, managing director of the Original Equipment Suppliers Association, an industry group that represents parts manufacturers. "We are surprised that we didn't see more suppliers leave the industry last year."

According to the association, almost 60 suppliers filed for bankruptcy last year, and as many as 200 simply turned off the lights and closed.

Ford, which is five years into an aggressive consolidation of its own supply base, will be offering major new business to about 850 suppliers this year, compared with 3,300 at the end of 2004. And Brown still wants to cut about 100 more suppliers.

"With 3,300, you cannot have a good relationship. You can with a manageable number, which we've determined to be about 750," said Birgit Behrendt, director of global programs and head of purchasing for Ford of Europe. "We want to become the customer of choice for our suppliers."

Ford's plan, which draws on a strategy long used by rival Toyota Motor Corp., is to work with fewer suppliers but give those it keeps deeper, more long-term commitments.

Ford had been viewed as one of the worst manufacturers to work with in the world, but Behrendt said this approach has dramatically improved the way parts manufacturers view the company.

"Our suppliers have recognized that we've changed," Behrendt said, adding that many are now willing to share their best technologies with Ford before offering them to other carmakers.

Ford pointed to a new report by UBS Investment Research that found Ford is the "most preferred" customer for 53 percent of suppliers surveyed, putting it ahead of Toyota, which has historically been the most favorably viewed by parts manufacturers.

However, the study polled a handful of suppliers. Next month, a far more comprehensive report is due out from Planning Perspectives Inc. of Birmingham. Firm President John Henke said Ford has improved significantly but still does not rival either Toyota or Honda Motor Co. when it comes to supplier relations.

"If we go back to 1992, no domestic has ever come close to Honda and Toyota -- ever," he said.

Henke also agreed that more supplier consolidation is likely, and he said large manufacturers are starting to shed less-profitable business units.

"They really need to batten down the hatches, decide which games they want to play in and then play to win," Henke said.

The failures will likely be among the smaller suppliers, he said.

Ford's Brown agreed that smaller manufacturers are most at risk, particularly as the financing deals they negotiated to survive the past few years come due and credit markets remain tight, particularly for those in the automobile industry.


Ford unveils minicar for
China at Beijing show
The Ford Start concept, which makes its global debut at the 2010 Beijing Auto Show, is to have a 1-liter, 3-cylinder engine. (Ford)

April 23, 2010

The Ford Start showcases a 1.0-liter, direct-injection, turbocharged engine that Ford said it plans to begin building in the "near future."

Eventually, Ford expects to introduce the engine, which will be part of Ford's EcoBoost engine family, in all regions, including the U.S., said Ford spokesman Mark Schirmer.

Both the engine and the concept car are part of Ford's overall effort to offer additional products in the fast-growing Chinese market, where sales of Ford cars and trucks account for just 2% of the market.

Ford also plans to show its next-generation Ford Edge midsize SUV at the Beijing Auto Show. The Edge will be built at Ford's assembly plant in Oakville, Ontario, and shipped to China.

While the Edge will be considered a large SUV in China, the Ford Start is designed to be small and simple.

Designed by Ford's global design team at Ford Strategic Concepts Group in Irvine, Calif., the Ford Start is a minicar envisioned for people who live in large cities.

"The Ford Start delivers a dynamic, personality-driven design that stays true to the global Ford brand," J Mays, Ford's group vice president of design and chief creative officer, said in a statement.

Ford said it expects the three-cylinder EcoBoost engine will deliver horsepower that is comparable to that of some larger four-cylinder engines. Ford's other EcoBoost engines that are on the road or in production average more than 100 horsepower per liter.

First introduced in 2009, Ford's EcoBoost engines combine direct fuel-injection and turbocharging technology to increase horsepower with better fuel economy.

Ford has said it plans to offer its direct-injection, turbocharged EcoBoost engines on 11 models globally, or seven more than the company currently offers, by the end of this year.

Retiree Gustave "Gus"
Gallant Passes Away

It is with great sadness that we inform
you of the passing of Gus Gallant

Our Sincerest Condolences go out to his family

Gus Gallant

Gus Gallant
Retired July 1, 1991
26 Years Service

June 21, 1926 - April 20, 2010

GALLANT, Gustave 'Gus' - Peacefully, on Tuesday, April 20, 2010 at the Woodhall Park Retirement Village at the age of 83. Beloved husband of the late Thelma (1992). Cherished father of Raymond, Donald (Bonnie), David, Louis, Linda (Tony), Shirley (Rick) and the late Michael (2002). Devoted Papa to Bradley, Keith, Melissa, Stephanie, Amanda, Tracey, Lisa, Heather and Thomas. Great-grandpa to Landon.

Gus will be missed by many brothers, sisters and all who knew him.

The family will receive friends on Thursday, April 22, 2010 at the Scott Funeral Home, 289 Main St. N., Brampton (905-451-1100) from 2-4 and 7-9 p.m.

A Funeral Mass will be held at St. Anne's Roman Catholic Church, 115 Vodden St. E., on Friday at 11 a.m. Cremation to follow. In lieu of flowers, donations to the Heart & Stroke Foundation or the Canadian Cancer Society would be appreciated by the family.

You are invited to sign Gus's online book of condolences at www.scott-brampton.ca

Ford cultivates fleet sales

Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News
April 23, 2010

Dearborn -- Ford Motor Co. has spent years weaning itself off sales to rental car agencies. But Ford Americas President Mark Fields says fleet sales -- particularly to government agencies and large corporations -- remain an important and profitable part of its business.

"Fleet is not a bad word at Ford," Fields told reporters Thursday. "Done in moderation, it can be very, very healthy."

For years, Ford used daily rental companies as dumping grounds for poor performers in an effort to boost sales and market share -- a practice that drove down resale values of its cars and trucks and diminished the brand's image with consumers.

"Fleet can be a good thing," said analyst Jim Hall of 2935 Analytics LLP. "Fleet for a good company is the equivalent of running a division, and it sounds like Ford is starting to approach it that way."

Fleet sales in the United States fell sharply in 2009, to 1.9 million vehicles from 2.7 million vehicles in 2008. But Ford's share of the fleet market increased to 24.8 percent from 22. 9 percent. However, while sales to daily rental agencies accounted for 66 percent of overall fleet sales last year, they represented 43 percent of Ford's.

In a dramatic change from previous years, two of the five biggest sellers to rental car companies are Toyotas -- the Camry and the Corolla.

Ford now controls 44 percent of the government fleet

GM Pays Back Government
Loans in Full

April 22, 2010

General Motors Company Chairman and CEO Ed Whitacre today announced that GM has made its final payment of $5.8 billion to the U.S. Treasury and Export Development Canada, paying back its government loans in full, ahead of schedule.

The announcement came at a ceremony here to announce investment of $257 million at GM’s Fairfax, Kansas, and Detroit Hamtramck assembly centers.  The investment will prepare Fairfax to build the next generation of Chevrolet’s award-winning Malibu, and make Detroit Hamtramck a second source for Malibu, ensuring that Chevrolet can meet market demand for this popular mid-size sedan.

“GM is able to repay the taxpayers in full, with interest, ahead of schedule, because more customers are buying vehicles like the Chevrolet Malibu and Buick LaCrosse we build here in Fairfax,” said Whitacre. “We are now building some of the best cars, trucks, and crossovers we have ever built, and customers are taking note.  Our dealers are increasing their sales, we are investing in our plants, and we are restoring and creating jobs.”

The U.S., Canadian, and Ontario governments, as part of the launch of the new GM, provided loans of $8.4 billion and took equity stakes in the new company.  Today’s payment of $5.8 billion ($4.7 billion to the U.S. Treasury and $C1.1 billion to Export Development Canada) completes the payback of these loans.

“GM’s ability to pay back the loans ahead of schedule is a sign that our plan is working, and that we are on the right track.  It is also an important first step toward allowing our stockholders to reduce their equity investments in GM,” said Whitacre. “We still have much hard work ahead of us, but we are making progress toward our vision of designing, building, and selling the world’s best vehicles."


APRIL, 2010

It has been a few weeks since the company made the major restructuring announcement. Since that time, your union has been in daily discussions with management in an attempt to determine exactly how these changes will affect our facility. There are still many questions that need to be answered, but we want to update the membership as best as we can. Unfortunately, the company hasn't provided the union with anywhere near the details we would expect them to when announcing such a major restructuring.

When the company first announced the restructuring they said they planned on dealing with it through the leveling of vacation. Initially, our focus was to pressure the company to face the members and notify them of the changes. Once that was done, we were then able to sit down and at least initially evaluate the company's plans.

It quickly became apparent to us that the companies leveling out plan would leave a large percentage of our membership without access to any time off during the summer period. Our #1 priority is to save jobs and avoid any layoffs. The first option in accomplishing this would be enforcing any contractual obligations that result from the permanent job loss.

The company is still stating that this will result in the loss of 15 jobs. Exactly where this job loss would be and how each classification would be affected, still needs to be determined. Because the company is sticking to the 15 jobs being permanently lost, the union pushed for the company to offer separation packages under the language in our collective agreement.

A cost analysis was performed by Ford and they came back saying it wasn't feasible. This did not change our position. The company then told us that they needed to wait a while, likely until the fall, to see the impact on operations and that they would be prepared to have discussions/negotiations at that point in time.

Your Inplant clearly expressed how disappointed we are that they would create so much insecurity amongst the members and not have a detailed plan to deal with the consequences. The Inplant is leveraging both the contract and any political angles in a fight to protect the membership.

Once all of the contractual obligations have been met, the union is prepared to consider some form of vacation levelling if it looks like we are still facing the possibility of layoffs. The union's position has been that a more in depth plan could be implemented rather than simply levelling throughout the entire year.

The work levels in the warehouse consistently fluctuate, depending on the month, on a year over year basis. Some discussions have been had with Labour Affairs on possible alternative levelling plans. Again, there should be no agreement implemented until all other options have been considered. Unfortunately, it seems that the company is attempting to bury the cost savings of eliminating the student program in their plan to deal with the permanent job loss.

While the union recognizes that it is a significant benefit to have our children work here at Ford while they attend school, our priority is to protect the vacation allotment levels during the peak summertime period. Under no circumstances should the company be limiting our vacation allotments as a cost savings, then use the excuse it needs to be done in order to deal with the restructuring. They are two entirely separate issues and should be dealt with accordingly. If the company thinks they can simply cut our time off with our families in the summer period in order to save a few bucks, then there's going to be a major problem.

In the announcement, the company talked about reducing the inventory in the building by 8 million dollars. Our initial assumption is that this would be completed by year end. They are now saying that it is likely only 1 million will be removed this year, with the other 7 million being pulled in 2011. We're not clear on the reasoning, but don't plan on forcing the companies hand to remove stock.

The Inplant has received several assurances from management that the stocking policy will not change. Our concern was that we would loose SKU numbers as a result of the inventory reduction. They've confirmed with us that this is not the case.

Part of this restructuring includes the re-racking of the bin area. New racks are to be purchased. The official approval for this project has not been granted. They have submitted a final plan for the union to review. With the program not being authorized, we do have some concerns that this project may not be completed during the summertime period. What impact that would have is yet to be seen. It appears that 'F' section will be spread out rather than eliminated.

One of the special projects for the summer was the realigning and painting of the Annex so the PRC1 beds could be incorporated. Without getting to far into it, none of the unions concerns have been adequately addressed. We have no time frame on when, if ever, the PRC1's will enter the building.

It seems we have more questions than answers on Ford's plan. Your Inplant is frustrated and angry with not only the fact that this has happened, but also the way it's being implemented. It's time for management to recognize the sacrifices that this membership has made recently to ensure that Ford survives.

Now should be a time when we should be feeling that our jobs are safe and looking forward to sharing in Fords success. It's hard not to question the company's commitment to protecting our jobs when things like this restructuring happen. If they're not willing to voluntarily respect this membership and the work we do than you can bet that we'll be demanding our rights and jobs are protected.

Earlier this week the Inplant met with the company to discuss dayshift drivers being pulled from their class. This has been an ongoing issue. We have recognized for a while that we may in fact have too many drivers and began pushing the company to deal with the situation last year. The Inplant doesn't intend on pushing the company to adjust any classification numbers until the impact of the restructuring can be worked out.

What has us concerned now is that it appears day shift work is being transferred to the late shift. The day shift drivers have informed the union that they were instructed not to do any drops and only deal with receivers.

Our position is that they should be filling the vacant homes as much as possible before the pickers enter the building. This makes the most sense from both an operational point of view and especially from a Health and Safety perspective. The company has agreed to provide the drivers with a list of drops that should be performed. The list should identify all parts that have available surplus to be put in the primary.

The Inplant is also watching closely to ensure that any hauling off the dock currently being done at night can't be done during the day. Our goal should be to limit interaction between vehicles and pedestrians as much as possible.

Please keep an eye out for changes in your work area or supervisors doing things differently. Our trust level is very low right now, so we want to make sure the company is not trying to back door any changes.

If you see something different, please call the union office right away.

The Inplant thanks you for your continued support.

In Solidarity,
CAW Local 584


Chrysler reports $3.8B loss
in 2009 after emerging
from bankruptcy in June

By Peter Whoriskey

Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 21, 2010; 7:54 AM

After emerging from bankruptcy last June in part due to a taxpayer-funded bailout, Chrysler reported Wednesday that it lost $3.8 billion in the second half of 2009 but expects to break even in 2010.

For the first quarter of 2009, the U.S. automaker reported a net loss of $197 million. It also said its U.S. market share, which had dipped to as little as 8 percent, rose to 9.1 percent during the first quarter.

The automaker said it had an operating profit in the first quarter. The news came in the fullest report of Chrysler's financial standing since the bankruptcy.

"This positive operating result in the first quarter is a concrete indication to our customers, dealers and suppliers that the 2010 targets we have set for ourselves are achievable," CEO Sergio Marchionne, who also heads Fiat, said in a statement.

The company attributed the first-quarter results to cost cutting and sales of the new Ram Heavy Duty pickup truck. Worldwide vehicle sales were 334,000 units for the first quarter of 2010, compared to 318,000 in the last quarter of 2009.

As part of the bankruptcy proceedings in June, Chrysler and Fiat finalized an agreement for a global strategic alliance. Fiat owns a 20 percent stake of the company, which could grow to 35 percent if management reaches performance objectives.

The U.S. government has pumped billions into the company and now owns about 10 percent of it.

The United States also won a promise that at least some of Chrysler's success, if it happens, would benefit U.S. workers. Under the financing agreement, Chrysler must either manufacture 40 percent of its U.S. sales volume in the United States, or its domestic production must be at least 90 percent of its 2008 U.S. production volume.


Cross-Border Car Shopping

All eyes on the U.S. as lofty loonie indicates that Canadians on the whole are paying a new-car premium for shopping here. What the lofty loonie's flirt with parity means for Canadian car buyers

The price gap puzzle

April 21, 2010
Globe & Mail - Jeremy Cato

Last week, the muscular Canadian dollar hit par with the U.S. greenback and Porsche Canada blinked.

Porsche cut prices across the board by as much as $9,000 without actually cutting prices permanently. Calling the price reductions “Canadian currency credits,” Porsche moved its Canadian pricing closer in line with prices in the United States.

“Canadian Currency Credits address the cross-border price disparity caused by a strengthening Canadian dollar,” said Joe Lawrence, Porsche Canada's president and CEO.

Porsche Canada, of course, is being careful to avoid permanently slicing prices. Lawrence was careful to point out that “Canadian Currency Credits act as an effective price adjustment during this time when the Canadian dollar is close to U.S.-dollar parity.” If the loonie goes down, away go the currency credits.

But Lawrence and everyone else in the business of selling cars should get used to parity. If you believe the experts, the economists, the gurus who read the tea leaves of currency markets and economic health, we should all get accustomed to a loonie of equal or better value versus the greenback.

“Most scenarios still point for a continued stronger Canadian dollar,” Firas Askari, head of foreign exchange trading at BMO Nesbitt Burns, said in a Reuters report. BMO Nesbitt Burns and Scotiabank are among many who believe the loonie will hover at around par for longer than it did in 2007-2008, when our dollar hit its all-time high of $1.10 in November, 2007.

Moreover, no one thinks the loon will drop anywhere near its all-time low of 61.84 cents (January, 2002) – not in the foreseeable future, not with commodity prices strengthening, Canada's stable financial sector, relatively low public debt and what now appears to be one of the few solidly growing economies in the developed world.

Unlike in 2007 and 2008, the Canadian dollar is unlikely to experience up-and-down swings in its value for some time to come. And unlike in 2007 and 2008, automobile manufacturers and distributors in Canada are better prepared to manage the stronger loonie.

In the past two years, many of them have lowered prices (to great fanfare and self-congratulation) on a reasonable number of models – particularly the most popular ones sold in Canada.

In those cases where prices have not officially come down, Canadian manufacturers and distributors continue to slap on hefty incentives that effectively lower prices wherever necessary to maintain sales.

That is not to say there are not large and dramatic discrepancies in new-vehicle pricing between the United States and Canada. And vocal critics of car pricing in Canada are quick to point out that in quite a number of cases it remains cheaper to head south and buy a new vehicle in the United States.

For instance, a 2010 BMW 7-Series 750i luxury sedan lists for $105,100 in Canada and $82,000 in the United States, about a $23,000 difference. Or take the Porsche Boxster: with the recent $4,000 currency adjustment, it lists for $55,600 in Canada and $47,600 in the United States.

Critical buyers are right to argue for a greater degree of price parity in those instances where the price gaps are oversized and tough to justify.

However, a Globe Drive analysis of the top 10 best-selling passenger cars and top 10 best-selling light trucks found the pricing gap between the U.S. and Canada exists, but it's not as wide as many might believe.

On average, the top 10 selling cars in Canada list for $425 more in Canada than in the United States. For light trucks, the gap is wider: light trucks on average are $1,558.60 cheaper in the United States. Overall, the price advantage in favour of U.S. vehicles comes to $991.90.

Of course, vehicles sold in Canada are not equipped, in all cases, exactly as they are sold in the United States. But it's pretty clear that Canadians on the whole are paying a price premium for shopping in Canada, though the gap is relatively small on average and virtually non-existent on many popular models.

That even though Canada is a more expensive place to sell and distribute vehicles. With a smaller population, greater geographical differences and unique regulatory environment, the cost of doing business in the vehicle sector is higher than in the United States with its much larger population base.

Interestingly, in some cases, Americans actually pay more. Take the Ford Focus. The basic Focus S sedan in the United States lists for $16,290, while in Canada the price is $14,999. So a Canadian buyer is looking at paying $1,291 less than an American. A basic Dodge Journey crossover in the United States lists for about $500 more than its Canadian counterpart.

Fans of Adam Smith and his Wealth of Nations argue that is this is exactly how a market economy works. Prices go up and down based on supply, demand and the “invisible hand” of the marketplace.

In short, manufacturers and their dealers in Canada and the United States price their vehicles based on competitive conditions. During most of the last decade, the Canadian dollar's volatility presented manufacturers with a situation in which pricing stability was difficult to maintain in light of the dollar's wild swings.

Car manufacturers and their distributors faced a similar but exactly opposite situation in 2002. The weak dollar at that time gave rise to concerns about the future of Canada's economy and even its future as a significant economy among the G8.

In the early 2000s, car manufacturers declined to make dramatic price increases to compensate for the weak Canadian currency. Similarly, now those same manufacturers have been careful with their pricing strategies in the wake of an appreciating loonie.

Despite the demands of critics, no one should expect to see Canadian manufacturers and distributors instantly adjust prices either up or down. Obviously the profit motive is at work here, but there is more to the story. Wild adjustments in new-vehicle pricing hold the potential to impact negatively on used-car values, upset the critical leasing market in Canada and anger owners who purchased vehicles at higher prices.

Canadian manufacturers tend to respond to an appreciating loonie by slapping on various incentives, including cash rebates and inexpensive financing and lease offers. They also frequently increase the value of the equipment content on models sold in Canada. The goal is to create something close to price parity on a monthly-payment basis. That keeps new-car shoppers mostly in Canada.

But there is no question that Canadian consumers in many cases retain the option of shopping in the United States, returning with a U.S. imported vehicle. Bringing a new vehicle into Canada is not a complicated process, but it does require a certain attention to detail – and it requires the owner understand and appreciate the implications on a new-vehicle warranty and the like.

In cases where the savings amount to thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars, cross-border shopping can be worth the effort.


Ford's quality ranks first in customer satisfaction

Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News
April 20, 2010

A study commissioned by Ford Motor Co. found that the Dearborn automaker now has the highest customer satisfaction with vehicle quality of all the major automobile manufacturers.

Eighty-four percent of customers who purchased a 2010 Ford, Lincoln or Mercury said they were satisfied with the quality of their car or truck, according to the quarterly survey by the RDA Group of Bloomfield Hills. It conducts similar research for other automakers, and its findings have historically mirrored the results of research by J.D. Power and Associates, Consumer Reports and others.

Ford has been identified as a quality leader by those organizations as well.

"To become the No. 1 automaker in terms of customer satisfaction with vehicle quality is an amazing accomplishment and testament to the whole company's commitment to quality," said Bennie Fowler, Ford's global quality czar. "All the third parties' studies are showing the same thing: Ford now has world-class quality."

Ford said its customer satisfaction scores are now significantly higher than all other full-line automotive manufacturers, including Asian and European automakers, citing the RDA results.

They showed Ford has the fewest number of vehicle defects, or "things gone wrong," after the first three months of ownership -- 1,107 issues per 1,000 vehicles -- an 8 percent improvement over last year.

Ford said further proof of its quality gains comes from its warranty claims. Repair rates for vehicles in the first three months of service have dropped by more than 40 percent over the past three years, the company said.

"Ford has proven its commitment to quality by demonstrating steady improvements through consistency and discipline." said Donald Pietrowski, president of the RDA Group. "Those improvements are clearly reflected in rising customer satisfaction with its products."

His company said Ford vehicles had the highest customer satisfaction in eight segments, the highest being the Fusion Hybrid with 93 percent and Ford Taurus with 92 percent. Other segment leaders were:

• Mercury Milan Hybrid

• Ford Focus

• Mercury Mountaineer

• Ford Expedition

• Lincoln Navigator

• Ford Ranger

The last four are older products that have not seen a significant redesign in years.

"While we are proud of the progress we've made, we know how important it is to keep the momentum going," Fowler said. "We can never be satisfied."


Ontario’s battle with pharmacies just a skirmish in light
of what’s to come

By the looks of things, it’s the medical profession
that will soon be in the Liberals’ sights

Globe & Mail - Adam Radwanski
April 19, 2010

Believe it or not, this is the easy part.

Bruising though it may be, the Ontario government’s fight with pharmacies is eminently winnable compared to what will come next in its uphill battle to rein in soaring health-care expenses.

Although a few hundred million dollars in generic drug savings is nothing to sneeze at, prescription costs are a relatively small piece of the spending puzzle. And part of the reason Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals are going after them so aggressively is to signal to the bigger puzzle pieces that, unlike in the past, they’re prepared to play hardball.

Not that Health Minister Deb Matthews is likely to wind up accusing doctors of “holding Ontarians hostage” – that would probably be less effective than levelling the charge against Shoppers Drug Mart. But by most appearances, it’s the medical profession that will soon be in the Liberals’ sights.

That will mean, in part, a fight over salaries – Ms. Matthews’s moderately reassuring words last week notwithstanding. The rather generous contract that the Ontario Medical Association signed with the province in 2008, which gave doctors a 12.25-per-cent increase over four years, expires in 2012. But negotiations, or at least posturing, will heat up well before the October, 2011, provincial election. (Given the blanketing of the area around the provincial legislature with OMA ads, one could argue the posturing has already started.)

But the Liberals’ aims seem to involve more than straightforward compensation issues.

For one thing, they want to shift some of doctors’ more basic responsibilities to less well-paid nurses, nurse practitioners and pharmacists – changes to which the OMA is resistant.

And then there will be the talk about “best practices” – code for making health care more efficient by changing some of the fundamental ways that physicians go about their work.

The system as constructed gives doctors a great deal of discretion in how they diagnose and treat ailments. And it contains very few incentives to be cost-efficient.

So long as it’s not going to do any physical harm, there’s really no reason for doctors not to give as many test referrals, or write as many prescriptions, as required to make patients feel they’ve been well-served.

To demonstrate the consequence, government officials are fond of citing magnetic resonance imaging as an example. The Liberals say they spent considerable sums to buy new MRI machines. But increased access has led to more unnecessary referrals, so waiting times haven’t gone down much.

In a single-payer system, these are very difficult habits to change. And further complicating matters is the health-related scandal that overtook Queen’s Park last year.

The eHealth Ontario controversy, over expenses and untendered contracts, has mostly faded from the headlines. But it had a lasting effect in two ways that will impact clinical reform.

First, it set back the already long-delayed digitalization of the province’s health records. That means the government still has trouble collecting data on patient outcomes, which makes it harder to know how to improve efficiency.

At the same time, eHealth also cost the Liberals the services of Alan Hudson – the high-profile neurosurgeon who served as the government’s emissary in many dealings with the medical community.

His absence reinforces the biggest barrier to any government reforms of medical practices: Doctors who have spent a staggering amount of time learning and honing their craft understandably have little interest in taking instructions from politicians or bureaucrats.

With Dr. Hudson no longer in the picture, the Liberals will have to enlist other allies. They promised in last month’s Throne Speech to create an “independent, expert advisory body to provide recommendations on clinical practice guidelines,” but it remains to be seen whether they’ll succeed in recruiting top-flight medical professionals.

Time will tell, too, if the Liberals have the stomach for much of this before the next campaign, or will try to defer until after it. But it can only be so long before the next front in the health costs battle becomes clear.


Toyota to pay $16.4M fine
over safety recalls

NHTSA penalized automaker over delay on sticky pedal issue

David Shepardson / Detroit News Washington Bureau
April 19, 2010

Washington -- A Transportation Department official confirmed late Sunday that Toyota has agreed to pay $16.4 million for delaying a recall of vehicles with defective gas pedals by at least four months.

Toyota will have 30 days to make the record payment.

"By paying the full civil penalty, Toyota is accepting responsibility for hiding this safety defect from NHTSA in violation of the law," said a senior Transportation Department official Sunday with knowledge of the agreement but who was not authorized to speak on the record.

It's not clear what the final language of the agreement will say. Toyota is not expected to admit wrongdoing or liability, the official said. More than 200 lawsuits have been filed against the company over its handling of sudden acceleration recalls and it hopes to prevent lawyers from using the decision to pay the penalty against it in court cases.

Toyota faces a deadline today set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which on April 5 sought to impose the maximum civil penalty allowed under law for failing to disclose problems with 2.3 million sticky accelerator pedals for at least four months.

The Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun reported in a story posted Sunday afternoon that Toyota was considering paying the fine "in an effort to avoid a resurgence of criticism by the U.S. public" and that "Toyota likely will come to conclude that paying the penalty is unavoidable to put the situation behind it."

Toyota declined to comment ahead of a final signed agreement.

Toyota still faces a criminal investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office in New York, and the Securities and Exchange Commission is also investigating its handling of sudden acceleration claims and its recall of 8.5 million vehicles worldwide. Toyota is also expected to turn over tens of thousands of additional pages of records on Monday to NHTSA, which could still impose additional fines over its handling of other recalls.

So far, Toyota has turned over more than 120,000 pages of records to NHTSA in its investigations of its sudden acceleration recalls.

After reviewing Toyota's records, NHTSA said Toyota knew that it had a problem with accelerator pedals that required fixing since at least Sept. 29, but failed to recall the vehicles until January.

"We now have proof that Toyota failed to live up to its legal obligations," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said April 5. "Worse yet, they knowingly hid a dangerous defect for months from U.S. officials and did not take action to protect millions of drivers and their families."

Auto manufacturers are legally obligated to notify NHTSA within five business days if they determine a defect exists.

NHTSA outlined its findings in a six-page letter to Toyota and gave the company until today to respond. NHTSA said it would go to court to impose the fine if Toyota raised objections.

The $16.375 million penalty is the maximum NHTSA can levy under law.

Previously, its largest fine was $1 million against General Motors in 2004 for failing to disclose a defect with windshield wipers in 600,000 vehicles for more than two years.

Toyota could face more fines as the agency continues to investigate.

The fine against Toyota comes just six weeks after NHTSA launched an investigation into the timeliness and scope of the automaker's three recent recalls.

Toyota has separately recalled 5.4 million vehicles over gas pedal entrapment issues, with some vehicles covered by both actions.

NHTSA Administrator David Strickland told The Detroit News in an interview on Friday that Toyota officials had been "untruthful" during a Jan. 19 meeting about problems with the sticky pedals.


Ford's diamond in the rough

Fire-breathing F-150 SVT Raptor knows how to sink its claws into dirt
2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor 4X4 Supercab

Jeremy Cato - Globe & Mail

Apr. 18, 2010

There is a big, scary, orange Raptor in front of my house. It's there because when I pulled into my driveway, our ferocious German Shepherd, a former police dog, went nuts. Crazy. Howling and barking and snarling.

And that's before I told Pax the price. With options, that Raptor, a special edition F-150 from Ford's in-house skunk works, the Special Vehicle Team (SVT), stickers for $56,649.


The Ford Raptor: No fear

This beast is a hardcore, rock-crawling ride. See for yourself

ViewView Raptor

Sure, there are some extras on board – $1,300 moon roof, $1,300 graphics package, $2,300 Sony navigation system, $350 box extender, $500 rearview camera and $500 orange accents – but even the base Raptor starts at $48,299.

So in an effort to calm the hound, I parked the Raptor out of sight, behind the big trees in front. But there is really no hiding this beast. With big tires, a wide stance, killer colours and a snarly, 320-horsepower V-8 under the hood, this pickup takes your breath away and leaves an otherwise intimidating animal panting and in fear of his life.

Actually, it's also taken away the breath of at least 5,300 buyers and counting. Ford Motor says is has that many orders – so far – for the F-150 SVT Raptor off-road pickup. Ford types say orders have “exceeded our expectations.”

And the bottom line padding is welcome at Ford, no question. How pleased is Ford to have found an audience for such a hardcore, rock-crawling ride? Well, a Raptor costs $23,700 more than the base F-150 ($24,599). With the Raptor, Ford is enjoying a quick and small-scale return to Detroit's golden age of high-profit trucks from a decade ago.

Ford, it seems quite clear, has learned its lessons about relying on trucks for profits and survival. A broadening lineup of fuel-efficient passenger cars such as the upcoming Ford Fiesta subcompact are proof of that. So is Ford's reliance on its turbocharging/direct-injection EcoBoost system to squeeze V-8 power from V-6 engines with the commensurate fuel economy.

But there is a small, die-hard pool of buyers who get weak at the knees and short of breath when they see trucks like the Raptor. At our house, well, the dog just thinks some strange, big animal is posing a threat.

Ford officials say this Raptor is proving so popular, the auto maker wound up building more 5.4-litre V-8 models (320 hp) than originally anticipated – and the order banks are now open and filling up for the all-new 6.2-litre V-8 version (411 hp).

About half the orders are for black trucks, followed by orange, white and blue. Who would want this truck in white or blue remains a mystery to thinking people. Orange or black only, please.

Whatever colour, it seems unlikely that most buyer will actually bang around in the desert or slosh through mud bogs in such a pricey ride. Those that do, however, should not be disappointed. Ford's engineers point to the worst kind of back-country rocking and say, “Bring it on.”

In fact, the idea behind this rig is simple: high-speed off-road racer. Ford's PR types are quick to point out that a pre-production version placed third in its class in the legendary Baja 1000 race. So Ford's claim that the Raptor can bang along unpaved stretches at 190 km/h looks credible, if not exactly inviting.

And on pavement it's livable – as much as a pickup shod with BF Goodrich All-Terrain TA/KO 315/70-17 knobby tires, and boasting 340 mm (13.4 inches) of usable rear suspension travel (as well as 284 mm or 11.2 inches in front) can be.

What you cannot see is even more important to the off-roading and has just as much impact in the city: a chassis with a heavy-duty suspension, new half-shaft joints and Fox Racing Shox – what the Baja cognoscenti know as “internal bypass” shocks. They get stiffer as the shocks travel, preventing the truck from bottoming out with a thunk when you launch it over a small cliff.

Ford Canada has about 550 of these Raptors for sale, but you'll need to frequent one of the dealers certified to handle SVT vehicles. They'll all tell you the same thing: if you want this truck in Canada, you'll pay the all-in price that includes a standard Luxury Package of dual-zone automatic climate control, 10-way heated leather seats with memory, auto-dimming exterior mirror, power-adjustable pedals and six-CD stereo.

So the luxury goods are non-negotiable, along with all sorts of other basics. That is, the Raptor starts as an F-150 Super Cab with the short box, which means it's a short-wheelbase pickup.

The look, meanwhile, includes a grille stamped with a huge Ford logo, big, slightly rounded fenders and a body that is 178 mm wider than a standard F-series. How wide is that? Wide enough to require moulded LED clearance lights in the four corners. Three more decorate the grille. You also get tow hooks front and rear, cast aluminum running boards, Raptor-specific bumpers and skid plate, hood vents and SVT-badged side vents. It's the whole package, believe me and believe Pax.

Inside, Ford has loaded up with SVT gauges, special instrument panel trim, available two-tone leather seats and a Raptor-specific steering wheel.

If you're serious, you can punch buttons for sport and off-road modes. Play with them to optimize the traction control, turn off the electronic stability control, and dial back the antilock brakes to stop more effectively on gravel or sand.

Like other F-150s, the package includes an integrated trailer brake controller. For those buyers who might want to add a winch or a light rack, Ford has pre-wired the truck into four console-mounted auxiliary switches. Also standard is hill descent control, which allows one to crawl down a grade sans brakes; an electronic locking differential, or E-locker; and a tow rating of 2,721 kg. If you do tow, though that hardly seems the point here, Ford includes something called trailer sway control (to keep your trailer from swinging wildly) and tow/haul mode, which adjusst gearing to your needs and the grade of the roadway.

If this list of trucker gear is baffling, if you are struggling to keep your eyes from rolling back into your head with either boredom or confusion, then you are not a Raptor buyer and surely never will be. But there is a hard-core group who live to own this truck. My bet is they'll love what Ford has done here.



Type: Full specialty pickup

Price: $49,799

Engine: 5.4-litre V-8

Horsepower/torque: 329 hp/390 lb-ft

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Drive: Rear-drive and part-time four-wheel-drive

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 15.7 city/11.3 highway; regular gas

Globe rating for the 2010 Ford F-150

  • 8


    In the sand or the muck, the Raptor is hugely capable and designed to be comfortable for 1,000 miles at a crack. But when the roads are paved, there is no suffering here.

  • 8.5


    Ford has put together a pickup that looks the part of a serious Baja racer. It's big and bold and scary-looking.

  • 8


    The seats are brilliant and the controls are comprehensive. The cabin design is a mix of industrial seriousness and enthusiast styling. Love the location, on the console, of the pre-wired auxiliary switches.

  • 8.5


    If size matters in creating a safe ride, this is one of the safest rides you can get. It's huge.

  • 6


    Come on, this is not about fuel economy and a minimalist approach to putting a footprint on the planet.

  • 8


    (out of 10 / Not an average)


Ford says auto future
hinges on electric car
Ford Motor Executive Chairman Bill Ford talked about the automaker's commitment to fuel efficiency and innovation. "The majority of our efforts are aimed at fuel-economy leadership," Ford said.

Technological advances to make eco-friendly vehicles mainstream

April 17, 2010

Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford closed out the SAE World Congress on Thursday with an endorsement of the future of electric vehicles.

"All the early cars were electric," said Ford, great-grandson of company founder Henry Ford, at the engineers' conference. "They've been around really for the past century or so, but they really haven't had mass-market appeal."

• Ford beats VW, takes No. 1 spot in Europe

But Ford said the automotive industry is rapidly changing.

Ford, an ardent environmentalist who worked for years to change the carmaker's culture so that it would embrace environmental goals, said new technology makes it possible to introduce electric vehicles that appeal to mainstream consumers.

"It appears that the biggest game-changer will be electric vehicles," Ford said during a speech in Detroit. "Our plan includes the introduction of five new high-mileage vehicles."

Ford said the automotive industry must introduce more fuel-efficient vehicles in order to meet the challenges of diminishing oil reserves, global warming and a desire by customers to spend less money on gas.

"The majority of our efforts are aimed at fuel-economy leadership," Ford said. "We want to provide affordable fuel economy for millions of customers."

Over the next three years, Ford plans to introduce a Transit Connect Electric commercial van, a Ford Focus electric vehicle, two new gasoline-electric hybrids and a plug-in hybrid.

Ford also said the company is committed to improving the fuel economy of all of its new vehicles.

This summer, Ford plans to launch the Ford Fiesta subcompact car. Ford has said it expects the Fiesta will get 40 m.p.g. on the highway and 30 m.p.g. in city driving.

Ford also is introducing technology in the car to help drivers get the most out of their vehicles.

On Thursday, Ford announced that the company is adding a new feature for the company's navigation software called Eco-Route.

Eco-Route will map the most fuel-efficient route to a destination and can help drivers achieve fuel-economy gains of up to 15%, the company said.

The feature is part of Ford's MyFord Touch, a new system that controls all entertainment, climate and information systems in the company's vehicle.

In addition to introducing new technology, Ford is gaining market share both in the U.S. and Europe. Ford's stock closed Thursday at $13.76 per share, up 41 cents from its close on Wednesday and more than four times higher than its 52-week low of $3.27 per share.

The company, which typically reports first-quarter earnings at the end of April, is expected to report a profit of 30 cents per share, according to a survey of 12 analysts by Thomson One Analytics.

"Nobody is getting cocky, or overconfident," Ford said. "Because, frankly, we've only taken baby steps on the long journey to where we really need to go."


Ford beats VW, takes
No. 1 spot in Europe

But March success unlikely to continue, some expect

April 16, 2010

Ford, which said Thursday that it was No. 1 in European auto sales in March, used the occasion to say it opposes European aid for General Motors' struggling Opel unit.

You should not use taxpayer money to restructure your business," said Wolfgang Schneider, vice president of legal and government affairs for Ford of Europe.

The comments were in contrast to U.S. automakers' ordinarily cordial public stances toward each other. Ford, for instance, never criticized U.S. aid for GM and Chrysler during the recession.

GM, having abandoned plans to sell Opel, is seeking about $2.7 billion in loans and guarantees from European governments.

"We're applying for loan guarantees, not grants," said Opel spokesman Stefan Weinmann. "It's not a handout."

Ford also called for closure of some auto plants in Europe.

With sales expected to decline by about 8% in Europe this year, automakers could drop prices to spur sales and keep their factories running, said Michael Robinet, an analyst at the research firm CSM Worldwide.

"That really hurts margins for everybody," Robinet said.

No. 1 in Europe
Ford unseated Volkswagen, but it might have a hard time holding onto that position.

Ford said that sales of its cars and trucks increased 16.1% in its 19 primary markets compared with the same month last year. That result outpaced the industry's 11.5% increase.

"Ford in Europe has weathered the storm quite well," said Walt Madeira, manager of vehicle forecasting for CSM Worldwide. "Ford has fresh product, like the Fiesta, and the Focus is still holding its ground."

But Pete Kelly, senior director of European forecasting for J.D. Power and Associates, said Ford's sales were aided by a license-plate registration law in Britain that always spurs a spike in vehicle sales in March. Britain, Ford's largest European market, accounted for 37.7% of total sales in March.

Ford also has benefited in Europe from government incentive programs similar to last summer's U.S. cash-for-clunkers program.

Those programs are the most attractive to buyers of small cars, Kelly said, and have helped to fuel sales of the Ford Fiesta and Ka subcompacts.

Ford said it sold 68,800 Fiestas in Europe in March -- the highest total for any Ford model on record in a single month in Europe. Ford plans to begin selling the Fiesta in North America by early summer.

Meanwhile, sales of the Ford Focus increased 28.6% and sales of the Ka increased 27%.

But the incentives, called scrappage programs in Europe, expired in Britain in March and are to be phased out in Spain, Italy and France throughout 2010, making it hard for Ford to stay on top.

"In April, they will probably slip," Kelly said.

On Thursday, Ford called on European governments to consider adopting incentives to spur commercial fleet sales.

"The basic idea ... is that scrappage programs would be in place until the crisis has ended," said Wolfgang Schneider, Ford of Europe's vice president of legal and government affairs.

Ford said it expects total industry sales of cars and trucks in Europe to decline to 14.5 million this year, down from 15.8 million last year.

Ford also said Thursday that, as sales decline, Europe's longstanding overcapacity problem will become a bigger issue and criticized governments for propping up their own automakers.

"It basically sustains national champions ... this does not bode well for the overall health of the industry," Schneider said. "It maintains weak players that shouldn't be players."

But industry analysts said it is highly unlikely that many automotive plants will close in Europe because labor laws make it easier for unions to protect jobs than in the U.S.

Volume 40, No. 15 – April 16, 2010

Labour Solidarity Critical for Union Density, Says Lewenza

In a wide ranging address to CAW Council on April 9, CAW President Ken Lewenza urged delegates to build labour solidarity, including working with other unions and engaging non-unionized workers on the importance of getting organized.

“Union density in Canada continues to slip, from 30 per cent to what is now about 28 per cent, and this is a trend that must turn around if we are to promote progressive values and ideals and stand up for the principles of social justice,” said Lewenza. “This cannot happen unless each of us understands our role as union organizers.”

Lewenza said that since being elected, he has encouraged labour affiliates, particularly in the province of Ontario, to put previous disputes behind them and focus on building strength in the labour movement.

This also includes supporting union shops and services. “If there is a unionized grocery store and a non-union grocery store, you belong in the unionized store. We need to educate our members on buying union.”

The Council celebrates the 10th anniversary of approximately 20,000 members opting to join the CAW from a U.S.-based union. The members work in health care, education, hospitality, gaming, retail and other sectors.

Sectoral bargaining

In Nova Scotia, the CAW worked closely with The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) to reach new collective agreements in the hospital sector. In Ontario, approximately 95 per cent of the hospital agreements have been bargained and overwhelmingly supported by union members, prior to the major wage restraint measures announced in the recent Ontario budget. In a meeting with Premier McGuinty, Lewenza stressed that any further cuts to government health care funding will lead to a massive strain on services and downward pressure on health care workers.

The union has several major rounds of long-term care home bargaining over the coming spring and summer months. “Nursing homes in Canada are doing incredibly well and we are reminding these employers that workers have a right to share in good times when companies are profitable,” said Lewenza.

In the auto industry, Lewenza thanked delegates for their support last year during the difficult restructuring period. Part of this restructuring has meant the loss of thousands of jobs, in particular the GM Transmission plant in Windsor will close in June of this year (represented by CAW Local 1973) and the Ford St. Thomas plant which is set to close in 2011 (represented by CAW Local 1520).

He commended the bargaining committee at CAMI Automotive in Ingersoll, Ontario which is back at full employment. He also commended the CAW Local 200, CAW Local 1285, CAW Local 707 and CAW Local 222 committees for their hard work in negotiating and ratifying new agreements which secured new investment.

In the auto parts industry, employers are taking total opportunity to press workers for more concessions, said Lewenza. The downward pressure is worsening. “We need a strategy to ensure one workplace doesn’t get pitted against another,” said Lewenza. Rank and file leaders from the auto parts sector will gather in Port Elgin for the Auto Parts Conference April 30-May 1.   

In the mining industry, CAW members in Sudbury recently ratified a new agreement with Xstrata. Currently, the company intends to close its Timmins Metallurgical operations. Lewenza, joined by a coalition of Northern Ontario mayors, federal and provincial politicians, met with Premier McGuinty and urged him to use the power of government to stop the closure. Similarly, the union is urging the government to reverse the closure announcement at the Siemens plant in Hamilton. “The provincial government must recognize that Siemens cannot close a plant and then turn around and bid on major government procurement projects,” said Lewenza.

In the airline industry, the recent Canada-European Union Air Transport Agreement, which will deregulate air travel between Canada and the 27 state EU, will create major downward pressure on airline workers. Since deregulation in the early 1990s, 25 airlines have gone bankrupt, including the recent example of Sky Service, whose workers are represented by CAW Local 2002.

In the rail sector, VIA Rail bargaining is ongoing while contract talks for both Canadian Pacific Rail (CP) and Canadian National Rail (CN) will open in the late summer and fall.     

In retail, Lewenza commended the recent arbitration award which saw workers at 21 PharmaPlus stores in the Ottawa area receive pay raises retroactively, which the company had been refusing to pay. 

In hospitality and gaming, the industry has been hard hit by the dramatic rise of the Canadian dollar. “We should be angry that our federal government sees a high Canadian dollar, driven up by a demand for Canadian natural resources, as advantageous,” said Lewenza.


There is one outstanding strike at St. Marys Cement in Bowmanville, Ontario over company demands to eliminate the pension plan. Lewenza urged all delegates to support the strikers and also to get involved in the effort to double the Canadian Pension Plan, a campaign orchestrated by the CLC.

Lewenza commended the mobilization in support of former Nortel workers that saw the Ontario government include money in the recent budget to protect members’ pensions. This wouldn’t have happened without action and it shouldn’t be taken for granted, Lewenza said. 

Lewenza also encouraged delegates to take on the issue of mental illness, an invisible epidemic effecting families and workplaces across the country. “The CAW is going to be an advocate on dispelling myths around mental illness.”

Lewenza also took up the issue of violence in the workplace, complimenting CAW Local 111, in Vancouver, B.C. for their campaign to bring in legislation protecting transit operators. On June 15, Bill 168 will come into effect in the province of Ontario where workers can refuse what they deem to be unsafe work, due to harassment or threats of violence, a great victory for working people, particularly women, said Lewenza.

Government Must Expand Pension Consultations

The federal government must expand the number of planned pension town hall consultations to ensure more Canadians have an opportunity to offer suggestions for pension reform in Canada.

In response to a recommendation issued by CAW President Ken Lewenza in his opening address to Council, delegates supported the call for Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to hold additional public town hall meetings to discuss long overdue pension reforms.  

Only three forums have been organized through the Federal Ministry of Finance. The first took place in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island on April 6. Upcoming forums are scheduled for Quebec City and Richmond, British Columbia (dates are still unknown).
“The only reason this government is even talking about pensions right now is because of the pressure being put on them through the campaign efforts of the labour movement,” said CAW Local 200 Financial Secretary Dave Crosswell.

But the government needs to do more, said Jenny Ahn, CAW Director of Membership Mobilization and Campaigns.

“It’s ridiculous that this government is soliciting such limited public input into one of the most critical and pressing issues facing Canadians, young and old,” Ahn said. She also urged delegates to speak to their Members of Parliament and Members of Legislative Assembly to push for changes to CPP legislation. In order to make necessary changes, seven provinces or provinces representing 51 per cent of the population must agree.

CAW retired workers executive committee chairperson Len Harrison challenged Council delegates to communicate, as strongly as possible, the union’s core retirement security campaign demands directly to Minister Flaherty and to their respective Members of Parliament.

“If we get the labour movement on our side there is no doubt we’ll win these pension reforms.”

In addition to a doubling of CPP benefits, the CAW is calling for an increase to the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) for Old Age Security pensions as well as a national pension benefit insurance fund.

For more information on the Retirement Security for Everyone campaign, please visit: http://www.caw.ca/en/7978.htm

CAW Supports 350.org, Global Climate Campaign

CAW Council is supporting the 350.org campaign – an international campaign aimed at building a global movement to tackle the climate crisis that demands global leaders work to return atmospheric greenhouse gas levels to 350 ppm.

350 ppm is the number that leading climate scientists say is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide emissions, measured in “parts per million” in our atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is a major contributor to global warming and climate change.

“This resolution gives our union another tool and another opportunity to move an aggressive environmental agenda forward, through each of our workplace committees,” said Ken Bondy, CAW National Health and Safety Coordinator.

As global greenhouse gas emissions have grown consistently over the past century, it is believed current carbon emissions have already hit 387 ppm and growing. 

“We are heading toward a catastrophic scenario that will be too late to avoid if we do not act soon,” said Nick Decarlo, CAW Health, Safety and Environment staff representative.

350.org, which began in 2007, has gained international attention for its unique and creative campaign efforts to raise awareness of climate change that has included mass rallies, aerial photos at iconic global landmarks, skiers descending a melting glacier and protests held underwater.

Temporary Foreign Worker Program Fatally Flawed

Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker program promotes the exploitation of some of the most vulnerable workers in Canada, says Yessy Byl, an Alberta Federation of Labour advocate for temporary foreign workers. She urged the labour movement and others to fight to ensure that temporary foreign workers have the same rights as any other worker in Canada.

The current program leaves workers who are desperate to stay in Canada, at the mercy of employers and open to exploitation, said Byl, a labour lawyer. Under this program, including the ‘low skill’ pilot project, workers must remain with a specific employer, a specific job and at a specific location.

Byl was speaking to a CAW Council resolution that calls for a moratorium on the expansion of the Temporary Foreign Worker program and demands alternatives, including a fairer immigration system and a national consultation on Canada’s long-range labour market needs. 

“These people have no rights to stay in Canada – they have no labour mobility rights,” Byl said. She said employers use the Temporary Foreign Worker program to make a lot of money by exploiting the rights of these workers.
She said federal government policy has ensured that while regular immigration rates have flatlined, the number of temporary foreign workers in Canada has skyrocketed, doubling between 2004 and 2008 to 252,000.

She said the program divides workers from one another and very often promotes racism. “It sets up an ‘us and them’ scenario…that’s not the kind of Canada we want,” Byl said.

In addition the Temporary Foreign Worker program blatantly ignores the role of unions, collective bargaining rights and basic human rights. She urged union leadership to fight to ensure these workers have the same rights as other workers under a collective agreement.

CAW Council Observes  Day of Mourning

In advance of the April 28 Day of Mourning, CAW Council delegates participated in a special ceremony on April 10, in recognition of workers who have been injured or killed for reasons related to their work. Special recognition went to CAW members Artur Pelc,Robert Keough, Christopher McCarthy and Max Pittman who passed away in the last year because of work-related injuries. CAW Council donated $2,500 to Threads of Life.

Threads of Life Offers Hope to Families Struggling After a Workplace Fatality

Jim Sandford knows that many workers fear they will  be fired if they refuse unsafe work. Sandford is a volunteer speaker for the Threads of Life, a non-profit national organization dedicated to supporting families who have suffered a workplace fatality or life-altering illness or occupational disease.

“The fight for safety seems to be left to unions,” said Sandford, in an emotional address to CAW Council on April 10. “Companies have almost succeeded in convincing us that we’re entirely responsible for safety.”  

Sandford lost his son Jim to a workplace fatality on March 30, 2005, after he succumbed to an injury suffered from a fall down an elevator shaft, in London, ON.  Jim was working as an elevator mechanic, the same trade his father worked in since 1973. Sandford Sr. is a member of the International Union of Elevator Constructors.

An inquest following his son Jim’s death produced a number of recommendations that would make the trade safer and could have prevented Jim’s death.

To date, only one recommendation has been adopted, the rest have been caught up in government bureaucracy, said Sandford.

In his victim impact statement during the inquest, he spoke about how the death of his eldest son affected his entire family, devastating him and his wife. “Instead of watching our children grow up, we were forced to bury one of our babies.”

Jim left behind a young son, with whom Sandford spends time doing many of the same outdoor activities he used to enjoy with his own son.

Since Jim’s death, Sandford has gotten involved in Threads of Life and said that the family forums, discussion groups and workshops offered by the organization have had a tremendous impact on his family. He urged delegates to support the group and to continue advocating for safer workplaces.

Threads of Life will be holding walks in various locations across the country on May 2. To make a donation or find out how to sign up, please visit: http://www.stepsforlife.ca/

For more information on Threads of Life, please visit: http://www.threadsoflife.ca/threads.htm

Workers Must Take on the Harper Agenda, PSAC Urges

Public and private sector workers must join together to defeat the anti-worker agenda of the Stephen Harper Conservatives, Public Service Alliance of Canada President John Gordon says.

Gordon, president of the 172,000 member PSAC, told CAW Council delegates that many of the fights his members are struggling to overcome are the same as those facing CAW members.
Employers, whether they are private corporations or governments, are using the current economic crisis to attack workers’ wages, pensions, benefits and workplace rights, Gordon said.

“Workers are being scapegoated during this economic crisis,” Gordon said. He said the worldwide economic crisis has meant rising unemployment, poverty, racism and xenophobia. “But this crisis was precipitated by the greed and incompetence in the financial sector.”

Instead of tackling the real issues that created the crisis such as the need to strengthen regulations governing financial institutions, the government and private sector employers have learned no lessons and are intent on attacking workers, he said. He cautioned that the federal government and media are promoting deficit hysteria and are pushing to have cuts in public services and the sale of public assets as the only solutions to the crisis.

Gordon urged investment, not cuts; public need, not corporate greed; and he called for Made in Canada solutions that benefit all working people and families in Canada. “No one should be left standing alone. Your fight is our fight.”

Premier McGuinty Urged to Stop Closure of Xstrata Met Site

The Ontario government will set a dangerous precedent if it allows foreign mining giant Xstrata to close its high value-added Kidd Creek Met site and simply mine raw materials in Timmins, Ontario, CAW President Ken Lewenza says.

If Xstrata is allowed to close its Metallurgical site this summer costing 670 direct jobs and more than 4,400 indirect jobs, it will be a serious step backward for the province, Lewenza told Premier Dalton McGuinty at an April 8 meeting.

Lewenza urged McGuinty to ensure the highly profitable company continues to provide high value-added jobs at the Met site if it wants to continue extracting Ontario mineral resources.

A coalition of Northern Ontario Mayors, regional politicians and union representatives met with McGuinty to urge a halt to the closure of the Xstrata Metallurgical site. CAW Local 599 represents workers at the Met site.

Here is a summary of other points raised by Lewenza:

- Foreign mining giant Xstrata continues to make huge profits. “What the company digs out of the ground and processes in Timmins has a market value of some $1.6 billion per year – we know these operations are highly profitable. This is not about a company losing money and pulling back;”

- Smelters are needed to turn raw materials into metal. “Even at a time when metals companies are raking it in, smelting is not going to be the highest profit centre. But, critically, smelting is where we see the most value-added jobs, high tech investment and the greatest economic spin-off;”

- Xstrata makes profits from mining and smelting. Xstrata’s own forecasts show it expects healthy profits from both side of its operations - 85 per cent from the mine and 15 per cent from the smelter. “If a company makes hundreds of millions in profits from mining, but not as much on smelting, should they be allowed to simply close the smelter?”

- Contrary to claims there are not enough raw materials to keep the Met site running, the fact is just the opposite. “Very soon we will be in a position of exporting raw materials out of Canada, which is against even the lax rules under the current Ontario Mining Act.”

- The closure will devastate the community. “The economic impact, calculated by independent researchers, shows that for every job lost in the Timmins area, another three jobs are expected to be lost elsewhere in Ontario, bringing the total job loss above 4,400.” In addition, the closure of the Met site means the loss of $152 million in tax revenue annually.

- Ontario has the power to enforce change. “Even under the current Mining Act, which should be toughened up, the Ontario government has the power to insist on refining and processing in Canada and to approve new licences…we must send a signal that Ontario will insist on value-added jobs as part of the exchange for access to our resources.”

Download a letter to government demanding the closure be stopped at: http://www.caw.ca/en/8807.htm

New CAW Youth Committee Handbook – Now Available!

Interested in starting a local union youth committee and not sure where to start? Are you currently active on a youth committee and looking for new ideas, new activities and some inspiration? Do you want to learn more about the CAW Youth Project and find other important CAW resources?

Check out the new CAW Local Union Youth Committee Handbook – the all-you-need-to-know guide for developing strong, engaged, and active committees.

The Youth Committee handbook was officially unveiled at the spring 2010 CAW Youth Network meeting in Ingersoll, Ontario and is the first of its kind for the CAW.

To order copies of the handbook, please email youth@caw.ca

Governments Must Help Secure Northern Rail Lines, CAW Says

Rail infrastructure is too important to the economic and social well being of Northern Ontario to be either abandoned or underfunded and the CAW is joining with North Bay Council in calling for provincial and federal assistance.

A recent motion by North Bay council calling on the provincial and federal governments to rescue Northern Ontario rail lines from possible closure by Canadian Pacific highlights a major concern facing northern communities and workers.

Canadian Pacific is either actively looking or is expected to begin searching for operators to lease a number of key rail lines in Ontario’s northeast. These include lines running between Smith Falls and Sudbury, Petawawa and Mattawa and between Temiscaming and Sudbury.

“The provincial government should mandate its own railway, the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC) to play a larger role in the region by providing it with the tools to expand into the areas that are now threatened by abandonment,” said Brian Kelly, Ontario Northland General Chairpersons’ Association spokesperson.

“The ONTC has played a huge role in developing the northeast (of Ontario) and we are certain it can do the same in other regions of the north. It is the only long term solution that can truly deal with this crisis,” said Kelly, also President of CAW Local 103.

Tom Murphy, president of CAW Local 101 representing 2,700 CP rail workers, said a national rail system was key to the founding of a strong, united country that linked communities from coast to coast, including many smaller, isolated and remote communities.

“A national rail system remains critical to the continued economic development of Canada and especially smaller communities,” said Murphy. “Government has a critical role to play in maintaining strong, vibrant rail links from coast-to-coast. Municipal governments in Northern Ontario have long recognized this and provincial and federal governments need to follow suit.”

Contract Talks Break Off With Ocean Choice International 

Contract talks between the CAW/FFAW and fish processor Ocean Choice International have broken off after conciliation meetings in St. John’s, Newfoundland reached an impasse.

The union requested March 26 that the conciliator file her report to the Newfoundland and Labrador Minister of Labour.

FFAW/CAW chief negotiator Ben Baker said OCI locals will be in a legal strike position – and a legal lock-out position – on April 20.

“Our committee is extremely disappointed with the attitude of the company towards reaching a meaningful collective agreement for the future,” said Baker. He said the union would be willing to restart talks if the company revised its position on wages and term of the collective agreement.

The CAW/FFAW represents workers at six Ocean Choice International fish processing plants in Newfoundland.


Toyota to conduct safety
tests on all SUV models

April 15, 2010

Toyota will conduct safety tests on all its sport-utility vehicle models after halting sales of its 2010 Lexus GX 460 following concerns over the vehicle's stability.

The company, which has issued a series of recalls over unrelated problems with other cars, said it had yet to decide whether to ask customers to return the GX 460 SUV, sold mainly in North America but also in the Middle East, Russia and some other nations.

Toyota had already stopped selling the GX 460 in North America on Tuesday within hours of the latest warnings.

The company says it does not yet know what the possible problems could be, but was working on it so that Consumer Reports would be able to retest the GX 460 and give it a satisfactory rating.

"We are now testing the GX 460 to determine if any problem exists," said Paul Nolasco, a Toyota spokesman in Tokyo. "If we find a problem, we will fix it."

Toyota said it sold about 6,000 of the GX 460 worldwide - 5,400 of them in North America. Its other SUVs, including the RAV4 and Land Cruiser and 4Runner.

Since October, Toyota has recalled more than 8 million vehicles worldwide and has promised to be more transparent and responsive to consumer complaints.



UAW's Gettelfinger talks up Big 3

Louis Aguilar / The Detroit News
April 15, 2010

The head of the United Auto Workers praised the leadership of Detroit's Big Three and hopes that this year's seasonally adjusted annual sales rate for light vehicles comes in at 12 million to 12.5 million.

Speaking at Wayne State University this afternoon, Ron Gettelfinger said he is "very, very optimistic" about the fate of Chrysler Group LLC, thinks General Motors Co. is "coming on strong" and that Ford Motor Co. is "hitting on all cylinders."

The relationship between the union and the CEOs of the Detroit automakers -- Chrysler's Sergio Marchionne, GM's Ed Whitacre and Ford's Alan Mulally -- is quite strong, he said. Gettelfinger highlighted Chrysler's decision to rescue the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant from being permanently shut, though he shied away from saying how long it will remain open.

Gettelfinger also described President Barack Obama as "doing the impossible" in helping to save GM and Chrysler.

Ford incentives down, revenue up

Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News
April 14, 2010

Detroit -- Ford Motor Co. made more money from car and truck sales in the first quarter than it did during the same period last year, Ford Americas President Mark Fields said Tuesday.

The boost came despite a big increase in discounts by archrival Toyota Motor Corp., which is struggling to win back customers in the wake of high-profile recalls.

"Not only did we have balanced share growth, but year-over-year, our incentives were down and our revenue was up," Fields told reporters Tuesday following a speech at the Automotive Industry Breakfast sponsored by the law firm of Dawda Mann of Bloomfield Hills.

Ford gained 2.7 percentage points of market share in the United States in the first three months of 2010, he said.

"The last time we had a share increase that big for a quarter was in 1977," Fields said. "I did some research. 'Saturday Night Fever' was just being launched in theaters, along with 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind.' So it's been a long time."

Analyst Art Spinella of CNW Marketing Research in Bandon, Ore., said Ford has had to match some of Toyota's attractive lease offers, but it has been able to hold the line on incentives because consumers now see its products in a different light.

"Consumer perception of Ford's quality and the value of its vehicle really has improved," Spinella said. "You don't need big incentives to convince customers to buy if they think your cars are already a good deal. That's increasingly the case at Ford. But that's not the case with many GM products still, and it's certainly not the case with Chrysler."

Fields would not provide any more details about the company's financial performance because it is in its "quiet period" ahead of its formal earnings announcement.

"Our intent for this year is to be profitable in North America, profitable in automotive and profitable as a company," he said.

Ford surprised Wall Street with a $2.7 billion profit last year after a record loss of nearly $14.7 billion in 2008.

Ford's stock Tuesday closed up 2 cents at $12.79 a share.



  • Ford's dramatic gains in quality are contributing to a 23 percent year-over-year improvement in resale value of Ford vehicles with one to five years on the road – outpacing the industry average by 4 percentage points
  • On average, the redesigned 2010 Ford Taurus is selling 50 percent higher at auction than the 2009 Taurus after one year in service
  • Ford has reduced its warranty repair rates on vehicles in their first three months of service by an average of more than 40 percent in each major business region around the world in the past three years
  • Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles' initial quality in the U.S. has improved for five straight years. Ford vehicles now have the fewest number of defects of any full-line manufacturer

DEARBORN, Mich., April 13, 2010 – The resale value of newer Ford Motor Company vehicles rose 23 percent in the past year alone, the result of stronger demand for Ford's new vehicle lineup and improved quality and durability ratings.

At the same time, warranty repair rates on Ford vehicles have declined by an average of more than 40 percent globally in the past three years.

Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles with one to five years on the road are fetching significantly higher resale values at auction in the first quarter of this year compared to the first quarter a year ago. Overall, the resale value of Ford's three brands at auction rose 23 percent from a year ago to outpace the industry, which saw resale values increase by 19 percent, according to the latest North American Dealers Association auction data.

"Wholesale price performance was extremely strong throughout 2009, and during this period Ford, Lincoln and Mercury products matched or exceeded the performance of the overall market," said Tom Webb, chief economist, Manheim Consulting, the world's largest provider of automotive remarketing services. "And, in 2010, Ford products have outperformed the overall market, especially in the increasingly important segments of compact cars, midsize cars and crossover vehicles."

For example, on average, the redesigned 2010 Ford Taurus is selling 50 percent higher at auction than the 2009 Taurus after one year in service. Similarly, the 2010 Ford Fusion V-6 commanded 26 percent more at auction than the 2009 model after one year in service.

"Wholesale used vehicle prices have generally been firming over the last year and a half; however, the price performance of Ford products has generally exceeded that of the market as a whole," said Tom Kontos, executive vice president, Customer Strategies and Analytics, ADESA Analytical Services, which is a used vehicle auction network.

Rising resale values means more money in customers' pockets when it is time to sell or trade in for a new vehicle. Combine these savings with lower repair and maintenance costs and better fuel economy, and the cost to own a Ford product drops dramatically over the life of the vehicle.

Aggressive product refreshenings

Fuelling Ford's improved resale value is the company's strong vehicle lineup that includes many new and redesigned cars and trucks. Ford gained market share in the U.S. last year, while improving transaction prices.

Strong retail performance, in both transaction price and sales of a new product, serves as an early indicator of that product's future resale value. When combined with Ford's quality rankings, these factors help Ford vehicles hold their value.

"The positive reception by consumers of our recent product introductions and freshening is reflected in our higher transaction prices and increased market share," said Jim Farley, Ford's group vice president of Global Marketing.

Laser-like Focus on quality

Ford performance in third-party consumer quality rankings has been steadily improving for the past several years. Years of a consistent and disciplined focus on quality is paying off, including a marked decline in warranty repair rates.

Ford has reduced its warranty repair rates on vehicles in their first three months of service by an average of more than 40 percent in every major business region around the world in the past three years.

Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles' initial quality in the U.S. has improved for five straight years. Ford vehicles now have the fewest number of defects of any full-line manufacturer, according to the GQRS study conducted by RDA Group.

For Ford customers, this means fewer trips to the dealership for repairs. This also means savings for Ford as the company has reduced its warranty repair costs by $1 billion in the past three years.

"We are operating with a truly dedicated discipline to quality," said Bennie Fowler, Ford group vice president, Global Quality. "The results are paying off for our customers with fewer trips to the dealership and a higher satisfaction with the Ford, Lincoln or Mercury product they purchase."

As Ford's newest vehicles hit the road, company officials expect resale values to continue to improve and warranty claims to continue to decline.

Ford's commitment to world-class quality and a positive ownership experience extends beyond just preventing things that go wrong. Customer-driven product features, such as fuel economy, craftsmanship, quiet interiors and high-tech in-car communications systems are designed into the vehicle to deliver an exceptional product at an affordable price.

"The difference in Ford's products today is significant," says Farley. "We're proud of the progress we've made. It feels good to be able to deliver great-looking vehicles and industry-leading quality at an affordable price in every sense of the word."


Ford to harvest product
ideas from Web

Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News
April 13, 2010

Ford Motor Co. is creating a "idea portal" on its Web site, to give consumers the opportunity to suggest new features, allow others to critique them and vote for which ones should be considered by Ford's product development team.

The new "Your Ideas" section of its Ford Story Web site -- www.thefordstory.com -- is scheduled to go live today, and Ford Americas President Mark Fields is to discuss the company's plans for the Web during a speech at the Automotive Industry Breakfast in Detroit this morning. He said it is designed to elevate the customer connections Ford has made through that site.

"The Ford Story has connected with customers because it's a place where Ford is sharing its successes and challenges in a more open and transparent way," Fields said.

"We now see it as a platform to further the conversation driving innovative ideas, just as we engage others outside of the automotive sector, such as university students for research, suppliers for their expertise, and other industry leaders."

The Ford Story site has logged 2.6 million visits since it went live in 2008, providing updates on the company's turnaround efforts.

Users will be able to discuss each other's ideas and vote for their favorites. Those that receive the most votes will be considered by Ford's advanced product planning and marketing teams.

"It's a very cool idea. They'll probably get a million crazy ideas, but there's always that one nugget that comes through that you've never really thought of," said analyst Erich Merkle of Autoconomy.com.

But he said the real benefit is to Ford's brand image. "It gets the customer involved," he said. "When people feel as though their ideas are being heard, they're much more likely to become a fan of Ford -- and, at some point, that translates into a sale."

There are no plans to reward or compensate participants. Ford stressed that this is not a contest, but part of its market research aimed at finding out what consumers want in their next car or truck.

"Ford continues to innovate when it comes to engaging consumers in what's next for Ford cars and trucks," said Joe Pierucci, head of the global advanced product strategy team at Ford. "We are enhancing traditional consumer market research, studies and focus groups by turning to the social Web as an innovative way of generating new vehicle feature ideas."

For New website click here

Retiree Peter Mieczaniec
Passes Away

It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of our
retiree Peter Mieczaniec. Our deepest condolences go out to his family.

Peter Mieczaniec
Peter Mieczaniec
Retired February 1, 2006
   36. 6 Years or Service

MIECZANIEC, Peter Roy - (Longtime Employee of the Ford Motor Company, Bramalea) Passed away peacefully after a courageous battle with cancer at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Barrie on Friday, April 9, 2010. Peter Mieczaniec of Barrie and formerly of Oakville, was in his 65th year. Beloved husband of Sandra. Loving father of Graeme. Dear brother of Winnifred, Mary (Stan), Ed (Carol), Jack (Mary), Joan (Robin), Rose and Margaret. Predeceased by his mother Veronica and his brothers Tom, Bill and Stan. Peter will be sadly missed by many nieces, nephews and friends. Friends may call at the Innisfil Funeral Home, 7910 Yonge Street (Stroud) (705-431-1717), on Monday 7-9 p.m. Service in the chapel on Tuesday, April 13, 2010 from 10 a.m. until the time of the service at 11 a.m. Cremation. Memorial donations to the RVH Regional Cancer Care Centre would be appreciated. Words of comfort may be forwarded to the family by visiting www.innisfilfuneralhome.ca


Ford to bump up EcoBoost production

Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News
April 12, 2010

Ford Motor Co. is raising its production projections for its EcoBoost engines and now expects to produce about 1.5 million annually by 2013.

That is about 200,000 more than originally expected. Ford's plan calls for the fuel-saving motors to be available on 80 percent of its nameplates globally and 90 percent of its North American nameplates.

"We are focused on sustainable technology solutions that can be used, not for hundreds or thousands of cars, but for millions of cars, because that's how Ford will truly make a difference," said Barb Samardzich, Ford's vice president of powertrain engineering.

She is expected to provide more details of EcoBoost production plans at the Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress in Detroit on Tuesday.


Ford battery pack plant to bring
new jobs to Ypsilanti Twp.

Ypsilanti Twp. plant lands plum Ford work

Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News
April 11, 2010

Ford Motor Co. will build battery packs for its new generation of electrified vehicles at its Rawsonville Components Plant in Ypsilanti Township -- part of a $450 million investment that will bring new jobs to the area and protect hundreds of others.

The news was announced in a letter to hourly workers at the factory last week.

Details about the timing and staffing are being negotiated between the company and the United Auto Workers, according to the letter signed by Rawsonville Plant Manager Kirk Wurtzel and Joel Goddard, chairman of UAW Local 898, which represents workers at the factory.

"This is a huge deal for our plant and the community," said local President Donnie Enersen. "Ford Motor Co. is taking a giant step in green technology, and we applaud them.

"Not only is this great for our community, it's great for the environment."

He praised UAW President Ron Gettelfinger, the union's national Ford section chief, Bob King, Region 1A Director Rory Gamble, plant leaders and township officials for negotiating the deal.

"We are excited about our plans to bring battery pack development and assembly to Michigan, and will share more details soon," Ford spokeswoman Jennifer Moore said.

Ford announced the investment at the Detroit auto show in January, but did not say where the battery packs would be assembled.

At the time, the Dearborn automaker also announced plans to build a hybrid, plug-in hybrid and battery electric version of the Ford Focus compact at its Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne.

Ford said it would bring the engineering and design of the battery packs for these vehicles in-house as well.

Together, these moves are expected to create 1,000 new jobs in the state by 2012.



Consumers caught in crossfire
over drug plan

April 9, 2010 Toronto Star

Consumers could soon face higher dispensing fees for prescriptions – or charges to call doctors for repeats – as pharmacists step up their battle with the Ontario government over looming price cuts for generic drugs.

The war of words grew Thursday, with druggists saying that in order to avoid reduced services, layoffs and store closings, their “only real option” to is to make up for the lost revenues by raising fees. .

Generic drug makers warned proposed legislation ordering them to chop prices for their medicines by at least half to 25 per cent of the equivalent brand-name drugs being copied – from 50 per cent or more now – could make it difficult for them to afford the development and production of some medications.

“The Ontario government and everyone who pays for prescription drugs will be left paying monopoly prices charged by brand-name drug companies,” said president Jim Keon of the Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association, whose member companies employ 9,000 people.

The price cuts are looming under Health Minister Deb Matthews’ controversial plan to ban almost $800 million a year in “professional allowances” paid by generic drug companies to pharmacies in return for stocking their medicines.

Matthews blames the payouts – which she compares to “kickbacks”—for inflating prices, while pharmacists maintain the money supports easily accessible front-line health services such as drug consultations for patients, freeing doctors for more important work.

“Dispensing fees are one area that will get attention,” vowed Mark Dickson, chairman of the Canadian Association of Chain Drugstores and an executive with PharmaSave.

He said pharmacists now perform all sorts of services for free, from deliveries to blood pressure checks and counselling patients on managing chronic diseases like diabetes. Patients could end up paying for those services, he warned.

Pharmacists estimate the average drug store could get $300,000 less in revenue annually under the proposed reforms – the equivalent of three full-time pharmacists.

“Each business is going to have to make decisions on their pricing. We can’t comment on what an individual business may or may not do,” Dickson added in a conference call with reporters.

Right now, dispensing fees – which customers pay to get a prescription filled—vary from zero to $10 or more, depending on the local market. Customers who are not on employer drug plans pay the full cost, while people on plans often fund a portion. Pharmacists say the actual cost of filling a prescription is about $14, plus the price of drugs.

These fees are not regulated by the government, although it has set a limit of $7 on prescriptions filled for seniors or social assistance recipients under the Ontario Drug Benefit plan. That would rise to $8 if the controversial reforms announced by Health Minister Deb Matthews this week are passed later this spring, with an extra $100 million pot for counselling and other patient services.

Matthews said she recognizes pharmacies will have to “adjust” their businesses, perhaps with dispensing fees, but that’s not her main concern.

“My job is to look after the patients of Ontario and the taxpayers of Ontario,” she said, noting the province has 140 more pharmacies than it did four years ago when previous drug reforms were implemented.

Industry analysts warned that big chains like Shoppers Drug Mart are better positioned to weather the revenue cuts than small, independent pharmacies that constitute half of the 3,300 drug stores in the province.

“It’s the little guy who’s been dealt the hardest blow,” Scotia Capital analyst Patricia Baker wrote in a bulletin for clients, noting she is “perplexed” the government thinks pharmacies can still afford to maintain existing services under the reforms.

“We expect to see a fair bit of pushback…the independents and small pharmacies are essentially fighting for their jobs and their livelihood.”

Meanwhile, employers and insurance companies under financial pressure from the recession are salivating at the multi-million dollar cost savings a 50-per-cent cut in generic drug prices would generate.

“Over the past several years, health insurance costs for Ontario’s automakers have been one of the fastest rising costs of doing business,” said Mark Nantais, president of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association, including General Motors and Chrysler.

The government says the “professional allowances” inflate the cost of drugs up to 82 per cent higher than in other jurisdictions, and increase the money spent on prescriptions for seniors and social assistance recipients under the publicly funded Ontario Drug Benefit program, which amounts to $800 million annually.

It also insists the “professional allowances” paid to pharmacists have been abused because the money doesn’t always go directly to patient care, as required by law.

A previous law in 2006 capped the professional allowances at 20 per cent of the price of generic drugs under ODB but no caps were imposed on the private-sector market.

Pharmacists and generic drug makers fear the Ontario plan could be copied by other provinces, hurting the industry nation-wide.



Ford Announces New Investment in Argentina for New Product, Plant Improvements, Quality Upgrades


BUENOS AIRES, Argentina, April 9, 2010

Alan Mulally, president and chief executive officer of Ford Motor Company, announced a new ARS 1.000 billion (U.S. $250 million) investment in its operations here during a meeting with Argentina President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

The investment, which will be made between 2010 and 2012, will be dedicated to the production of an all-new vehicle currently not in production in any part of the world. In addition, the new investment will fund quality upgrades and improvements at the Ford Pacheco Plant in Argentina, which will manufacture this new vehicle for Ford's Latin America markets.

"One of the key elements of our ONE Ford Plan is the development of new global vehicles, offering customers around the world best-in-class safety, quality, fuel efficiency, smart design and value," Mulally said. "Today's investment announcement about bringing a new global vehicle to our operations here speaks about Ford Argentina's important role in this plan."

Through its investments in Argentina and Brazil, Ford is demonstrating its high expectations on the opportunities and growth potential for the Mercosur Region. The ONE Ford Plan includes a long-term growth strategy for South America and calls for Ford Argentina to play a key role in supplying key products for the Latin American markets.

"Our plan is to deliver even more new products and technologies people really want and value in markets around the world – including Argentina," Mulally said. "Ford is celebrating its 97th year in Argentina this year, and we're committed to continue delivering great products for customers here and supporting the communities where we operate."



Volume 40, No. 14 – April 9, 2010

CAW Members Overwhelmingly Approve MTS Allstream Contract

CAW Local 2000 members have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a new two-year collective agreement with MTS Allstream that resists concessions and provides greater job security.

The workers voted 82 per cent in support of the new contract March 30. MTS Allstream is the third largest telecommunications company in Canada.

CAW national representative Joel Fournier said the agreement covers approximately 550 workers across the country.

“This agreement will provide stability for our membership while MTS restructures its business,” Fournier said.

CAW Local 2000 President Dylan Gadwa said the agreement comes after bargaining in a tough economic environment. “This agreement creates a stronger foundation and greater security for our membership in a sector that is coping with rapid technological change,” Gadwa said.

The majority of the workers are employed as technicians or in administrative positions and are based in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary, with other smaller bases across Canada.

CAW Members Ratify Agreement at Metro Warehouse

CAW Local 414 members working at the Metro food distribution warehouse in Etobicoke, Ontario ratified a new collective agreement on March 27, voting 58 per cent in favour of the deal.

The new contract includes wage increases, pension improvements and a temporary pension benefit bridge for members seeking early retirement. The agreement also firmed up a commitment by the company to direct up to $20 million in new capital expenditures to upgrade the facility and create new jobs. In exchange for this important commitment, the union bargaining committee agreed to extend the deal over a four year time period.

The new investment dollars will go a long way in securing the future of the distribution centre, which supplies Metro supermarkets across Southern Ontario, said CAW national representative Doug Orr.

“This investment will expand the capacity of the facility and create new work for our members,” Orr said. Work that had previously been outsourced from the facility is slated to return once the upgrading process is complete in 2012.

Tony Falcone, CAW/Metro Bargaining Committee Chairperson, commended the membership for their ongoing support of the union’s negotiating team during several difficult bargaining sessions since November 2009.

“I am extremely proud of what we were able to achieve on behalf of our membership in this agreement,” Falcone said.

CAW Local 414 currently represents nearly 900 production workers at the distribution centre.

Mothers and Daughters Skilled Trades Awareness Conference

The CAW and the Saugeen First Nation Education Department held a joint Mothers and Daughters Skilled Trades Awareness conference at the union’s Family Education Centre in Port Elgin, Ontario on March 25-28.

The three-day conference involved over 80 participants, including mothers and daughters of the Saugeen and Chippewa’s of Nawash First Nations. Its aim was to ensure First Nations women understood the opportunities available to them in skilled trades as a form of career employment, especially in the face of widespread labour shortages for trades work.

“Putting together this program for moms and daughters was realized after talking with participants at a CAW Women’s Conference a few years ago," said Gayle Mason Stark, director of the education program for Saugeen First Nation.

"Participants stated that they wished their mothers could have been aware of the career opportunities in skilled trades long ago. We thought that this is the way to go, if Saugeen First Nation women are to have access to these opportunities, I need to give them the tools and kick the door open."

Through a series on hands-on workshops conference participants were given the opportunity to assemble and program robots, were given an introduction to the basics of electrical wiring and educated on health and safety laws, among other skills development initiatives.

“Our union understands that because of the current tough economic conditions apprenticeship opportunities are hard to find, but know that over the long term a skilled trade is an extremely worthwhile career to consider, especially for women,” said Colin Heslop, CAW Director of Skilled Trades.

“Through this joint education program we really wanted to emphasize that all women have a vital role to play in skilled trades and that these are viable career options, particularly for our First Nations brothers and sisters,” said Teresa Weymouth, CAW Skilled Trades Coordinator.

St. Mary’s Picket Line

CAW Local 112 members lend their support to St. Marys Cement workers in Bowmanville, Ontario who have been on strike since March 12 over pension concession demands.  The St. Marys workers are represented by CAW Local 222.  Photo: Roland Kiehne, CAWLocal 112
Expand Canada Pension Plan, CAW Says

The following letter to the editor was sent to The Toronto Star by CAW President Ken Lewenza in response to an April 1 article by James Daw:

It’s clear that Canada needs to press ahead with pension reform as our population ages.

But private sector solutions to pension reform such as those outlined by the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association in James Daw’s April 1 article ‘Insurers call for mandatory retirement savings plans’ are not in the best interests of most Canadians.

RRSPs have already proven to be a dismal failure, a fact underscored by their massive loss in value during the recent economic crisis. In addition, the benefits of the current RRSP program has been heavily weighted towards higher income groups. 

All Canadians deserve to retire with dignity and equality and the best way to achieve that is through the gradual expansion of the Canada Pension Plan (CPP). The CPP has proven to be a safe, efficient retirement savings plan.

It’s portable from job to job, from province to province, keeps up with inflation and is backed up by government, making it cost effective. Yet the CPP is independently run from government, resulting in no cost to the public.

Still, change is needed to improve how much retirement income working Canadians will have in coming years, especially as our population ages. We need to double CPP benefits, which could be achieved through small increments over the next seven years. To make this important improvement work, CPP premiums paid by workers and employers would only need to rise by relatively small amounts for each year of pensionable earnings.

There are other public and private sector pension reforms which are needed. However, the best place to start is with some straightforward improvements to CPP, already a proven winner.


Pensions for MPs not
hurt by recession

The Canadian Press
OTTAWA (Apr 8, 2010)

The gold-plated pension fund for members of Parliament rose by 10 per cent during the global recession -- thanks to taxpayers, whose own pension funds and retirement savings nosedived.

A new report shows the half- billion-dollar pension fund for MPs and senators jumped in value by $53.8 million in 2008-09. Over the same period, private pension plans in Canada lost an average of 21 per cent of their value, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Even the CPP reported a 14 per cent hit, losing $17.2 billion.

The parliamentary plan was immune to the market meltdown because the fund is not invested in the markets. It's strictly a paper account, for which taxpayers are on the hook when the bill comes due.

"Not a dollar of real cash has gone into these plans, so when the time comes to pay the pensions, all of this money is going to have to be raised either by real borrowing or through taxes," says Bill Robson, president of the C.D. Howe Institute.

Kevin Gaudet, head of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, says there's a "Niagara Falls of a chasm" between the private and parliamentary pension plans.


Ford's V-6 Mustang
ramps up power
2011 Mustang V6

Scott Burgess: Det News April 8, 2010

In the pony car world, there's a code.

It's pretty simple really. Real men drive V-8s.

The much overlooked and often maligned V-6 versions were the equivalent of women motorcycle gangs: They looked meaner than they rode. The V-6 pony cars were "secretary cars" before men got to them. The implication: They were inadequate, according to the code.

But Ford rewrote the code when it rolled out the 2011 Mustang -- a V-6 pony car that rumbles with power, bites through corners and hits 31 miles per gallon on the highway. Ford, with this stunning new car, has done something even President Barack Obama has failed to do: Provide power to the poseur.

Oh, you can still call the V-6 Mustang a chic car, Mustang Lite or anything else you can dream up, but it will knock your Piloti racing shoes into a ditch if you're not paying attention. It can pass you on a mountain road, on the highway and at the gas station.

Nowadays, that's a pretty good combination.

Slicing up canyon roads around Malibu, I was impressed with how well the Mustang charged into corners and stuck to the road. I jammed on the accelerator coming out of a turn, trying to get that solid rear axle to skip.

The direct competitors -- the Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger -- have independent suspensions that feel smoother than Ford's chunk of iron connecting the two rear wheels. In the past, the axle wanted to hop if you goose the throttle in a turn and run over a seam, a rock or hit a slight wind gust. I have the coffee stains on multiple shirts to prove it.

But this time, I waited and as I hit the apex, I held my grip on the steering wheel and gunned it. Nothing. Just smooth, quick exits every time.

Third gear on this car totally rocks, as long as you keep your revs up.

European sophistication
Between the car's grip and precise steering, the Mustang felt more European thoroughbred than American pony. The steering, which is now electric power-assisted, has a firm feel that's taut all the way through a turn but remains easy to parallel park.

OK, I thought, this must be the new track pack on the V-6 Mustang. Basically, Ford stole the idea from the more powerful Mustang GT: The V-6 track pack bolsters the suspension with pieces from the GT and GT500, giving it a better axle for faster launches, strapping on 19-inch wheels with Pirelli performance tires, adding an engine strut tower brace to tighten up body rigidity and including performance brake pads.

The idea is perfect for a car with Ford's new 3.7-liter V-6 that pushes out an impressive 305 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. It's the best thing to come out of Cleveland since Lorenzo Carter set up shop in 1797. This Mustang has got power, it's got a growl that makes the hair on your arms stand up, so why not give it a suspension that will get the ones on your neck to come to attention too?

But when I stepped out of it, I noticed my magnificently performing V-6 Mustang lacked the track-pack badging, and I had been riding around on 18-inch all-season radials. This was the regular Mustang.

Later, I discovered, the track-pack Mustang is even more surefooted at faster speeds without rattling your fillings loose.

Then there's that high mileage number that the Mustang hits. The base-level Mustang outperforms just about any V-6 car around. The Camaro, which has similar power, hits 29 mpg on the highway. This Mustang even provides better highway mileage than the V-6 powered Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.

A beauty and beast
The Mustang V-6 has the looks of a beast. Redesigned for the 2010 model year, it honors its past while maintaining a modern edge.

With the addition of 19-inch wheels, this Mustang adds a more powerful face and excellent proportions from the side. In the back, the chamfered corners and cutout three-piece tail lights, which includes sequential firing for turn indicators, are crisp.

Every line has purpose and every detail seems to fit. If the engine didn't match the looks, this car might as well come with a double Venti Mocha Frappa Chino Latte with extra caramel cup holder, a Moleskin notebook/pen holder and a Mustang-embossed Bluetooth earbud to signify the driver's self importance.

It's never enough to look the poseur's part, you need the uniform. You've got to own it.

Distinct comfort
The Mustang separates itself from the other pony cars with its interior. The Camaro and Challenger have distinctive exteriors but don't measure up to the Mustang inside. Just about anyone will feel comfortable inside this car. The lines of sight are excellent, and Ford continues to show its interior prowess with well-made consoles, seats and overall craftsmanship.

Once again, it's the little things stand out. The soft touch materials on the dash, the inlaid bezels on the vents, the classic tachometer and speedometer, all look great.

But the most important feature inside is the metal trim parts that feel cool to the touch. Shiny plastic looks cheap because it is. Real metal trim tells you it's important every time you touch it.

When the interior was reworked last year, Ford shortened the emergency hand brake to stop drivers from resting their knee against it until their leg bruised.

Designers created a nice curved line along the center console that includes a USB port and auxiliary jack to play music.

And then there's Sync, simply the best voice-operated, hands-free system in the industry. It can operate your phone and play music via a Bluetooth connection. It can find you on a map, it can tell you the weather, and it can tune the stereo without you ever having to take your hands off the wheel.

Through and through, the Mustang just continues feels more complete. It includes a back-up camera (visible on the navigation screen on the center stack; a nice addition because it is difficult to see behind you in this vehicle). If you don't have a navigation screen, the camera's picture will show up on your rear view mirror -- the perfect spot.

Now, I could quibble over a few things. The backseat is a shame, with room for two very short people, and first gear in the manual never felt right to me. And the 1-4 Skip Shift on the manual should be outlawed from all cars.

But when was the last time you had an adult in the second row of your car? And how often do you drive in only first gear? This Mustang is the real deal and fantastic from bumper to bumper.

Poseurs beware. Throw away that ear bud and drink your coffee at home. The V-6 Mustang means business -- and, if we're lucky, all future V-6 Mustang drivers will mean it too.


GM posts $4.3-billion loss

Loss between July 10, 2009, and Dec. 31 includes $2.6-billion pretax loss related to medical plan it provides for UAW retirees

Greg Keenan

Toronto — Globe and Mail  Apr. 07, 2010

General Motors Co. lost $4.3-billion (U.S.) between July 10, 2009, and Dec. 31 after it emerged from chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The loss includes a $2.6-billion pretax loss related to the medical plan it provides for United Auto Workers retirees and $1.3-billion of foreign currency impacts.

The auto maker still has a chance of returning to profitability in 2010, chief financial officer Chris Liddell said in a statement.

He said GM also remains committed to repaying by June, the loan portion of more than $60-billion (U.S.) in bailout money provided by the Canadian, Ontario and U.S. governments.

The auto maker posted a loss of $3.4-billion before interest and taxes in the fourth quarter in its North American operations. That fourth-quarter loss is deeper than the loss a year earlier, when GM was running out of cash because of a collapse in auto sales that in turn was caused by the liquidity crisis.



GM, Chrysler pension
plans are $17B short

David Shepardson / Detroit News Washington Bureau
April 7, 2010

Washington -- The pension plans of General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC are underfunded by $17 billion combined and the automakers will need to make large payments to make up the shortfalls, according to a government report released Tuesday.

Chrysler's pension plans are underfunded by $3.4 billion, while GM faces a $13.6 billion shortfall, says the Government Accountability Office's report on automotive pension plans.

Chrysler's funding status was not known publicly before the GAO report; GM's shortfall was reported in February.

Chrysler's pension plans have $19.9 billion in assets and $23.3 billion in liabilities, the GAO said.

Chrysler will need to make payments through 2015 -- including $400 million this year and $930 million in 2013 and $1.25 billion in 2014. As of last year, Chrysler's plans covered about 250,000 people.

Chrysler did not dispute the calculations.

"Chrysler Group LLC is aggressively pursuing its financial goals as the company achieves financial viability," the Auburn Hills automaker said in a statement. "Our pursuit of these goals, which were outlined in detail on November 4, 2009, is on track and we fully expect to meet our obligations to our customers, business partners, employees, retirees and to the U.S. and Canadian taxpayers."

GM plans to make payments of $5.9 billion in 2013 and $6.4 billion in 2014. The Detroit firm's plans cover about 650,000 people.

Both pension plans could face larger funding requirements if either is deemed "at risk."

The report noted that the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. -- the government's insurer of private pensions -- is monitoring the fiscal health of 35 major automotive suppliers with combined pension shortfalls of $15 billion.

The PBGC has assumed pension plans covering 96,000 people at auto suppliers, taking on $6.5 billion in liabilities since last year.

The Treasury Department, which owns 61 percent of GM and 10 percent of Chrysler as part of an $81 billion federal bailout program, told the GAO that it believes the automakers will return to profitability, which will allow the government to gradually sell off its share in the companies.

UAW suit says GM owes $450M

Auto company disagrees that it should pay money
to union-run retiree health care fund

David Shepardson / The Detroit News
April 7, 2010

The United Auto Workers union sued General Motors Co. in federal court Tuesday, contending the Detroit automaker owes a union-run retiree health care fund $450 million.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit, contends that General Motors Corp. agreed in June 2007 to pay $450 million to settle a UAW claim against Delphi Corp., GM's former parts unit, in the supplier's bankruptcy.

Delphi did not acknowledge the claim, and the company's best assets were purchased by a successor company, Delphi Holdings LLP, which exited bankruptcy Oct. 6.

Under the terms of the claim settlement, the GM payment to the UAW was to be made after Delphi exited bankruptcy.

GM filed for bankruptcy in June. The automaker's best assets were acquired by a government-sponsored entity known as General Motors Co.

The UAW contends in its lawsuit that the "new" GM agreed to assume all of its labor contracts with the UAW -- including the 2007 deal among GM, Delphi and the UAW.

But GM disagrees. On Oct. 29 the UAW sought the payment from the automaker. On Nov. 11, GM refused to make the payment.

The UAW says the payment was to be made to its voluntary employees' beneficiary association -- a fund that now pays for hourly retiree health care.

The suit was assigned to U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn.

GM has not yet responded to the suit.

Delphi filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in October 2005 and struggled to emerge from court protection for four years.

The supplier ultimately abandoned its pensions and ended health care and life insurance coverage for retirees from salaried positions.


Loonie trades at parity against U.S. dollar

April 6, 2010 7:30 AM

The Canadian dollar is trading at parity against the U.S. dollar for the first time since July 2008



Mustang's father leaves
strong legacy

Donald Frey stands by the Ford Division Building in 1965, three years before he left for General Cable Corp. (Ford)

Scott Burgess / The Detroit News
April 6, 2010

Donald Frey's legacy spans generations.

It began in 1962, when as a Ford Motor Co. vehicle line executive, Frey followed his kids' advice to create a car young people might enjoy.

"I clearly remember sitting around the dining room table and my kids saying, 'Dad, your cars stink. They're terrible. There's no pizzazz,' " Frey said in a 2004 interview with Northwestern University's magazine.

So Frey pitched the idea of sporty coupe with a pony on the grille to Henry Ford II. "He told me, 'I'm going to approve your Mustang, and it's your ass if it doesn't sell,' " Frey said.

Less than two years later, Frey rolled out the 1964 ½ Ford Mustang at the World's Fair in New York. It was a home run.

Frey owned one of the original Mustangs until his death on March 5 in Evanston, Ill., following a stroke. He was 86 and is survived by five children.

"For more than a half-century Don Frey demonstrated repeatedly that he was a true engineer," said Stephen Carr, associate dean for undergraduate engineering at Northwestern, where Frey taught for 20 years. "Don saw the important technical challenges, made the key innovations and assured that the enterprise would be a success as a result."

Since the car's unlikely beginnings, Ford has sold more than 8 million Mustangs and the nameplate has become one of the most recognizable for Ford.

Frey began his career at Ford in 1950, and became vice president and chief engineer in 1964. He left Ford in 1968 to become president of General Cable Corp. and then in 1971 became president and chief operating officer of media manufacturer Bell & Howell, based in Wheeling, Ill., where he oversaw the development of the first CD-ROM.

"Don was an extraordinary engineer and businessman," said William J. White, professor of industrial engineering and management sciences at Northwestern. "During his time at Bell & Howell, he successfully repositioned the company from the shrinking microfilm and movie projector business into the emerging electronic era. At Northwestern, Don was a valued colleague who successfully used his industry experience to support his effective teaching style."

Frey's legacy continues at Northwestern, where he was professor of industrial engineering and management sciences until 2008. He began teaching at an age most people retire. Colleagues and students called him the Professor of Reality because of his ability to translate complex ideas and theories into real world applications.

"It is sometimes easy to get lost in abstraction," said Julio M. Ottino, dean of Northwestern's McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science. "Having Don at Northwestern grounded us in reality."

Frey's name will live on. In 2001, he created the annual Margaret and Muir Frey Prize, honoring his late parents, which is awarded to undergraduate engineering students for the best innovative problem solving projects.


NADAguides.com Awards 2011 Ford Mustang 'Car of the Month' for April
2011 Mustang

Monday, 05 April 2010

NADAguides.com, the leading provider of vehicle pricing and information, announced today the 2011 Ford Mustang is its "Car of the Month" for April. The 2011 Ford Mustang succeeds in taking every step possible to add to its muscle-car heritage, including an aggressive body style that looks even more similar to the 60's pony car enthusiasts have come to know and love.

The 2011 Ford Mustang comes in two distinct models: A 3.7-liter, V6 producing 305 horsepower or the renowned 5.0-liter V8 producing 412 horsepower. Both models are equipped with superior driving dynamics and are perfectly mated to a six-speed manual transmission and rear wheel drive that leaves the rest of the herd in the dust. With multiple models and optional features such as a glass-top coupe or a convertible, the 2011 Mustang is even more versatile and customized for each owner's style following suit with the Mustang heritage of "the car to be designed by you".

Since its introduction to the public in 1964, the Ford Mustang has been an American staple that both consumers and auto critics alike have fallen in love with. The 2011 Ford Mustang keeps that spark alive today with the creativity to satisfy both groups with its ongoing evolution.

"The 2011 Ford Mustang has got the aggressive look and sound that Mustangs are known for, and the power under the hood that has made it one of the most sought after models among car enthusiasts," said Michael Caudill, auto expert for NADAguides.com. "The torque on the V8 model puts the thrill back into the driver's seat, while the interior has incorporated modern design elements and technological features compared to previous models. Ford continues to impress and they definitely got it right with the new 2011 Mustang."

Ford highlighted the 2011 Mustang models with package options and safety features to make the classic more driver-friendly than ever. Dual stage front airbags and front seat side airbags, stability control, traction control and ABS brakes protect passengers from outside elements, while keyless entry, audio input jacks, Ford SYNC, and an optional Shaker 1000 audio system plus a handy reverse cam for those tighter parking spots provide both creature comforts and convenience. The optional electronics package includes a voice activated Sirius navigation system with Travel Link and automatic temperature control, while the comfort package includes heated front seats, six way power passenger seats, and an auto dimming rearview mirror. Mustang nailed it with the interior features and packages that are available for the 2011 model; the interior is the finest the Mustang has ever looked.

The V8 model packs a heavy punch with its various options and embodies all the power and handling necessary to compete with today's Dodge Challenger and Chevy Camaro. Meanwhile, the V6 is a thrill to drive while comfortably equipped. The 2011 Ford Mustang's affordability seals the deal with an MSRP for the V8 Mustang GT starting at $29,645 and the V6 around $22,145.

The NADAguides.com "Car of the Month" program is unique from any other review program in the automobile industry and provides consumers with expert commentary and practical information on the cars, trucks and SUVs they are shopping for. Selecting one vehicle per month, NADAguides.com will announce the "Car of the Month" through a multi-media platform including an online video review, press release and a comprehensive blog post where consumers can provide additional commentary.

Source: NADAguides.com




Ford technology is a hit with younger consumers
Ford will be the first automaker to use Microsoft's home energy management application, Hohm, starting with the Focus Electric next year. A concept image shows how Hohm, an Internet-based service, might be used to help owners determine when and how to most affordably recharge their battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. (Ford Motor Co.)

Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News
April 4, 2010

New York --Ford Motor Co. says its relationships with high-tech firms like Microsoft Corp. and Sony Corp. are helping it connect with the holy grail of the car business: young consumers.

Ford and Microsoft jointly developed the popular Sync system that allows drivers to control their cell phones and music players with voice commands. At the New York International Auto Show this past week, the two companies announced that they are expanding their collaboration to include new software that will allow owners of electric vehicles to manage charging.

"Technologies like Sync, having partnered with Sony and Microsoft -- these have really helped. We have seen a change in the way Gen Y thinks about the Ford brand," said Jim Farley. "We've realized how important it is not only to improve fuel economy and design, but also to really dial it up with technology."

Analyst Art Spinella of CNW Marketing Research in Bandon, Ore., said Ford's strategy is working.

"Ford has been doing a really great job selling the technology and not the car, and that's what the youth market is looking for, according to all of our studies," he said. "We're seeing far younger consumers coming into Ford dealerships -- or dragging their parents into Ford dealerships -- than we have in 20 years."

Other analysts say the recent problems plaguing Toyota Motor Corp. also have created a new opening for Ford with younger car buyers because they have hurt the Japanese brand's image with young people, who are less familiar with its longstanding reputation for quality.

Farley, the man who launched Toyota's youth-oriented Scion brand, agreed that Ford will benefit from this.

"Gen Y also doesn't have the baggage of what we've been through in the last 15 years. They are more open to what we have to say," he said. "They're looking at Ford differently than their parents. They just want to know that we get it. A year ago, getting it was that we were going to fix our company ourselves. Now, as the economy is coming back, getting it is going to be working with the right partners on the right technologies."


Ford site lures small businesses
to customize Transit Connect

The 2010 Ford Transit Connect is the automaker's first global product. Vinyl graphics transform the white van into a rolling billboard. (Ford photos)

Scott Burgess / The Detroit News
April 3, 2010

Ford Motor Co. wants to make its Transit Connect even friendlier for small businesses and will announce next week a new Web site for owners to design and order wraps for their work vans.

Wraps are the vinyl graphics that transform a vehicle from white van to rolling billboard. They cost as little as $100 for something simple to $3,500 for a complete vehicle wraparound.

The site, www.fordtransitconnectgraphics.com, was developed by Ford's partner, Original Wraps Inc. It allows owners to use a large sample of graphics or import original images, such as a company logo, to place on a vehicle.

It provides views of the image-wrapped truck from the front, side and rear.

Pictures also can be used to create a new look, though the site warns against using obscene or copyrighted material, noting buyers will forfeit any deposit if they attempt to use property that they do not own.

With nearly limitless options, customers can create just about any look for a Transit Connect.

"There may be no bigger investment a business owner makes than a first impression," Len Deluca, director of Ford commercial vehicles, said in a preview of the release obtained by The Detroit News.

"This Web site provides a great way for a business owner to try out a look before making that investment."

While a mainstay vehicle in Europe for the past 10 years, Ford brought the small work van to the U.S. just last summer. Through March, it had sold more than 13,000 trucks, according to Autodata Corp.

The site was created after Ford launched a similar custom graphics site in November for people who wanted to build graphics for their personal vehicles, said Ford's licensed accessories manager Jim Abraham. More than 9,000 have used that Web site.

Business owners see graphics as a way to get their company's name out and dealers say this is another way to satisfy customers.

"Wrapping a Transit Connect is a great way to advertise and it is a one-time cost, but a lot of people don't know where to go to get it done," said Bob Maxey, owner of Bob Maxey Ford in Detroit.

"Having a Ford Web site where people can design their own custom wrap, and get it done right then and there, is huge."

Business owners can use the 'Create Your Own' section of the Transit Connect Web site to design their own wrap for the van.


Ford, Hyundai lead the way in March auto-sales revival
The Taurus helped lift Ford’s March sales 29.1 per cent to 22,018 vehicles.

Tony Van Alphen Toronto Star
April 2, 2010

More strong performances by new industry leader Ford and some offshore-based manufacturers powered another big gain in auto sales across the country last month.

New auto sale and leases jumped 14.1 per cent or almost 18,000 vehicles to 145,428 vehicles in March from the same period last year, manufacturers reported Thursday.

It marks the fourth consecutive month that sales have improved after sliding for more than a year because of a deep recession that curbed business dramatically.

Industry watcher Dennis DesRosiers said although the March sales are still below historical standards, the market had a "good, healthy" month.

The March performance also pushed sales up by 15 per cent to 327,252 cars and trucks in the first quarter of this year from the corresponding three months in 2009.

Ford Motor Co. of Canada led the second consecutive month and also topped the market for the quarter.

"Sales crowns are nice to have but we remain focused on sustainable growth by delivering what customers want and value," said David Mondragon, president and CEO, Ford of Canada.

Ford, which also topped the market and perennial leader General Motors of Canada last month, said its sales shot up 29.1 per cent to 22,018 vehicles, particularly on the strength of the Taurus mid-sized car and venerable F-Series pickup trucks.

However GM, which has fallen back after a major restructuring that shrunk the company's operations and the number of brands, reported its sales tumbled 22 per cent to 19,383.

DesRosiers called GM's decline "shocking" and added that it pulls down the company's market share to less than 15 per cent, its lowest level in almost a century.

Showing signs of a quick recovery from the fallout in series of recent recalls, Toyota Canada said its sales including the Lexus luxury brand rose 24.5 per cent to 19,792.

Big increases in the Matrix, Camry and Tundra models fuelled the increase, the company said.

Sales at Chrysler Canada climbed 22 per cent to 19,470 during the month as the Ram truck, Dodge Grand Caravan, Jeep Wrangler and Dodge Journey posted March records.

"We made more records in March than Motown has in the last 10 years," said Chrysler chief executive Reid Bigland.

Every other major player produced hefty gains ranging from Honda and Hyundai to Nissan and Mazda during March, the first biggest selling month on dealership calendars.

Honda Canada, including the Acura luxury brand, said its business soared 14.5 per cent to 14,389.

Business at Nissan Canada including the Infiniti luxury brand, increased 13.3 per cent to 8,617 while Mazda Canada's volumes climbed 15.5 per cent to 8,152.

Booming Hyundai Auto Canada said business soared 24.9 per cent to 11,012 sales. It is the 14th consecutive month that the company has set a sales record.

Other automakers also produced strong gains including Kia, up, 24.8 per cent to 4,437; Volkswagen, 35.4 per cent to 4,272; Subaru, 33.3 per cent to 2,503 and BMW Group, 37.7 per cent to 2,779.


Ford's China sales rise
84% in first quarter

The Detroit News
April 2, 2010

Ford Motor Co. recorded its best quarterly result in China after its sales surged 84 percent in the first three months of the year to 153,362 vehicles.

The figure includes sales of Ford's joint ventures with Chinese partners and its wholly-owned entities.

Sales of Ford brand passenger cars and commercial vehicles rose 75 percent to 88,084 vehicles in the first quarter, the company said in a statement.

"We are pleased that our continuing momentum helped get 2010 off to such an exceptional beginning," said Robert Graziano, chairman and CEO of Ford Motor China.

Sales of Changan Ford Mazda Automobile, Ford's passenger car joint venture in China, were up 89 percent at 108,131units.


Volume 40, No. 13
April 1, 2010

GM Recall of Oshawa Shift Good News, CAW Says

GM's announcement of the recall of more than 600 laid-off auto workers is great news for the hard-hit industrial communities of Oshawa and Ingersoll, Ontario, CAW President Ken Lewenza says.

"The auto industry has been on a roller-coaster ride in recent years and it's the workers who have absorbed most of the shock," Lewenza said. Job losses, shift reductions and plant closures have hit autoworkers hard from all major automakers in Canada and around the world in recent years. 

He stressed that the recall of these laid off workers is also positive for auto parts manufacturers and others who supply GM's auto assembly operations.

The addition of a third shift of production at the Oshawa car plant and increased production at the GM CAMI plant in Ingersoll, Ontario signals a big boost to GM's market woes.

"Today's announcement is finally some long awaited good news for workers, their families and these communities which have been so hard hit," said Lewenza
New Agreement at Wescast Provides Greater Job Security

CAW members who work at auto parts maker Wescast Industries in Strathroy, Ontario have voted in favour of a new collective agreement after pushing back company demands for massive wage and pension concessions.

The group of Local 504 members at Wescast had earlier rejected the company offer loaded with concessions and the two sides had returned to the bargaining table. After a week of tough contract negotiations the new agreement was hammered out. Production workers voted 71 per cent and skilled trades 100 per cent in favour.

The new agreement provides improved job security, said Jerry Dias, assistant to the CAW president. “A key principle achieved in this contract is the company’s commitment that the plant won’t close and existing work won’t be moved out during the life of the agreement,” Dias said.

“The new agreement maintains wages and pensions,” said CAW Local 504 President Randy Smith. “This provides the company with a cost effective agreement that should position us with new business and greater job security,” said Smith.

The CAW represents 75 active workers at the plant, located northwest of London, Ontario. The workers produce exhaust manifolds.

Ontario Budget Positive on Child Care but Workers Still Insecure

The Ontario budget commitment to pick up over $63 million in outstanding child care costs is a positive and long-overdue move. But the government needs to provide greater help to laid-off workers, says CAW President Ken Lewenza.

Reacting to the March 25 provincial budget Lewenza commended the government's move to fill the major funding hole for daycare created by the Harper Conservatives, who put an end to a proposed national child care program in 2006. Although this new funding allows thousands of subsidized day care spaces to continue operating, the McGuinty government must continue advocating for a national plan, Lewenza said.

He also highlighted concerns with a slow down in health care spending in coming years that will mean a greater strain on the health system, especially with hospitals receiving an increase of 1.5 per cent, down from the already low 2.1 per cent in the current year.

Plans to slow major transit expansion projects in Toronto are also a concern, especially at a time when public infrastructure projects are playing such an important role in providing greater balance and stability during the economic downturn that has thrown so many out of work, he said.

The CAW welcomes the budget's commitment to extend the Second Career skills training program to another 30,000 laid off workers as well as the modest increase in funding on a per trainee basis.

It's critical that these funds are actually used to meet workers' needs. Too many of the unemployed have been told they must contribute to their tuition and survive on a living allowance that's sometimes only $37 per week or sometimes nothing at all.

Outside of the additional commitment to Second Career skills training, the budget offers inadequate support for an increasing number of workers faced with insecurity and job loss, especially in the area of severance protection, he said.

"We had hoped that the voices of Ontario's workers who have lost their jobs and who continue to fight for outstanding wage and severance entitlements would have resonated with the provincial government," Lewenza said.

Lewenza said that he was concerned that the government is freezing compensation for non-union government staff and is already flagging an inability to negotiate public sector wage increases in coming rounds of contract talks.


 Halt Canada-Colombia Free Trade, CAW Says

The CAW is calling for an immediate halt to any federal government plans to finalize a Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement without the guarantee of an independent human rights impact assessment in Colombia.

"Ongoing human rights violations in Colombia including intimidation, attacks and murder of trade union leaders mean that our MPs should abandon these talks immediately," said CAW President Ken Lewenza.

The recent move by the federal Liberals to support Canada-Colombia Free Trade without the guarantee of independent human rights assessment prior to signing a deal is a shocking betrayal of Canadians expectation that we don't negotiate with human rights abusers, Lewenza said.

A Liberal party amendment to the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement introduced on March 24 doesn't come close to meeting the standard of an independent human rights assessment being conducted before any deal is signed. Instead it gives each country the annual option of assessing human rights after a deal is reached and without any clear mechanism for the ongoing monitoring of the effects of free trade.  

"This is a real disappointment because the Liberal party committed in June 2008 to the all-party Commons Committee on International Trade that the free trade agreement would not be ratified until an independent human rights impact assessment is conducted," said Peggy Nash, Assistant to the CAW President.

For more than 10 years the CAW has been calling on the Canadian government to investigate human rights atrocities in Colombia, including the continued intimidation, physical threats and murder of trade union leaders. Despite these demands, very little has changed over the last decade. In 2009 alone 45 trade union leaders were murdered.  Colombia continues to be the most dangerous place to be a labour activist in the world.   
The CAW has supported trade union leaders and their families forced into exile because of threats upon their lives for doing nothing more than carrying out normal everyday activities on behalf of Colombian workers. 

CAW Welcomes New Members

PLI – Pacific Language Institute Inc., Toronto, ON - 33 new members in Local 40

R. Lackey Specialized Transportation Ltd., Hastings, ON - 6 new members in Local 1090

Elk Court (Shannex Inc), Brookfield, NS - 38 new members in Local 4606

Ka-Na-Chi-Hih Specialized Solvent Abuse Treatment Centre, Thunder Bay, ON - 26 new members in Local 229

Oakwood Seniors Home (The Village of Glendale Crossing), London, ON - 175 new members in Local 302


UAW stock warrant
auction raises $1.78B

Proceeds go to VEBA to provide health care
coverage for Ford retirees and dependents

Robert Snell and Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News
April1, 2010

A United Auto Workers health care trust fund raised $1.78 billion from Tuesday's auction of its 362 million Ford stock warrants.

The proceeds will go to the UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust, also known as the UAW voluntary employees' beneficiary association. The trust is responsible for providing health care coverage for Ford Motor Co.'s 200,000 hourly retirees, spouses and eligible dependents.

The automaker said Wednesday that the trust Tuesday sold warrants to buy the shares for $5 each. The deal is expected to close on or about April 6.

The health care trust, established in 2007, protects coverage for hourly retirees, while stripping billions in retiree health care costs from Ford's books. General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC also turned to VEBA coverage for their union retirees.

The VEBA began paying Ford retiree health care costs in January.

The trusts were a risk for the UAW because of the uncertainty surrounding the company's stock price.

But in the case of Ford, it was a wise decision, said Gary N. Chaison, a professor of industrial relations at Clark University in Massachusetts.

"It shows that the risk the UAW took was worth it," he said Wednesday. "It's a good ending. Better than a lot were saying in the past."

Each warrant gives the holder the right to buy a Ford share at $9.20.

The warrants were essentially valueless when Ford gave them to the union as part of a deal that allowed the Dearborn automaker to cover a portion of its retiree health care obligations with company stock.

"Ford is pleased that the UAW VEBA's warrants in Ford stock have proven to be valuable," said Ford spokesman Mark Truby. "Our plan as a business is to deliver profitable growth for all Ford's stakeholders."

Ford still owes the VEBA approximately $7 billion, but it is ahead of schedule on making its payments to the union.

The Dearborn-based automaker has funneled $2.5 billion to the VEBA, which already had $3.5 billion, mainly from previous trusts set up by Ford.

Ford shares dropped 71 cents Wednesday, or 5.35 percent, to $12.57.

Ford Says Market Share in
Canada May Increase to 16%

By Christopher Donville

March 31 (Bloomberg) -- Ford Motor Co.’s market share in Canada may rise to 16 percent this year, from 15.2 percent in 2009, as new models such as the redesigned Fiesta subcompact reach showrooms, the automaker’s regional chief said.

Market share in Canada will be in a range of 15.5 percent to 16 percent, David J. Mondragon, chief executive officer of Ford Motor Co. of Canada, said today in an interview in Vancouver. Ford was No. 1 in Canada through February with about 16.2 percent of sales, he said.

“As we bring new products on, there will be an opportunity to grow our share further, but we need to get that product on the ground, we need to launch it and then see how it resonates” with buyers, Mondragon said.

The Fiesta is among eight new vehicles Ford plans to unveil in Canada this year as the Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker seeks to entice consumers with improved fuel efficiency and options such as the Sync voice-activated phone and entertainment system developed with Microsoft Corp.

“We are going to move our company from a niche player to a true competitor” in small cars, Mondragon said. Ford expects the price of oil to soar to $120 a barrel in the coming years, he said, without giving a timetable. Crude for May delivery rose 20 cents to $82.37 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

First-Quarter Gain

First-quarter sales in Canada rose by about 25 percent from a year earlier, Mondragon said, including a 51 percent gain in February. Sales in March are up about 25 percent, compared with an industrywide increase of about 10 percent in Canada, he said.

Comparisons should be easy for the next several months with the results from a year earlier, when the deepening recession damped demand, Mondragon said.

“As we get into the summer months, though, we’re going to butt up against some very high sales volumes from last year when our sales surged while GM and Chrysler were going through tough times,” he said, referring to the bankruptcy restructurings of the predecessors of General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC.

Ford fell 29 cents, or 2.1 percent, to $13.28 at 4:01 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares have risen 33 percent this year.

Through February, Ford had 17.5 percent of the U.S. market, second to Detroit-based GM.


Trucks take a back seat
as Ford bets on Fiesta

From the floor of the Vancouver International Auto Show on Tuesday, Ford Canada CEO David Mondragon says the Ford Fiesta (in background) gets 50 miles to the gallon or 100 km on five litres of gas. The show runs at BC Place Stadium until Sunday.Photograph by: Ian Lindsay, PNG, Vancouver Sun

CEO says the thrifty little car is the key to company's
campaign to claim more of Metro Vancouver market
By Derrick Penner, Vancouver Sun March 31, 2010

Ford Motor Co. has its raciest Mustangs at the Vancouver International Auto Show, but the $58,999 Mustang Shelby and the $38,499 convertible GT are off to one side of the automaker's massive display.

Sure, the flashy cars still attract a lot of attention sitting there on the aisle, but Ford has reserved centre stage for the new $12,999 Fiesta, which, in the words of Ford Canada CEO David Mondragon, is key to the company's campaign to claim more of Metro Vancouver and Western Canada's market.

"The bet that Ford Motor Co. has made is in small cars and [crossover utility vehicles] as the choice of the future for consumers in North America," Mondragon said in an interview from the show floor at BC Place.

The challenge, he added, will be to convince consumers used to thinking of Ford as a truck company that it is indeed a top-notch carmaker offering them value in high-mileage cars like the Fiesta.

Trucks have been good for Ford in Western Canada, particularly in the regions outside Metro Vancouver, in Alberta and Saskatchewan, where Mondragon said Ford holds 20 per cent of the market.

However, inside Metro Vancouver, which Mondragon characterized as a small-car market, Ford only holds a 10-per-cent market share, which is where the Fiesta and Ford's other small-sized offering, the Focus, come in.

The new cars will come with all of Ford's latest technological options, such as its Sync communications and entertainment systems, and high fuel efficiency (50 miles to the gallon in the Fiesta's case).

"What we've done is listened to consumers and built exactly what they asked for," Mondragon said, "great technology, great fuel efficiency, great safety and great quality at an affordable price."

It has been a long and painful road to reinvention for the company, however.

Mondragon said it has taken almost four years, the closure of 20 factories and slashing of half its staff to get to where Ford is, which is profitable.

The company doesn't break out Canadian financial results, but Ford Motor Co. as a whole turned a $2.7-billion US profit in 2009, its first in three years.

And Ford has shown strong results in 2010 with the company topping sales in both Canada and the U.S. in February, which Mondragon, in previous reports, said had more to do with Ford's four-year transformation and less due to the recall problems of Toyota Motor Corp.

In Metro Vancouver, he added, Ford's sales this year are up 10 per cent compared with last year, and that generally, 60 per cent of its Canadian sales are "conquest sales."

"Six out of 10 of our buyers today in Canada for Ford are new to our brand," Mondragon said. "Those are Toyota customers, those are Honda customers, GM and Chrysler customers coming into our showrooms."

Mondragon added that Ford hasn't finished with its reinvention. Later this year it will roll out a completely new Ford Explorer, which will be recast as a crossover built on the Taurus chassis rather than that of a four-wheel-drive truck.

That, he added, will give Ford greater efficiency and profitability by being able to turn out both vehicles on the same production line.


Ford pledges salaried bonuses,
union retiree fund to cash
in from stock rights
Ford headquarters in Dearborn (Carlos Osorio/AP)

UAW's VEBA may raise $1.27 billion

March 30, 2010

Ford's 21,300 salaried employees received assurances they would receive bonuses for 2010 if Ford meets certain targets, according to a copy of an e-mail sent to workers and obtained by the Free Press.

The news comes after Ford's salaried workers learned earlier this month that their previously promised merit pay increases would average about 3% this year.

The new bonus plan puts all of Ford's salaried employees in the U.S. and Canada under the same incentive plan as upper management, said Ford spokesman Marcey Evans.

"This plan is designed to pay out if the objectives are met for the full year," she said.

The amount of the bonus under the new incentive plan depends on meeting companywide and individual objectives.

Ford's salaried workers last received a bonus for 2007, ranging from several thousand dollars to $15,000 or more.

The potential for 2010 bonuses, which would be paid out next year, illustrates how far Ford has come since it posted a record loss of $14.6 billion in 2008. Other signs of progress were evident Monday:

Ford said it would pay $3 billion of its $34.5 billion in debt.

• The UAW's health care trust fund said it would sell 362 million warrants, which give the owner the option to buy Ford shares at $9.20 a piece. Ford stock closed Monday at $13.57 per share.

The sale by the UAW's Voluntary Employees Beneficiary Association, or VEBA, is to begin at 8 a.m. today and is to conclude by the end of the day .

It's designed to capitalize on the meteoric rise of Ford's stock price. In November 2008, the shares were trading at $1.26 each.

On Monday, Ford's stock closed at $13.57 per share.

"For a whole host of reasons, we think it is now an appropriate time to conduct a sale" of the warrants, Samuel Halpern, president of Independent Fiduciary Services in Washington, D.C., said Monday.

Halpern, whose investment advisory firm is advising the UAW's retiree trust, said the goal of the auction is to diversify the UAW trust fund's holdings.

Each warrant gives the buyer the right to purchase a share of Ford stock at $9.20.

If all the warrants were purchased at the minimum price, the trust would receive $1.27 billion.

However, the warrants could fetch an even higher price if the buyers believe Ford stock could soar higher.

During 2007 contract talks, the UAW agreed to manage the future health care costs of Ford's retirees. The move allowed Ford to remove billions of liabilities off its balance sheet.

However, Ford renegotiated the payment terms with the union last year because of financial strains. That allowed Ford to pay the union with stock warrants rather than cash.

Ford transferred the warrants to the trust on Dec. 31. Ford will not receive any of the proceeds from the sale, and the automaker still owes about $7 billion to the VEBA.

Ford, the only domestic automaker to avoid bankruptcy last year, earned a profit of $2.7 billion in 2009, as the turnaround plan overseen by President and CEO Alan Mulally has begun to show results.

Ford has gained market share in the U.S. and Europe. On Sunday, it announced a deal to sell Volvo for $1.8 billion. On Monday, Ford said it can afford to pay off $3 billion of its debt.

"Ford stock and the stock market in general have been on a tear, so despite the fact that Ford's near-term prospects look good, it makes sense for the UAW to take some profits off the table," Gimme Credit analyst Shelly Lombard said Monday.



Ford to release limited edition
Focus RS500 in Europe
The limited edition Ford Focus RS500 has a 2.5-liter, five-cylinder engine that will go from zero to 60 in less than 5.6 seconds. (Ford)

Scott Burgess / The Detroit News
March 30, 2010

Ford Motor Co. of Europe is launching an exclusive club for performance enthusiasts.

This spring, the company will build 500 high-performance Ford Focus RS500s and offer them to buyers in 20 European nations, the automaker said Monday.

While Americans often equate sports cars to the Ford Mustang, Europeans prefer smaller, quicker cars that still pack a punch.

"The Mustang has never really caught on in Europe," said Stephanie Brinley, an automotive analyst for AutoPacific. "The Focus RS, however, is very popular."

Ford expects to sell 11,000 Focus RS this year, the final year before the carmaker introduces the new Focus, which debuted at the Detroit auto show in January.

The coupe, based on the same platform as the European Ford Focus, will feature a 345-horsepower, 2.5-liter, five-cylinder engine that will create 340 pound-feet of torque. According to Ford's preliminary tests, the RS500 can go from zero to 60 in less than 5.6 seconds and has a top speed of 163 mph.

"We were determined to mark the end of production for the current and acclaimed Focus RS with something even more special," said Joe Bakaj, Ford of Europe's vice president for product development, in a news release.

The Focus RS500 comes in matte black paint and smoked alloy rims for its 19-inch performance tires, and will have a slew of performance add-ons such as brakes and shocks.

Every model will include a metal plaque on the dash with an engraved identification number, one through 500.

Officially, Ford has not said if it will ultimately bring a Focus RS to the United States when the new Focus arrives next year. Enthusiasts, however, can still hope.

"I think Ford will bring some sort of RS here," Brinley said. "But certainly not like this one."

Ford will also offer a special interior package for the RS500. Seats will include red stitching -- regular RS models use blue stitching. The RS500 will offer red Recaro race seats.

The coupe will debut at the 2010 Leipzig Motor Show in Germany on April 9, Ford of Europe officials said. Pricing will vary throughout Europe; the coupe will cost about $48,000 in Germany.


UAW to sell warrants for Ford stock

Warrant offering may raise $1.3B for retiree health care trust fund

Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News
March 30, 2010

Detroit -- The United Auto Workers union plans to offer for sale all of its 362 million warrants for Ford Motor Co. stock today -- a move that could generate about $1.3 billion for the union's retiree health care trust fund.

The stock warrants constitute an 11 percent ownership in Ford.

Ford issued the warrants to the union in December to help cover its obligation to the Voluntary Employees' Beneficiary Association. The VEBA assumed responsibility for hourly retirees' health care, taking that costly obligation -- $13.6 billion over the lives of all 200,000 retirees and spouses -- off the automaker's books.

The VEBA began paying Ford retiree health care costs in January.

Labor expert Gary N. Chaison, a professor of industrial relations at Clark University in Massachusetts, said the union's decision to sell its Ford stock warrants shows "a degree of sophistication in handling a difficult financial situation" that goes beyond its traditional collective bargaining role.

It also is another sign, Chaison said, that Ford's business turnaround is gaining traction.

"Ford is doing a lot better than most expected it would," he said. "The VEBA was a gamble in the first place. It was a concession. (UAW officials) were assuming financial risk. The VEBA could have been a disaster."

In February, Ford valued the warrants at $1.2 billion. As a result of Ford's increased stock price, however, the sale is expected to generate more than that.

The trust set a minimum price per warrant at $3.50. Each warrant gives the holder the right to buy a Ford share at $9.20. At the minimum price, the trust would get $1.3 billion, $100 million more than the value Ford placed on the warrants in December.

Ford stock closed Monday at $13.57, down $0.29.

Ford will receive no proceeds from the transaction, nor will the UAW's gains reduce the automaker's remaining obligations, about $7 billion, to the VEBA.

Ford has funneled $2.5 billion to the VEBA, which already had $3.5 billion, mainly from previous trusts set up by Ford.

According to documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the offering will be run by Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. starting at 8 a.m.

The UAW and Ford had no further comment Monday on the stock warrant sale.

Analyst Himanshu Patel of JPMorgan said it could signal that Ford's stock has peaked, for now.

"While the warrant auction is a UAW-driven -- not Ford-driven -- decision, it is not lost upon us that it is a decision made by an organization that has both a better inside view than most on Ford's operations and that is advised by professional external financial advisers," Patel said.

"We would argue the UAW warrant auction signals the stock is fully valued."

He said the move also raises the possibility that Ford could issue additional equity to take advantage of the high stock price.

General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC also turned to VEBA coverage -- for about 700,000 GM retirees and 120,000 Chrysler retirees.

The VEBA arrangement gave the union an ownership stake in the automakers, and protection for retirees' coverage, in exchange for removing billions in retiree health care costs from the companies' books.

Ford moves to trim debt
Also Monday, Ford declared its intention to make an early $3 billion payment -- almost half of the $6.7 billion it owes -- on a revolving credit note due in 2013 as it tries to trim its debt and strengthen its balance sheet.

The move was detailed in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The April 6 payment will cut Ford's total debt to just under $32 billion and reduce its interest expenses.

Ford has said the company is saddled with too much debt, putting it at a competitive disadvantage with GM and Chrysler, which erased much of their debt in bankruptcy reorganizations last year.

Ford was the only U.S. automaker that did not file for bankruptcy, and the only one to pass on a taxpayer bailout.


UAW hopes to gain
from rising Ford stock


March 29, 2010

Ford said today that the UAW’s health care trust fund has decided to place 362 million warrants, which are similar to stock options, for sale on the open market — a move that gives the UAW an opportunity to diversify its holdings and take advantage of Ford’s rapidly rising stock price.

Ford also said today that it has decided to use $3 billion to pay down a portion of its debt. The payment would reduce Ford’s total debt from about $34.5 billion to $31.5 billion.

Ford plans to make the payment by April 6 on its $8.1-billion line of credit.

In February, 2009 when General Motors and Chrysler were on the verge of bankruptcy and numerous suppliers were in danger of collapsing Ford decided to access its entire line of credit.

Today, Ford said it decided to pay $3 billion back to its lenders, “in light of the improved state of the capital markets and global economic conditions.”

The UAW’s retiree health care trust fund decided to sell its 362 million warrants because diversify its holdings, said Samuel Halpern, president of Independent Fiduciary Services in Washington, D.C., which is an investment advisory firm for the UAW’s trust.

“For a whole host of reasons we think it is now an appropriate time to conduct a sale,” Halpern said.

Each warrant gives the holder the right to buy one share of Ford stock at an exercise price of $9.20. The trust set a minimum price for each warrant at $3.50.

The combined $12.70 that a buyer would pay is below Ford’s closing stock price on Friday of $13.86 a share.

Ford’s stock was trading at $13.71 per share at 11:30 today, or more than five times higher than its 52-week low of $2.38 per share on March 30, 2009.

Ford will not receive any of the proceeds from the sale and Ford has about $7 billion in future obligations that it must pay into the VEBA.

Ford granted the UAW the warrants on Dec. 31 as part of an agreement to transfer Ford’s future retiree health care obligations to the UAW’s health care trust fund.

The retiree trust fund is the UAW’s Voluntary Employees Beneficiary Association, which is more commonly called a VEBA. The UAW agreed to manage the future health care costs of its retirees through the VEBA during 2007 contract talks.

Last year, the Ford and the UAW agreed to modify Ford’s payment terms and the modifications included Ford’s agreement to grant the UAW the 362 million stock warrants.



Ford begins production of 'PowerShift' transmission

Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News
March 29, 2010

Monday marks the official start of production for Ford Motor Co.'s new PowerShift dual-clutch transmission, which will debut in the U.S. version of the new 2011 Ford Fiesta this summer.

The PowerShift is an automatic transmission that works like a manual. It will be the first six-speed offered in a subcompact, and is expected to deliver a best-in-class highway fuel economy rating of at least 40 miles per gallon.

It is being manufactured for Ford by Getrag Americas at a new factory in Irapuato, Mexico. The assembly plant will also produce a similar transmission for the new Ford Focus.

"We believe this new automatic transmission for the Fiesta will be the most advanced in the segment, offering far better performance than our competitors," said Piero Aversa, team leader for PowerShift development. "It's an advanced gearbox that reduces complexity, saves weight, increases responsiveness and performance -- all while helping keep the engine in its peak efficiency mode -- resulting in class-leading fuel economy."

The dual-clutch system is designed to eliminate the tradeoffs that have traditionally made automatic transmissions less efficient and less responsive.

"Ford's advanced new six-speed automatic transmissions will really surprise our customers, and our competitors," said Barb Samardzich, Ford's vice president of powertrain development. "They provide the convenience of traditional automatics with fuel economy leadership, as well as responsive performance and driving dynamics that make these cars fun to drive. And we're adding six-speed transmissions to our most accessible vehicles, not just our luxury offerings and high-performance models."

The new transmission is a dual dry-clutch system that uses electronically controlled twin internal clutches to shift gears quickly and smoothly without interrupting torque flow. When it goes on sale in the Fiesta this summer, it will be mated to 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine.

"A dual dry-clutch transmission provides some real dividends on small car applications," Aversa said. "PowerShift with dry-clutch facings and new energy-saving electromechanical actuation for clutches and gear shifts saves weight, improves efficiency, increases smoothness, adds durability and is sealed with low-friction gear lubricant for the life of the vehicle. This transmission requires no regular maintenance."


China's Geely signs deal
for Ford's Volvo car unit
Technicians prepare vehicles for a test crash at the Volvo Safety Centre in Gothenburg, Sweden

Victoria Klesty
GOTHENBURG, Sweden — Reuters Published on Sunday, Mar. 28, 2010

Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, China's largest private-run car maker, agreed on Sunday to buy Ford Motor's Volvo car unit for $1.8 billion (U.S.), the country's biggest overseas auto purchase.

The takeover underscores China's arrival as a major force in the global auto industry and ends nearly two years of talks with Geely over Volvo -- the last sale from Ford's former premier group, which also held Aston Martin, Jaguar and Land Rover.

“Today represents a milestone in the history of Geely,” Geely chairman Li Shufu told a news conference, adding that Volvo Cars would remain a separate company with its own management team based in Sweden.

Such a deal would have been nearly unimaginable a few years ago for the Chinese carmaker, which on 2009 forecasts has a turnover of only 16 per cent of Volvo's, and has just over half the workforce.

The deal highlights in particular the big opportunities that have emerged from the financial crisis for smaller players. Tiny Dutch sports car maker Spyker clinched a deal in January to buy Sweden's Saab from General Motors Co.

Geely said it had secured all the necessary financing to complete the deal, though it remained open to a possible loan from the European Investment Bank.

Addressing questions regarding Geely's plans to keep production lines running in Europe, Mr. Li said it was important Volvo stayed close to key supply centres.

“I have a deep belief that the manufacturing footprint in Gothenburg and Belgium will be preserved in the longer term,” he said.

Volvo labour unions, which had been critical of the proposed deal and complained about a lack of information about the future of the company, said they now backed the takeover.

The deal, which both sides aim to close in the third quarter, will help free up cash for the number two U.S. automaker and enable it to focus on its core Ford brand.

Geely, parent of Geely Automobile Holdings, was named by Ford as the preferred bidder for its loss-making Swedish unit in October 2009.

The Chinese carmaker clinched Volvo at a price tag well below the $6.5 billion Ford paid for it in 1999.

“We think it's a fair price for a good business,” Ford Motor's chief financial officer Lewis Booth told the news conference.

China raced past the U.S. to become the world's top auto market last year, with sales surging 46 per cent to a record 13.6 million units. It is keen to move into Western markets but has so far lacked the technology and brand recognition to do so.

The Volvo deal should help the Chinese carmaker to get around some of those obstacles more quickly.

Geely's chairman is already planning a factory in Beijing which will make 300,000 Volvo branded cars, or as many Volvos for China as are now made abroad for foreigners.

Unlike General Motors' failed deal to sell its gas-guzzling Hummer brand to Tengzhong, a little known Chinese machinery maker, Geely's Volvo purchase has been backed by Beijing.

Made-in-China Volvo may get a boost from Beijing's plan to support domestic brands and replace Volkswagen AG's Audi A6 as Chinese state officials' car of choice.

“We want to stabilise and enhance the traditional markets in Europe and North America, and at the same time develop the other Volvo business in emerging markets, including China,” Mr. Li said.

The carmaker has already announced an aggressive target of boosting its sales to 2 million vehicles by 2015 from last year's roughly 330,000 units -- about the same as Volvo's global output.

Nortel pensioners deal
rejected by court

Nortel pensioners deal rejected by court

CBC News March 28, 2010

A $57 million benefits deal between Nortel Networks Corp. and its pensioners and disabled employees has been thrown out by an Ontario judge.

The deal reached in February to provide health and long-term disability benefits to former and disabled employees until the end of 2010 is "flawed" and unfair to other Nortel creditors, said judge Geoffrey Morawetz of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in a decision released Friday.

The deal included a controversial clause that would allow former employees to take advantage of any future changes to federal bankruptcy laws to increase their benefits. It was supported by groups representing about 19,500 former employees and 300 employees on long-term disability.

Other creditors such as bondholders had opposed the settlement, saying the clause means the agreement isn't final and therefore creates uncertainty.

Morawetz said he thought that position was "well founded" as the clause means there is "potential for a fundamental alteration of the settlement agreement."

He added: "If creditors are to be bound by the settlement agreement, they are entitled to know, with certainty and finality, the effect of the settlement agreement."

The court could not approve the deal without the clause, Morawetz said, as that would alter it so much as to essentially create a brand new agreement.

Benefits now end March 31

Bernard Neuschwander said the failure of the deal to win court approval means that on March 31, the pension plan will be wound up and all employees will lose their health benefits.

"It is very disappointing for us, that's for sure," he said.

If the deal had gone through, health coverage would have continued for another nine months.

Given that the rejection of the deal comes just days before March 31, the court will "make every effort" to help the parties involved if they need further direction, Morawetz wrote.

Nortel, a telecommunications technology company, filed for bankruptcy protection in January 2009 and since then, most of the company has been sold off as it prepares to wind down operations.

The company announced it on Feb. 8, 2010 that it had reached a deal with its pensioners and its employees on disability leave, who feared they would lose their benefits when the company is finally dissolved.

Disabled employees pleased

A group of about 37 Nortel employees on long-term disability opposed the deal, as it required employees and former employees to give up their right to sue Nortel and oppose the payment of $92 million in bonuses to Nortel executives.

However, Morawetz wrote in Friday's decision that he is satisfied that the clause barring the employees from suing is not too broad and is necessary. He added that it will benefit creditors by preventing delays and extra costs related to potential lawsuits.

Nevertheless, the employees opposed to the deal are pleased with the decision, said Diane Urquhart, an independent financial analyst who advocates for them.

"The longterm disabled persons see this as a opportunity now to negotiate a more equitable settlement for their very, very significant negative situation," she said.


Budget slips $500M to Nortel pension guarantee

March 27, 2010
James Daw - Toronto Star

Ontario has quietly provided a $500 million backstop for pensions from Nortel Networks Corp. that are owed to residents of this province.

The politically sensitive grant to the Pension Benefits Guarantee Fund (PBGF) was revealed without fanfare – or mention of Nortel – in the back pages of the province's latest deficit budget.

Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said nothing about it in his speech, and made no promise to continue propping up the guarantee fund, the financial future of which remains in doubt and under study.

"This grant will help ensure that the PBGF has sufficient assets to cover claims in the near term," the budget states.

Nortel is being broken up and sold off to new owners under bankruptcy protection.

Sources say most of the $500 million grant will be required to cover part of the shortfall in pension funding.

Duncan promised that there will be further consultations on how to improve retirement security for "tomorrow's seniors," without revealing what innovations his government would support.

In a nod to growing envy over pension inequality, he announced a compensation freeze and potential changes that could trim the public cost of future public-sector pensions.

Retirees, union leaders and others had pressed the government to come to the rescue of members of Nortel's troubled corporate pension plan, as it had done for General Motors of Canada Ltd.

But Duncan left everyone in suspense. He promised legislation a year ago that would permit the sort of outright grant he announced Thursday. Yet he said the legislation would also make clear that the government is not required to make grants, or to continue making loans.

The PBGF, the only such guarantee fund in Canada, essentially protects pensioners from a sudden reduction in the portion of their company pension that is $1,000 or less per month.

Money to cover a shortfall was to come from other companies that sponsor pension plans with a defined benefit. But the guarantee fund owed the province $275 million as of last March, and collected an average of only $48 million in premiums a year.

So it would not have been in a position to provide guarantees for years to come and its source of revenues was drying up as companies disappeared or closed their pension plans to new entrants.

The government has commissioned an actuarial report, due this spring, on what might be required to keep the fund afloat without further government support.

The budget announces the government will consider requests from public-sector pension plans, such as those for university professors, to put off extra payments in order to restore their funds to financial health.

But as a condition of granting the extra time, the government would require active members to agree to such things as paying half of all future costs and accepting less generous benefits or less than full inflation protection.

Many public-sector workers may have to contribute more to maintain pensions throughout the period of their next labour deals. The province will require a period of at least two years in which the cost of wages and benefits, including pension, doesn't rise. So higher payroll deductions may be required.

The budget notes that costs for the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan and other pensions and benefits will be $1.627 billion this fiscal year, up $754 million in the past three years.

Ontario plans another round of reforms to pension legislation this year that would require more conservative funding of plans and a sharing of risk between plan sponsors and members. For example, the budget mentions tightening requirements for companies taking a holiday from contributions, and setting aside funds to back any improvement in benefits.

"Pension reform will be implemented in stages to ensure that related proposals are effectively co-ordinated and cost increases are mitigated as appropriate," the budget promises.


Job creation ‘great
for Canada': CAW

CAW president says move marks first time in almost a decade that all the auto maker's Canadian employees will have job to report to

The Canada Press
March 27, 2010

The president of the Canadian Auto Workers Union says General Motor's decision to recall more than 600 laid-off workers at two plants in Ontario is “great for Canada.”

Ken Lewenza says the move marks the first time in almost a decade that all the automaker's Canadian employees will have a job to report to.

He says the decision to boost staff in Oshawa and Ingersoll is timely for workers who have been hit hard by the economic downturn that brought the North American auto industry to its knees last year.

He says most of GM's laid-off workers have nearly exhausted their employment insurance and other social benefits.

Mr. Lewenza says his union won't spend too much time celebrating the recent hires at General Motors, but will instead focus on growing demand for vehicles and ensuring long-term security for its members.



Hybrid Lincoln to
debut in New York
2011 Lincoln Hybrid

Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News
March 27, 2010

Ford Motor Co. will unveil a hybrid version of its Lincoln MKZ sedan Wednesday at the New York International Auto Show, according to people familiar with the company's plans.

It will be the first luxury hybrid offered by the Dearborn automaker, which was the first U.S. manufacturer to bring hybrids to market in 2004.

Ford already offers hybrid versions of the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan. The hybrid Lincoln MKZ will be built off the same platform.

Other than the gasoline-electric powertrain and different badging, it will be identical to the regular gasoline version of the midsize sedan.

"I thought they should have done it before," said Chris Lemley, who owns several dealerships in the Boston metropolitan area. "I'm glad they're doing it now."

He believes Ford may be able to take advantage of consumer concerns over recent recalls of competing products from Toyota Motor Corp.'s luxury Lexus brand.

"It depends on how fast they can get it to us," Lemley said. "I'm also hoping that it will be priced competitively."

That will be key, according to analyst Jim Hall of 2953 Analytics LLP in Birmingham. While he said the new midsize sedan will fill a noticeable gap in Ford's hybrid lineup, he is concerned it will offer too little differentiation.

"It's basically a Fusion, and that's my concern," he said. "They better have something that makes it better than the drive train in the Fusion."

He and other analysts also point out that Ford's ability to get hybrid powertrains from its suppliers is limited. Adding another model does not mean the company will be able to add sales.

"All it does is reallocate it," Hall said. "But it does reallocate it to a car they can sell for a higher price -- theoretically."


Volume 40, No. 12
March 26, 2010

Siemens Rally Calls for Stop to Closure

Hundreds of Siemens workers and supporters gathered for a noon-time rally outside of the Hamilton plant. The March 18 rally called on the company to reverse its closure announcement.

In his address CAW President Ken Lewenza warned the German-based Siemens that if it does not take this protest seriously, the union will take it to the street. 

Siemens employs 400,000 globally and in this past year hired 50,000 people. Lewenza said that collectively we must find a way to tackle the problem of global capital having free rein to pick up and move from one city to another, from one country to another and even from one continent to another.

“This is not a company that is not making money, it’s a company that doesn’t think it’s making enough,” said Lewenza of Siemens to a cheering crowd.

If Siemens cannot find a way to keep the work in the Hamilton facility, they must create work of equal value for the more than 500 workers who will lose their jobs.

Randy Smith, president of CAW Local 504, said that people are still shocked about the announcement and angered about being lied to by Siemens. Just six months ago, Siemens declared that it was “committed to Ontario and to the Hamilton manufacturing facility.” 

“That Siemens is allowed to pick up and leave this city when we are perfectly able to do the same work here is outrageous,” said Smith. “We’re calling on the provincial and federal governments to use their substantial power to either keep the work here or create other jobs so that Siemens actually does live up to its commitment to the people of this region.”

Hamilton East - Stoney Creek MPP Paul Miller; Hamilton Mountain MP Chris Charlton; Hamilton and District Labour Council President Mary Long; and Hamilton City Councillor Scott Duvall also addressed the crowd and pledged their support.

Siemens announced on March 11 it would close its doors as of July 2011, shuttering the more than 100 year old plant.
 CAW Members Rally Behind Striking Steelworkers

A massive solidarity rally was held in Sudbury on March 22 in support of striking Vale Inco workers who continue to battle back against company demands for concessions and fight for a new collective agreement.

Over 150 CAW members from across Ontario took part in the rally, including a contingent from Oakville, Oshawa, Hamilton and Toronto who made the same-day trek to and from Sudbury (located about four hours north of Toronto).

Nearly 5,000 workers, retirees and community supporters jammed the Sudbury Community Arena, demanding the Brazilian-based mining giant return to the bargaining table in the hopes of negotiating an end to the nine-month old strike.

The company has been relentless in its demand for workers to abandon their defined benefit pension plan, weaken seniority provisions and transfer rights and increase the use of contract workers, among other concessionary demands.

NDP Leader Jack Layton addressed the crowd along with United Steelworkers international President Leo Gerard. Brazilian trade union leaders Rogerio Pantoja, representative of the Central Única dos Trabalhadores (CUT) and Efraim Gomes de Moura of the Coordenação Nacional de Lutas (CONLUTAS) also attended the rally.

Pantoja and de Moura offered messages of solidarity to the strikers on behalf of Vale workers in Brazil and encouraged Vale miners to stand united in the fight to protect and improve working conditions.

CAW Mine Mill Local 598 President Richard Paquin said the rally provided a huge morale boost to the strikers and the community of Sudbury overall.

“It’s very hard to accept that this strike has dragged on for so long, and no matter where you work you’re feeling the impacts in one way or another,” Paquin said.

“Vale is promoting an agenda of cutthroat bargaining that fails to respect the long-standing history and culture of labour relations in our community. We won’t stand for this kind of power abuse and we’ll continue to stand in support of our USW Local 6500 brothers and sisters on the picket lines.”

Vale Inco workers in Sudbury have been on strike since July 2009.

Overwhelming Support for New Contact at General Dynamics

 CAW Local 27 members who work at the General Dynamics plant in London, Ontario have overwhelmingly ratified a new three-year collective agreement with wage, benefit and pension improvements.

The CAW represents 508 workers at General Dynamics Land Systems in London, who build armoured military personnel carriers. They voted 96 per cent in favour of the contract. 

The agreement includes a lump sum wage increase in year one of 2.5 per cent, a two per cent wage increase in the second year and a lump sum increase of two per cent in the third year. It also includes a $1000 signing bonus and maintains COLA, which is folded in.

Pension increases occur in all three years and there are increases in vision, massage therapy, chiropractic, minimum basic life insurance and extended disability coverage.

Language regarding work ownership has been maintained and there is improved outsourcing language covering the skilled trades, CAW London area director Fergo Berto said.

Craig McLarty, CAW Local 27 unit chairperson, said the membership is pleased with the agreement, which helps to ensure a strong foundation for the future.

“The solid strike mandate provided by our membership meant the bargaining committee could negotiate the best agreement possible,” said McLarty. “This new contract helps to ensure we will maintain work at the London plant and bring in future work at this facility as well,” he said.
Don’t Forget!

Earth Hour 2010 will take place Saturday March 27. Millions of Canadians will switch off their lights and turn off non-essential power sources at 8:30pm in support of confronting dangerous climate change. The CAW is encouraging members to take part! Earth Hour event listings are available at: http://wwf.ca/earthhour/


Ford sees more gains in U.S.
market share in March

March 26, 2010
By David Bailey

DETROIT, March 25 (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co expects to take a larger share of the U.S. market in March, as it continues to attract non-Ford owners to its brands, Ford's U.S. sales chief said on Thursday.

The U.S. auto industry overall is expected to have a stronger month in March than many expected at the end of February, but Ford's results should outpace the industry, Ken Czubay said in an interview.

"We are having a pretty good month in March and we are finding the industry is having a good month, but we ought to outpace the industry again," he said.
Czubay said the seasonally adjusted annualized sales rate for the industry in March will be "surprisingly good" compared with what might have been expected at the end of February.

In early March, Ford said consumer confidence seemed to have reached a plateau.

Annualized U.S. auto sales ran at a 10.8 million vehicles in January and at about 10 .4 million in February. Most industry forecasters expect sales of about 11.5 million vehicles in 2010.

But last Friday, auto industry tracking service Edmunds said U.S. sales in March were running at an annualized rate of 13.2 million vehicles.

Ford has forecast U.S. auto industry sales in the 11.5 million to 12.5 million range for the year, including medium and heavy duty trucks.

Czubay said March results were being driven by increased marketing across the industry, the start of the spring selling season and, he hoped, the beginning of an increase in business due to an economic recovery.

"I think we have all been a little disappointed that the recovery hasn't taken hold of our business a little bit more strongly -- January and February for example -- so I am hoping the recovery is starting to take hold so we can raise the base water level of business," Czubay said.

If March comes out as expected, Ford will have gained U.S. market share in 17 of the last 18 months. Last year, Ford increased its U.S. market share for the first time since 1995.

Czubay said a focus on fuel economy, safety, technology and quality improvements has helped drive the increase in sales to new customers over the past 18 months.
Among its three main brands, the number of customers who traded in non-Ford vehicles rose 18 percent from 2005 through 2009 for Ford, 61 percent for Lincoln and 12 percent for Mercury.

For example, the growth rate of sales to customers who traded in non-Ford brands was nearly 12 percent for the Taurus between 2005 and 2009, single digits for the Mustang and 6 percent for the F-Series pickup.

"I think we are going to see a good March. We are going to have a pretty darn good March," Czubay said. "I actually think April is going to be pretty good also. We are planning to keep full support for our dealers."


Ford to sell Edge as SUV in China
The 2011 Ford Edge is getting an exterior freshening as well as new technology. It will be sent from Canada to China. (Ford)

Automaker tries to broaden lineup there


March 26, 2010

Ford said late Wednesday that it plans to ship the Ford Edge from Canada to China as part of an effort to broaden its lineup in one of the world's fastest-growing automotive markets.

The 2011 Ford Edge, built in Oakville, Ontario, will make its regional debut at the 2010 Beijing International Automotive Exhibition on April 23. It was first shown at the Chicago Auto Show in February.

Aside from different fog lamps, headlights and license plate brackets, Ford said the Edge it will sell in China will be essentially the same as the version it will sell in North America.

Ford plans to begin building and shipping the Edge to China this year, but spokesman Mark Schirmer declined to say how many Ford hopes to sell or how much it will charge for the midsize crossover.

But even with shipping costs and a steep import duty of as much as 25%, Ford should still make a small profit from the vehicle, said Tim Dunne, director of global automotive coordination for J.D. Power and Associates.

Ford also ships its E-Series van from North America to China but builds the rest of China's six-vehicle lineup in China.

The addition of the Edge in China will give Ford a presence in an important, fast-growing segment, Dunne said. While the Edge is seen as a crossover in the U.S., the Edge will be marketed as an SUV in China.

Dunne said he expects SUV sales in China to double from 847,000 in 2009 to 1.54 million by 2015.

Ford also said the Edge will be the first car in China to feature Ford's MyFord Touch and Sync.

MyFord is the automaker's latest entertainment and climate control interface, and Sync is Ford's voice-controlled in-car communications system.

"Chinese consumers are always interested in the newest of the new," Dunne said. "They like cutting-edge products ... and Chinese consumers are very tech-savvy."

Ford also plans to show its new Focus compact car at the Beijing auto show. The all-new Focus, which made its international debut at the North American International Auto Show in January, is part of Ford's effort to sell more than 2 million vehicles annually that are built off of the same platform.

Last September, Ford announced plans to spend $490 million on a new plant in Chongqing, China, to build the Focus and other cars for the Chinese market as it tries to expand its market share.

In 2009, Ford and its joint-venture partners sold 440,619 cars and trucks in China, a 44% increase from 2008 as industry sales topped 12.9 million, up 50% from 2008.

But Ford continues to face an uphill battle in China, where more than 75 brands compete for attention. Last year, Ford's share of total industry sales remained at just 1.9%, or about the same as 2008, the company said in its annual statement.


Ford optimistic on Volvo sale

Anticipation escalates over $1.8B deal as
companies plan announcement in Sweden

Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News
March 25, 2010

Ford Motor Co. remains confident that it will finalize an agreement to sell its Swedish luxury brand, Volvo, to China's Zhejiang Geely Holding Group next week.

But what had been planned as a low-key announcement is rapidly escalating into a major international event: Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping is now scheduled to be on hand to sign the deal, according to sources close to the negotiations.

"We're still working toward reaching a definitive sales agreement by the end of this month," Ford spokesman Mark Truby said Wednesday.

Volvo spokesman Olle Axelson confirmed that preparations are under way for an announcement at the company's headquarters in Goteborg, where he said the mood is cautiously optimistic.

"People are anxious to move forward," he said.

"Things are looking good for Volvo right now, and we want to get on with selling our cars."

Ford began shopping Volvo shortly after it completed the sale of its British luxury brands, Jaguar and Land Rover, to India's Tata Motors in 2008.

But the global credit crisis made it nearly impossible for prospective buyers to secure the necessary capital.

The Dearborn automaker announced in October that Geely was its "preferred bidder" for Volvo.

Since then, work on things such as future products has been largely on hold in Sweden, pending the outcome of the deal.

Ford Chief Financial Officer Lewis Booth is expected to fly to Sweden this weekend.

The Financial Times has reported that Geely will pay Ford $1.8 billion for Volvo.

China's National Business Daily reports that the Geely registered to handle the acquisition already has secured sufficient funding for a deal at that price, which is far less than Ford originally hoped to get for the brand.

But Volvo's sales have suffered along with the rest of the global automobile industry, and it has defied Ford's efforts to turn it into a profitable operation.

Ford has made progress, however: Last year, Volvo lost $653 million, $812 million less than it lost in 2008.

Leaked reports in the Chinese media that suggest talks between the two companies have hit a snag are just "last minute arm-twisting" by Geely, sources told The Detroit News.

Sources expect Volvo's new parent to keep the company's headquarters in Sweden and affirm its commitment to supporting new product development.

But other details about the ownership structure and the make up of the company's board of directors likely will wait until the deal closes this summer.

Volvo enjoys one of the most positive brand images in the world, a fact that has led some analysts to question the wisdom of Ford's decision to sell it. Ford CEO Alan Mulally wants to focus on fixing Ford's own problems, not those of foreign subsidiaries.


Quit heel-dragging on pensions,
Jack Layton tells Tories

Jane Taber
March 25, 2010

NDP Leader Jack Layton accused Stephen Harper of dragging his feet on pension reform, wondering why he didn’t use the six weeks that Parliament was shut to make a fix.

During Question Period today, the Liberals piled on, too, charging that the government was stalling on reforms and wasn’t serious about the issue.

The government announced it will consult with Canadians on pension reform through a series of town-hall meetings, round tables, policy conferences and online discussions leading to a federal-provincial finance ministers’ meeting in May.

“Canadians can’t afford to wait. Just ask the people at AbitibiBowater or at Nortel. They stand to lose virtually everything,” Mr. Layton said. “But we’re not seeing that sense of urgency from this government.”

“Why can’t we see action on these issues now? Why more delay?"

Wednesday is usually a raucus day in the House, given that MPs are fired up after spending the morning in their caucus meetings. But today was very tame.

The Prime Minister defended his actions so far, noting his government has created a tax-free savings account and introduced income splitting for pensioners.

Mr. Layton also said Canadians should be allowed to put more of their savings into the Canada Pension Plan. “It would provide them with the retirement security that they are looking for.”

Not possible, Mr. Harper said.

When it comes to making major changes to the pension plan, the Prime Minister said, the federal government has to consult with the provinces.

Later in Question Period, Toronto Liberal MP Judy Sgro said the Liberals are ready to act now on pension reform, and she accused Finance Minister Jim Flaherty of “stalling until the provinces get tired of waiting and move first.”

That didn’t sit well with the Finance Minister. “The Liberals can’t even figure out how to vote in this House. Now they want to tell us how to run the pension system,” he replied, referring to the Liberal confusion over voting on a confidence measure.

Several Liberal MPs mistakenly voted with the government on Tuesday, after receiving the wrong information from their Whip.

“Their idea of a conference is to do something like they are going to do this weekend, this meeting that has the oxymoronic name of Liberal thinkers’ conference.”

In this retort, Mr. Flaherty was mocking the Grits and their conference in Montreal that begins Friday. The conference is an opportunity for the Liberals to come up with new policies for the future.

The Liberals, along with the NDP, asked about CPP. Liberal finance critic John McCallum suggested the Prime Minister wanted to privatize the pension plan, rather than strengthen it.

No, Mr. Flaherty said.

“I know the Official Opposition, on the back of an envelope, has decided on a voluntary CPP plan. I know the NDP, on the back of an envelope, maybe the same envelope, has decided that it has to be a mandatory CPP plan,” Mr. Flaherty said.

“All options are on the table as they are with our provincial partners and our territorial partners,” he said.


The sound of Silence


Bryce G. Hoffman ( The Detroit News ) Mar 24, 2010

Has anybody else noticed that lack of grousing about Ford CEO Alan Mulally's $18 million pay package this year? I certainly have. It's a sharp contrast to previous years when I have been inundated with calls and e-mails from angry workers who thought the guy at the top of the house should be feeling a little more of their pain. But that was before Mulally's turnaround propelled Ford's stock to levels not seen in half a decade. Even the United Auto Workers have bit their collective tongues this year -- and with good reason. As I reported today, the UAW itself has made more than $1.5 billion in the last year thanks to Mulally & Co.


Is Ford Unstoppable?

Bruce Hall Mar 24, 2010

Last week, I was privileged to attend a briefing on Ford's future products. Some of what was shown has already been introduced to the public, including the 2012 Ford Focus.

The purpose of the briefing was to give past and present employees a glimpse into the future and an opportunity to ask some questions, perhaps giving Ford's top management team who were present an opportunity to get either reinforcement or pause for thought.

The briefing included three major areas: exterior design, interior design and enhancing the driving experience.

While I cannot go into details about any of these because of confidentiality, J Mays, who heads Ford's design team, was clear -- before revealing Ford's vehicles -- about what Ford's design philosophy was not and showed examples. I can attest that the general response from those present was one of extreme approval of Ford's designs and planned innovations. Personally, I would have to give Ford an A+ on what I saw and heard.

Ford's rise to the top of the U.S. market may well be unstoppable by any of its competitors. It is a focused and dedicated organization that is clearly prepared to be on the leading edge of automotive design and innovation. With GM and Chrysler hampered by governmental and organizational issues and Toyota reeling from bad press about safety and vehicle body integrity (rust), it would seem that the only thing that will stop Ford is Ford itself losing sight of what is bringing them to the verge of enormous success.

New Ford micro-van
a moving experience
Peter Bleakney tested out the Ford Transit Connect's primary purpose, moving stuff. It was the perfect size for moving his daughter Angela's belongings.

Toronto Star
Peter Bleakney

I recently offered to help my daughter and her boyfriend move. Rats.

No, I mean real rats. As in Stewy and Percy. This beady-eyed pair, who share accommodations with Angela and Geoff, rate a bit higher than Billy bookcases and cardboard boxes, so they got the coveted shot-gun position in my 2010 Ford Transit Connect XLT as we negotiated the alleys and streets of downtown Toronto.

But you really shouldn’t say “alley” or “shot-gun” in front of domesticated rats. Or “sewer”. They’re a little sensitive.

As it turned out, Ford’s compact Euro-panel van, which makes its debut this year and won the 2010 North American Truck of the Year award, proved a worthy vehicle for the job.

Built in Turkey on a highly-reinforced Focus platform, this diminutive dromedary manoeuvres through the cityscape like a, um, rat through a maze.

The idea of a fuel-efficient compact inner-city commercial vehicle is so achingly obvious I’m surprised we haven’t seen them here before. Since its launch in 2003, when it was named International Van of the Year, Ford has sold more than half a million of these abroad.

The front-drive Transit is powered by a 136 hp Duratec 2.0 L four-cylinder coupled to a four-speed auto. Peak torque of 128 lb.-ft. arrives at 4750 r.p.m. Official fuel economy figures are 9.5 L/100 km city (30 mpg) and 7.9 L/100 km highway (36 mpg). Sadly, we don’t get the 1.8 L common rail diesel engine found in other markets.

The base panel van lists at $27,229. A model with windows in the sliding side doors and a split-folding three-perch rear seat goes for $28,229. Now here’s an opportunity for hockey mums to stand out from the crowd — and carry hockey sticks vertically.

Unladen, the 2010 Ford Transit is surprisingly enjoyable to drive. The steering is direct, it goes where you point it with little body roll and the ride is quite refined. Good seats too.

But this Transit’s time with me was not going to be a drive in the park. Tucked in an alley, er narrow laneway, with the rear doors agape and both sliding doors open, we loaded it to the roof (several times) with boxes that had been packed with little consideration for the humans who had to carry them down two flights of stairs. The Transit’s cargo area measures mm 2057 mm (81 in) deep, 1222 mm wide (48.1 in) and 1501 mm (59.1 in) in height, with a total capacity of 3831 litres. The floor is a textured, hard, rubberized compound.

While we wilted from the strain, the Transit’s rear suspension, featuring very truck-like leaf springs and a solid rear axle, barely compressed. Once under way, it was composed and stable.

The view out the front and through the deep cut side windows (think Lamborghini Diablo, or not) is positively panoramic and the turning circle is a tight 11.9 m (39 ft). I was grateful for the large mirrors and optional $250 reverse sensing system. The only other option on this tester was the $550 roll stability control, which would have come in handy had I needed to dodge a few Crackberry dazed jay-walkers.

The Transit’s interior is simple with a quality look and feel, the steering column tilts and telescopes, and above the windshield is a large netted shelf well suited for waybills, briefcases and rodents. With the seats right at hip point, ingress and egress is about as effortless as you could ask for, but it loses points for lack of bun warmers and it has a lousy radio.

That said, I have considerable respect for the Ford Transit Connect: a great concept brilliantly executed. As my Dad used to say, “Always use the right tool for the job.” This would be an ideal vehicle for such urban concerns as flower shops, pizza joints, couriers and rat exterminators.

Just kidding. I have a newfound respect for the rattus domesticus too. Unlike a number of auto scribes I have had the pleasure of driving with, Stewy and Percy were quiet, cuddly, smelled pretty good and didn’t try to kill me.

2010 Ford Transit Connect

Price: base/as tested: $27,229/$29,279

Engine: 2.0L DOHC Duratec four

Fuel consumption L/100km: city 9.5, hwy 7.9

Power/torque: 136 hp; 128 lb.-ft.

Competition: Chevy HHR Panel

What’s best: Tougher than it looks, fun to drive, economical

What’s worst: No heated seats

What’s interesting: Named North American Truck of the Year in 2010


Thousands attend Sudbury
labour rally in support of
striking Vale Inco workers

Click on Photo for more Pictures (Photos by Doug Berry)

March 23, 2010

SUDBURY, Ont. - Downtown Sudbury, Ont., ground to a halt for hours Monday afternoon as thousands took part in one of the largest labour rallies the city has seen.

Organized by the Steelworkers, the so-called Bridging the Gap rally was designed to build momentum for the more than 3,000 striking miners at Vale Inco. Roads were shut down in the city's core as thousands began with a march from the union's hall to the Sudbury Arena.

Activists from as far away as Brazil and Australia addressed the crowd, telling members that this dispute will have global implications.

After eight months and counting, it is shaping up to be one of the largest labour disputes with Sudbury's main employer.

Last July 13 workers walked off the job after being unable to reach a contract over things like pension contributions, seniority and the nickel bonus.

Federal NDP Leader Jack Layton took the first flight to Sudbury after question period in Ottawa, landing just in time to be able to speak to the rally.

"Someone's gotta stand up to this line of thinking, that's what brought us into the recession," says Layton. "Well, I think the workers of Sudbury, the people of Sudbury are standing up to the idea."

He said the New Democrats will be renewing their efforts to make public the deal that allowed Brazilian mining giant Vale to buy Canadian company Inco.

"I say to Stephen Harper and the Canadian government, you approved this take over. The law said it had to be of net benefit to Canada, how is what we're seeing here of net benefit to Canada?" Layton said.

Mayor John Rodriguez said the solution is simple.

"What we need is a bargaining table, and it needs both parties to get back there and bridge the gap," he said.


Ford's Mulally paid nearly $18M
in cash, stock options, grants
CEO Alan Mulally's total compensation increased to more than $17.9 million from just under $17 million in 2008. Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr. has received no compensation since 2005. (STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News
March 22, 2010

Dearborn -- Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally's compensation package totaled nearly $18 million, including stock options and grants in 2009, according to company documents released today, but he took a voluntary 30 percent reduction in his cash salary.

Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr., meanwhile, continued to work without compensation.

Mulally's cash salary was $1.4 million, down from $2 million in 2008. He did not receive a bonus. But his total compensation increased to more than $17.9 million from just under $17 million in 2008. That figure was higher than initially reported, due to changes in accounting rules.

Bill Ford has received no compensation since 2005.

Ford spokesman Mark Truby said Ford, the great-grandson of Henry Ford, will continue to forego any compensation "until the board determines we've achieved automotive profitability for a full year."

The Dearborn automaker surprised Wall Street by posting a full-year profit of more than $2.7 billion for 2009, after years of staggering losses. But its global automotive operations remained in the red for the full year.

Compensation that Bill Ford would have received from 2008 on will be paid once the automaker is back in the black. His total compensation for 2009, including stock options and grants, will be $16.8 million.

None of Ford's top executives received a bonus for 2009.

Ford Americas President Mark Fields earned $1.3 million last year. His total compensation package was just under $4 million. Fields' salary was the same as in 2008, but his total compensation for that year was more than $4.6 million.

Ford Chief Financial Officer Lewis Booth was paid $1.2 million. His total package was worth $3.8 million. In 2008, his salary was just over $1 million and his total package was worth more than $5.4 million.

Ford of Europe Chairman John Fleming earned $750,000 in cash. His total compensation was $3.8 million.

Details of last year's executive compensation were contained in Ford's preliminary proxy, filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission this morning. That document also included details of shareholder proposals that will be voted on at the company's annual stockholder's meeting May 13 in Wilmington, Del.

They include a proposal asking shareholders to ratify a tax benefit preservation plan approved by Ford's board of directors in September. The plan is designed to protect the company's $17 billion in deferred tax benefits. There also was a perennial challenge to the Ford family's continued control of the company through their super-voting Class B shares.

2009 Proxy Statement
2008 Proxy Statement
2007 Proxy Statement
2006 Proxy Statement
2005 Proxy Statement
2004 Proxy Statement
2003 Proxy Statement


Canada Postal Service
to buy Ford vans
Ford Transit

e-Canada Now
March 21, 2010

While the United States Postal Service is looking for ways to save money, they don’t seem to be turning over every rock in order to do so.

The U.S. could take a cue from its brothers to the north in how exactly to cut down on expenses for a postal service that is rapidly becoming obsolete. Both the Canadian and United State postal service have been using Grunman Long Life Vehicles built by General Motors. These particular cars don’t have particularly good gas mileage but they are built to last longer than the average city driving vehicle.

At only 18 miles per gallon the mail delivery trucks tend to gobble down the gas, but when the two countries entered into their agreements with GM that was hardly a problem.

Now that gasoline prices have spiked, and appear to be staying at more than $2.50 a gallon, such short mileage abilities is becoming extremely costly.

Combine that with the fact that both countries’ postal services are becoming ever more useless with the rise of FedEx and UPS and the postal services are facing some serious financial problems.

The United State Postal Service has kicked around the idea of removing Saturday deliveries, and has looked at possibly changing their transport vehicles to more gas efficient models.

The Canadian Postal Service has already taken more concrete steps in order to cut their costs.

The CPS very recently signed a deal with Ford motors to purchase over a thousand of the company’s Transit Connect vans.

The Transit Connect has much better gas mileage, and the deal is expected to save the Canadian Postal several million dollars simply based on the money they’ll be able to reserve for gas purchases.

The Transit Connect has an average improvement of six miles per gallon over the previous mail delivery trucks, and while Canada does not have the postal service size of the United States, the USPS’ estimates show just how much a move like this can save.

The USPS says that with over 260,000 delivery trucks in operation, a hike of one penny in the gas price costs the government over eight million dollars.



2011 Ford Super Duty provides brute strength for world's
toughest drivers
2011 Ford Super Duty

Scott Burgess: Auto Review
March 20, 2010

Flipping through the channels late at night, you may have come across that show: The one with huge men in tights tossing 55-gallon drums full of rocks, towing DC9s with their braided back-hair and waddling through an open field playing ultimate Frisbee with manhole covers.

You want to, but you can't look away, even as they chalk up their thighs to prevent their polyester bodysuits from a frictional meltdown.

The World's Strongest Man Competition may have a new contestant: The 2011 Ford Super Duty. It's a super-duty freak.

If this truck was a person, Congress would have inquiries into performance-enhancing drugs. Its strength is obscene, its power nearly absolute.

During some quick testing of the Super Duty at an Arizona rock pit -- heavy duty trucks live in pits -- I pulled an 86,000-pound front end loader, crawled over boulders and then drove back to the hotel with 1,000 pounds in the bed and four people in the cab and managed to top 23 miles per gallon.

I became Herculean, all the while blasting the air conditioning and sipping a protein shake. (OK, it was a Diet Coke -- I don't need my thighs rubbing together.)

The redesigned F-Series Super Duty includes more flavors than Baskin Robbins, with variations of the F-250, F-350 and F-450 pickups. They were pretty good before, but now they come with improved powertrains, including Ford's all new 6.7-liter V-8 diesel engine.

Instead of having some other diesel company produce the engine, Ford took on the job itself -- creating a Picasso out of a power plant with a compact graphite and aluminum block.

Seriously, the diesel engine is quiet and smooth and cranks out Magnús Ver Magnússon kind of muscle: 390 horsepower and 735 pound-feet of torque.

Instead of simply putting lots of sound-dampening material around the engine to deaden those clacking injectors, Ford tightened the engine's configuration, moved pieces around and made it lighter, quieter and more powerful.

It's even designed to burn B20 biodiesel, if only someone would sell B20 biodiesel.

When you tow with this engine, and nearly everyone who buys a Super Duty tows, you'll quickly forget there's 12,000 pounds behind you. (The most it can pull is 24,400 pounds.) That's about 600 more pounds than even Lithuanian great Zydrunas Savickas could carry during the farmers walk through the Power Pit.

Heavy loads, no big deal

But the truck only gets better from there. For gas burners, and those who want to avoid the $7,835 diesel premium, there's a 6.2-liter V-8 gasoline engine that can still pull up to 22,500 pounds with its 385 horsepower and 405 pound-feet of torque.

With either truck, you'll end up with the TorqShift six-speed transmission -- and you want to end up with that; it's the real gem to this entire setup.

Silky smooth, it adapts and adjusts to the driver and the weight. Pulling a 10,000-pound trailer up a steep hill for a couple of miles is child's play. It can handle all of the low-end torque of the diesel and still go on the gas-engine version. (There are some changes to the transmission for the gas model, but it's basically the same.) The transmission also allows for exhaust braking -- a great feature for long downhill runs while towing, though I wish I could have heard it. It will downshift when you need it and keep you from burning up your brakes.

Add to that a programmable transmission that allows the driver to limit the top gear and manually shift gears with a selector button on the steering column mounted shifter, and you've got everything a trailer hauler needs. Ford has also added a hill start assist that gives a driver stopped on a hill a few seconds to move his foot from the brake to the accelerator without the vehicle rolling backwards. (There is also a hill descent control that lets the Super Duty head off-road and roll down boulders without touching the accelerator or brake.)

All told, the Super Duty engineers and designers were no dumbbells. They carried their weight and then some.

Some of the other features include the trailer sway control and a brake trailer control, mounted on the dash on the right side of the steering wheel. That's the place most people can reach easily in a hurry; and if you're reaching for it, you're probably in a hurry.

For those who want to haul a fifth wheel, Ford will now offer a factory installed gooseneck substructure that is covered under the warranty. If you don't know what I'm talking about, it's OK, but if you do, you know how cool that really is. The system is nearly invisible until you need to use it. It's genius.

Room to stretch out

Then there's inside the cabin. Ford took the super-comfortable seats from its new F-150 and used those in the Super Duty. There are changes throughout, including an optional 4.5-inch LCD screen mounted between the speedometer and the tachometer. It seems to know everything but your birthday. It uses easy-to-understand categories that even Jon Pall Sigmarsson could click through easily if he wasn't dead. Ford has even included a trailer hookup checklist for novice haulers.

The only thing missing was a second glove box, a feature other pickups offer and a great place to keep a gun -- as long as it is registered and you possess a concealed weapons permit (state laws do apply). There is, however, lockable storage under the second-row seat, a feature hunters will greatly appreciate. And there are lots of cubbies and storage features throughout. Ford also added second-row ventilation -- it's good to keep the air moving in these trucks at the end of the day.

There's plenty of space inside the cabin, which can easily fit the top five strongest men in the world. The interior feels both plush and down to business. It's a work ethic kind of vehicle that simply won't quit.

And it looks like at the end of the day, it heads to the gym to work out and blow off some steam. It's rippled with power -- with lots of lines drawing your eye around the vehicle and the clamshell hood suggesting that there's so much power under there that designers didn't have a choice but to try to find a little more space. (In fact, that's true.)

The 2011 Super Duty is a powerful tool, and for many customers, the most expensive tool in box -- hitting $40,000 easily. But it's like the winner of the World's Strongest Man Competition. He is rarely the one who can simply lift the most. He's the one who can do well in all of the challenges. These pickups won't shy away from any work, they relish it.

And that's worth staying up late and watching.


2011 Ford Super Duty F-250

    Price: $28,020 (US)
    Engines: 6.2-liter V-8; 6.7-liter V-8 diesel
    Power: 6.2-liter, 385 horsepower, 405 pound-feet torque; 6.7-liter, 390 horsepower; 735 pound-feet torque
    Transmission: Six-speed automatic
    Configurations: 4x2 and 4x4; regular cab, Super Cab and Crew Cab
    Max payload: 2,650 pounds to 4,050 pounds
    Max towing: Conventional, 12,500 pounds; fifth wheel, 12,700 pounds to 16,500 pounds

Report card

Overall: ★★★★
Exterior: Excellent. Bold and expressive. This truck looks like it means business and it does.
Interior: Excellent. Comfortable, complete and very sophisticated. It lets hard workers rest between job sites.
Performance: Excellent. Can tow anything attached to it and still provide a smooth quiet ride. Excellent road manners fully loaded or with an empty bed.
Pros: Will let you do more work in less time.
Cons: Will let you do more work in less time.
Grading Scale
★★★★ Excellent   ★★★ Good   ★★ Fair   ★ Poor

2011 Ford Super Duty F-350

Price: $28,740
Engines: 6.2-liter V-8; 6.7-liter V-8 diesel
Power: 6.2-liter, 385 horsepower, 405 pound-feet torque; 6.7-liter, 390 horsepower, 735 pound-feet torque
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Configurations: 4x2 and 4x4; regular cab, Super Cab and Crew Cab
Max payload: 4,060 pounds to 6,520
Max towing: Conventional, 12,400 pounds to 16,000 pounds; fifth wheel, 12,600 pounds to 21,100

2011 Ford Super Duty F-450

Price: $48,350
Engine: 6.7-liter V-8 diesel
Power: 390 horsepower; 735 pound-feet torque
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Configurations: Crew Cab 4x4
Max payload: 4,920 pounds
Max towing: Conventional, 16,000 pounds; fifth wheel, 24,000 pounds


Volume 40, No. 11
March 19, 2010

Workers Shocked at Sudden Closure of Historic Siemens Plant

Workers are reeling after the abrupt announcement by Siemens Fossil Power Generation that it plans to close its Hamilton, Ontario turbine facility as of July 2011. This decision will put 550 people out of work, nearly 350 of who are represented by CAW Local 504.

“Only two years ago, I toured this plant with the upper management of Siemens where I heard all about how productive and valuable our members were to the Siemens operations – now it seems the company has performed a brash about-face and plans to dump a plant that has been in the city of Hamilton for more than 100 years,” said CAW President Ken Lewenza.

“This is entirely unacceptable. Instead of keeping the work in Canada, where the facility is equipped to produce the turbines, the company is choosing to send it to Charlotte, North Carolina where it will put $130 million into an expansion. That expansion should happen here in the city of Hamilton,” Lewenza said.

“This is devastating news for the hundreds of workers employed at the facility and the entire Hamilton community, which has already been hard-hit by the crisis in manufacturing and the downturn in the economy,” said Randy Smith, president of CAW Local 504. 

“Do not expect the CAW to take this lightly,” Lewenza said, pledging that the union will fight this closure announcement.

Our Resources Stay Here Rally

A March 4 demonstration and rally in Sudbury, Ontario highlighted community concern over the closure of mine operations by Xstrata including the Kidd Mine metallurgical site in Timmins, Ontario.

Since Xstrata took over the Sudbury and Timmins, Ontario operations of Falconbridge more than 1,300 jobs have been lost in Northern Ontario. A CAW Local 598 flyer blasted Xstrata for unsustainable mining practices, closing three operating mines and laying off 686 workers, while focusing on only mining Nickel Rim South and Fraser Copper to exploit rich ore deposits.
Rally participants, including local CAW members and USW members who are on strike at Vale Inco, heard how the job losses and closures are coming at a time when Xstrata Nickel announced enormous profits of $2.8 billion for 2009.

“We are calling on the Government of Ontario to ensure the harvesting and mining of our natural resources is a benefit to our communities by maintaining and creating jobs,” said CAW Local 598 President Richard Paquin.  

To find out more about the fight back campaign visit www.caw599.ca.

CAW Local 222 Members on Strike at St. Marys Cement 

As CONTACT went to press, CAW Local 222 members remained on strike at the St. Marys Cement plant in Bowmanville, Ontario as they fight company demands to roll-back their pension plan.

The workers are fighting company demands to change the pension plan from a defined benefit plan with a fixed level of benefits to a defined contribution plan, which could mean lower benefits on retirement.

CAW national representative Keith Osborne said the company wants to take the responsibility of maintaining pension benefits off its books and put it on the backs of workers through a defined contribution plan, which is subject to the whims of markets.

“The workers are determined to fight this roll back in their pensions,” said Osborne.

CAW Local 222 President Chris Buckley is urging CAW members to visit the picket line and show their support. “This is an important struggle against company attempts to attack workers pensions.”

The picket line is located one block south of Highway 401 on Waverley Road in Bowmanville.

The CAW represents approximately 100 workers at the cement plant. The CAW and company had been in contract talks for months. The workers have been without a contract since Jan. 31.

St. Marys is a major aggregate producer with quarry, gravel and cement operations in Canada and the US.

Contract Maintained for CAW Members at Aramark

After a strong fightback from CAW, cleaners at a Kitchener, Ontario hospital continue as CAW members even after their work was awarded to a new contractor.

“This is an important victory for this group of workers who displayed solidarity when there was clearly an attempt to win concessions and cutbacks by awarding the new contract to another employer,” said CAW Kitchener area director Bill Gibson. 

Contract cleaners Aramark have agreed to maintain staffing and honour the collective agreement covering cleaners at the Grand River Hospital’s Freeport site in Kitchener, Ontario.
Aramark won the renewal contract for cleaning at the facility from Sodexo, the previous contract service, after it was put up for tender four months ago. CAW Local 1106 represents 65 full-time and part-time workers at the facility.

“The CAW applied significant pressure to ensure the new employer accepted the workers and the collective agreement,” Gibson said. “Fighting back makes a difference.”

The contract expires in June 2012.

Strike Over at Debro Steel

After 14 weeks on the picket line, CAW Local 252 members who work at Debro Steel in Brampton, Ontario are back at work with a new contract that rejects company demands for concessions.

The workers voted 69 per cent in favour of a new three-year agreement that provides wage and pension increases.

In addition, the new agreement ensures workers are paid overtime after eight hours instead of after 40 hours, a concession demand strongly opposed by the membership.

CAW national representative Sukhvinder Johl said the approximately 50 CAW members built strong unity during the strike and the membership insisted that all workers returned to work on the same day – March 8.

“Our membership built strong bonds of solidarity during this long and bitter dispute,” said Johl.

CAW Local 252 President Abbot Harvey thanked CAW locals in the GTA for helping out with picket line support as well as locals from across Canada who provided financial support. “This is a strong victory for this small group of workers, who truly appreciated the solidarity shown during this dispute,” Harvey said.

“This again shows that fighting back makes a difference.”


Sudbury rally planned for striking Vale-Inco workers

The Canadian Press
March 19, ,2010

Various unions plan to send members to a rally in Sudbury, Ont., on Monday in support of striking workers at Vale Inco.

The Ontario Federation of Labour says busloads of supporters will head to Sudbury to rally for miners and smelter workers.

More than three-thousand Vale Inco workers are in their ninth month of a strike over pensions, bonuses and seniority rights.

The OFL, Canadian Labour Congress and affiliated unions have organized buses to leave from various communities across Ontario.

Vale Inco said this week it has “no interest” in bringing in an arbitrator to settle the strike and will not re-hire employees fired during the walkout.

Last week, workers in Sudbury voted 88 per cent to reject an offer while members in Port Colborne were nearly unanimous in saying no. No new talks are planned to resolve the strike.


UAW votes on deal to
shutter Calif. plant
Some New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. employees said they felt they had little choice but to OK a deal to close the Fremont, Calif., plant. (Paul Sakuma / Associated Press)

Workers asked to ratify agreement that will put about 4,600 people on unemployment

Brook Donald / Associated Press
March 19, 2010

Fremont, Calif. -- For 25 years, Juan Carrera has worked at a sprawling auto plant on the edge of Silicon Valley helping produce Toyota cars and trucks. His son works there, too. So does his son-in-law.

But on April 1, they and 4,600 other workers at New United Motor Manufacturing Inc., known as Nummi, will be out of work.

On Wednesday, they voted on a deal that will help keep them afloat until something new comes up.

"It's sad. We're family. But I'd say people in the plant are relieved they'll get something. Of course, we all wish we could get more. We all wish we could keep our jobs even more than that," said Carrera, 61.

Leaders of the local United Auto Workers chapter said they encouraged members to ratify the agreement despite being disappointed at aspects of the deal. They wouldn't discuss the proposal in detail, though they did say it includes a minimum payout of $21,175 per worker. Results of the vote weren't expected until late Wednesday or today.

The facility, California's sole remaining automobile assembly plant, started 25 years ago as a joint venture between Toyota Motor Corp. and General Motors Corp. The goal was to let the Detroit automaker observe the Japanese car-making system up close, and let Toyota test its production model on U.S. workers.

GM pulled out last year and is liquidating its stake. Toyota announced in August that without GM, it could not sustain the factory and it would halt production at the plant, which makes the Corolla sedan and Tacoma pickup.

During the past several weeks, state officials and union leaders have pressed Toyota to keep the plant open. A recent report prepared for a commission set up by State Treasurer Bill Lockyer said about 25,000 people, including suppliers, could lose their jobs as a result of the plant closing.

Officials also have tried to appeal to the public relations aspect. They've said as Toyota looks to rebuild consumer confidence after several recalls, the worst thing the company could do is move production elsewhere.

Union leaders blasted Toyota again Wednesday.

"We brought them success and now we have been betrayed," said Sergio Santos, president of UAW Local 2244.

Mike Goss, a spokesman for Toyota, said he wouldn't comment while workers were still voting on the agreement.

Melanie Smith, who has worked as a quality control inspector at Nummi for 21 years, said she voted for the agreement because she didn't feel like she had a choice. She said she stands to get a lump sum of about $65,000, based on her years of service. She also said she was eligible to collect unemployment and apply for retraining opportunities.

"I think it's pretty fair," she said. She was upset, however, that some people who can't finish out the month, due to disability, will be denied some benefits.

One of those people is 54-year-old Gary Sewell, who has worked at Nummi for 15 years but has been on disability since August due to a leg injury he suffered away from work.

"I'll get about half of what I should be getting," he said.

Ford shares hit five-year high
Ford CEO Alan Mulally shines the hood of a Ford Focus.

Tom Krisher
March 18, 2010 - Detroit — The Associated Press

Shares of Ford Motor Co.surged to a five-year high Wednesday after a ratings agency upgraded the auto aker's debt and said Ford has the potential to improve its finances even further.

The Dearborn, Mich., auto maker's stock hit $14.11 (U.S.) per share in afternoon trading, a 4 per cent surge to levels not seen since January, 2005.

Moody's Investors Service raised its ratings on Ford's debt Wednesday, as well as the debt of Ford Motor Credit Co., which makes loans to dealers and customers.

Still, Ford shares were already on the rise as the resurgent auto maker benefits from increased quality rankings and the fact that it didn't take government aid like crosstown rivals General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC.

In January, Ford defied a slow economy that sent its U.S.-based rivals into bankruptcy protection, posting a $2.7-billion profit for 2009. It was the auto maker's first annual profit in four years.

Moody's on Wednesday said that the restructured Ford is performing better than it had expected and the ratings agency is now reviewing Ford for another upgrade.

“Ford clearly has a much more robust and competitive business model that is capable of supporting significant improvement in performance over time,” Bruce Clark, Moody's senior vice-president, said in a statement.

Moody's raised Ford's corporate family rating and probability of default rating to B2 from B3. The company's secured credit facility went to Ba2 from Ba3, and its senior unsecured debt rose to B3 from Caa1.

Moody's said it expects Ford's business model will generate significantly improved financial performance, fuelled by its new product program. Ford plans to start selling a new global Fiesta subcompact this year and a new Focus compact early in 2011.

Several Ford models now consistently score above Honda Motor Co.and Toyota Motor Corp. in widely followed rankings by Consumer Reports magazine. The Japanese auto makers had been considered quality leaders.

Other models, including the mid-size Fusion and its cousin, the Mercury Milan, consistently have been at or near the top of their classes, a trend that led Consumer Reports editors to declare that Ford is now making some vehicles with world-class reliability.

Ford is not without problems, though. The auto maker finished last year with $34.3-billion in debt, up $7.4-billion from Sept. 30. The company took on $7-billion in debt it owes a retiree health care trust fund run by the United Auto Workers union. That puts Ford at a disadvantage to GM and Chrysler Group, which were able to shed debt in bankruptcy court.

Chief financial officer Lewis Booth said the company has “an uncompetitive balance sheet” and will work on cutting debt this year.


Ford wins credit upgrade,
stock jumps

David Berman - Globe & Mail
March 18, 2010

After steering around bailouts, bankruptcies and sticky accelerators – issues that have affected its rivals – Ford Motor Co. shares moved higher yet again on Wednesday, confounding those observers who once lumped the company with its failed North American peers.

This time, the stock appears to be moving over a credit rating upgrade from Moody’s Investors Services. Moody’s raised its rating on Ford to B2 from B3, a move that affects $65-billion (U.S.) of debt. Although the upgrade still leaves Ford’s credit rating five levels below investment grade, the note accompanying the move sounds almost breathless:

“The upgrade of Ford’s long-term ratings anticipates that the company’s restructured business model will generate significantly improved operating and financial performance. The strength of this model is supported by a robust new-product program, a more disciplined approach toward production levels and incentives, the expanding cost benefits associated with the new UAW agreement, and solid progress in globalizing platforms and product offerings. This model is generating market share gains in the U.S., healthy price realization, and operating performance which is stronger than that which Moody’s had earlier anticipated.”

Investors who bought into this turnaround have done remarkably well. Ford’s stock has risen 511 per cent over the past 12 months, making if the fifth-best performer on the S&P 500 over that period. The nearer term looks almost as good: the stock has risen 39.3 per cent his year, making if the 14th-best performer on the S&P 500.

If credit rating agencies are beginning to move on the company, are analysts likely to follow? A quick glance at our Bloomberg terminal found that the average analyst’s target price on the stock is just $12.29 – or about 12 per cent below the stock price on Wednesday afternoon.

Even if you confine your approach to just those analysts who have issued reports on Ford this month, the average target price among the three is just $14.33 – or 2.4 per cent above the current price. That’s not much when you consider that two of these three analysts have “buy” recommendations on the stock (the third has a “hold” recommendation).



Ottawa considers criminal crackdown on Toyota

Mar 17, 2010

Bruce Campion-Smith and Richard J. Brennan

OTTAWA–Transport Minister John Baird says his department is considering whether Toyota should face criminal charges after MPs accused the auto giant of dragging its feet in responding to potentially serious problems with its cars.

The Commons transport committee heard Tuesday that the Japanese carmaker was working on a fix for a sticky gas pedal before it warned motorists or Transport Canada about the possible defect that could cause vehicles to unintentionally accelerate.

Baird later said department officials would review testimony from the hearing, particularly in light of a section of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act that deals with the reporting of auto defects, and "make determinations accordingly."

Baird said his department will investigate Toyota, adding that, as a minister, "I can't direct the department to conduct a criminal investigation and lay criminal charges."

But he added, "If we have to raise the bar and make the law tougher with respect to disclosure, that's something we're prepared to do."

Politicians of all stripes took Toyota executives to task during Tuesday's bruising parliamentary hearing for not alerting motorists sooner about potential problems.

Conservative MP Jeff Watson (Essex) scolded Toyota managers for not notifying Transport Canada of a problem with gas pedals when it met with agency officials on Nov. 25, 2009 on another matter, whether floor mats were affecting the accelerator.

"You've got a serious safety problem, you're already talking to your supplier about redesigning a faulty gas pedal and no one told Transport Canada ... until after a recall was issued," Watson said.

"This was all occurring but you were telling nobody about it," he said, adding later that Toyota's handling of the situation "leaves a very bad impression that they weren't very forthcoming about what perhaps the real issue was."

Toyota executives were fuzzy in their recall of the timeline but didn't dispute Watson's assertions that discussions had already begun with the company's parts supplier about modifying the pedal prior to issuing a Jan. 21 notice of recall for 270,000 vehicles in Canada. Overall, Toyota has recalled more than 8 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles around the world.

Stephen Beatty, managing director of Toyota Canada, defended the handling of the issue, saying the company got its first complaint about a sticky pedal in late October and that it took time to understand the problem.

"At the time, we didn't know what it was," Beatty said. Between late October and Jan. 21, he said the company got five complaints.

"That led us to the conclusion, based on our engineering studies that there was a problem. We issued a recall," he said.

He said investigations showed that in "rare" instances, a combination of wear and condensation could make the pedal harder to press, slower to return to the idle position or cause it to stick in a partially depressed position.

The recall involves modifications to the accelerator pedal by inserting a "Chiclet-sized" steel bar to eliminate any sticking that could cause crashes.

But to reassure drivers, he said the company is installing a "brake override" on all models, which reduces engine speed to near idle when the brake pedal is applied while the accelerator pedal is depressed.

Eyebrows were raised when it was revealed that once a problem has been identified, it has to be sent to Japan for engineering review.

"Why would you go to Japan without turning to Transport Canada when you knew there was a problem ... that put the safety of people at risk," said Bloc Québécois MP Roger Gaudet (Montcalm).

Liberal MP Marc Garneau, an engineer and former astronaut, said a string of complaints to government regulators dating back to 2004 should have set off alarm bells.

"Those statistics seem to paint a picture of a problem or problems," said Garneau (Westmont-Ville Marie). "It suggests that recalls that should have occurred were not occurring."

Toyota executives struck a conciliatory note as they began their presentation, expressing regret for the "anxiety and inconvenience" suffered by owners of Toyota vehicles.

"Nothing is more important to Toyota than the safety and reliability" of its vehicles, said Yoshi Inaba, president and chief operating officer of Toyota Motor North America.

Liberal Joe Volpe (Eglinton-Lawrence) told reporters that Transport Canada and Toyota were playing the blame game. "Transport Canada and the minister knew about all of these defects quite some time ago," he said. "The government has been derelict in applying what few measures they have."

NDP MP Brian Masse (Windsor-West) said Canadians should be upset that Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda has not apologized for the safety issues as he did to Americans and the Chinese.

"I think Mr. Toyoda should have really come to Canada to apologize" given that Canada is a large buyer of Toyota products and "the fact they have plants in Ontario," Masse said.

Toyota executives also called on Ottawa to pump more money into Transport Canada for troubleshooting of possible auto defects.

The executives recommended the federal government increase the department's staff, technological equipment and financial resources so it could help identify problems and find better solutions quicker.

It would also allay consumer fears of problems that don't exist, Beatty in an interview after the hearing.

Toyota's call for more aid comes after Transport Canada officials revealed last week that it employed 10 investigators to handle about 1,200 complaints annually and oversee 29 million autos on the road. A department head said the level is adequate "based on the risk in the system."

But Beatty said autos are becoming more complex and leading to an increasing number of complaints and safety concerns from drivers when they think something is wrong. Additional resources for Transport Canada would help find the root causes, if any, and speed up recalls, he noted.

With files from Tony Van Alphen



    • New 2011 Mustang GT vaults to the top of its class with final fuel economy certified by the EPA this week at 26 mpg highway and 17 mpg city
    • The Mustang GT – carrying a 412-horsepower 5.0-litre V-8 engine and six-speed manual transmission – delivers incredible acceleration in addition to fuel economy, thanks in part to the flexibility of the six-speed manual transmission
    • The entire Mustang lineup now achieves segment-leading fuel economy with the Mustang V-6 being the first car ever to deliver 305 hp and 31 mpg and the Mustang GT achieving best-in-class fuel economy of 26 mpg

    2011 FORD MUSTANG GT LEADS CLASS WITH 26 MPG HIGHWAY, 412 HORSEPOWERDEARBORN, Mich., March 16, 2010 – The 2011 Ford Mustang GT, powered by a new 412-hp 5.0-litre V-8 engine, adds yet another notch to its belt: an EPA rating of 26 mpg highway when equipped with the six-speed manual transmission, giving it the best fuel economy in its class.

    “The 2011 Mustang continues to exceed expectations in every category, and these fuel economy numbers are another chapter in an incredible story,” said Derrick Kuzak, Ford’s group vice president, Global Product Development. “To offer this kind of horsepower and class-leading fuel economy in a comfortable, beautiful, tech-savvy and affordable package – it’s really unprecedented.”

    With the six-speed manual transmission, Mustang GT coupe is rated at 17 mpg city and
    26 highway, while models with the available six-speed automatic achieve 18 mpg city and
    25 highway.

    The GT’s best in class fuel numbers come on the heels of the Mustang V-6, which just last week cracked the record books as not only the most fuel-efficient Mustang ever, but also the first production car in history to produce 305 horsepower and 31 mpg highway.

    Mustang GT is powered by an all-new 5.0-litre double-overhead-camshaft (DOHC) V-8 with a host of advanced features to deliver the combination of power and class-leading fuel economy.

    Twin Independent Variable Camshaft Timing (Ti-VCT) adjusts the valvetrain in microseconds depending on driver inputs. A carefully tuned intake and exhaust system ensures free breathing at all engine speeds. And all-aluminum construction results in a lightweight yet durable powerplant.

    A pair of new transmissions, both with six forward ratios, also play a large part in making the 2011 Mustang a breakthrough car. Regardless of whether drivers want to shift for themselves or let the car shift for them, they’re treated to carefully chosen gear ratios to maximize fuel economy while still delivering high-horsepower performance

    “Mustang powertrain development has reached a point where customers don’t have to choose between fuel efficiency and performance,” says Barb Samardzich, Ford vice president of Global Powertrain Engineering. “Thanks to technologies like Ti-VCT and our six-speed gearboxes, a Mustang driver has the best of both worlds.”

    Fuel economy improvements on all Mustang models
    Mustang GT shares fuel economy accolades with the new 3.7-litre Mustang V-6 – the first production car ever to offer both 300-plus horsepower and 31 mpg on the highway. Official 2011 EPA fuel economy ratings for the Mustang product line are:

    Mustang V-6

    • 19 mpg city and 31 highway (automatic coupe)
    • 19 mpg city and 29 highway (manual coupe)

    Mustang GT

    • 18 mpg city and 25 highway (automatic coupe)
    • 17 mpg city and 26 highway (manual coupe)

    In addition to powertrain improvements, upgrades to Mustang’s body and chassis design contribute to its 2011 performance. Examples include:

    • New EPAS eliminates the drag of an engine-operated hydraulic power steering pump
    • Combined with the new six-speed transmissions, standard 3.31 (manual) and 3.15 (automatic) rear axle ratios provide an ideal blend of relaxed cruising rpm and all-out acceleration
    • Aerodynamic improvements include a new front fascia on the Mustang GT, tire spats on the rear wheels, modified underbody shields, a taller air dam and an added rear decklid seal

    The 2011 Mustang is built at the AutoAlliance International Plant in Flat Rock, Mich., and goes on sale this spring.


Ford's European sales rise 1.8%

Automaker's total sales in the region drop 3.3%,
but it sees consistent gains in U.S.

Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News
March 16, 2010

Ford Motor Co. posted a modest 1.8 percent sales increase in its main European markets last month, but saw total sales in the 51-country region fall by 3.3 percent.

Ford said it has lost three-tenths of a point of market share in its 19 largest European markets.

That is a contrast to the United States, where Ford consistently has gained market share over the past year, ending a decline that began in 2005.

Ford of Europe's head of sales and marketing, Ingvar Sviggum, attributed the decline to increased incentives by competitors. He said a small gain in the most critical markets offered some solace.

"It's great to see that there's still very strong demand for our latest products, and that our market share was pretty stable in February despite aggressive discounting by some of our competitors," he said.

Sviggum said Ford was trying to remain disciplined about incentives and discounting.

"We understand the need to be competitive in the market, but we will not engage in actions that jeopardize the sustainability of our business or that devalue our brand," he said. "Such strategies are self-defeating in the longer term. Our aim is to create a strong business, which provides our customers with great products at an affordable price."

Sviggum said Ford expects to see further declines as government incentive programs end across the region.

"We've increased the number of vehicles we were intending to build in the first quarter by 20,000 units, though we still expect some decline in the European market during the course of the year as scrappage schemes are phased out."


Ford survey shows employees optimistic about future

March 15, 2010
Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News

Ford Motor Co.'s latest internal employee survey shows morale is up sharply and employees' confidence in the company's future has reached an all-time high.

That is according to Ford's latest quarterly report card, a copy of which was obtained by The Detroit News.

It shows that 89 percent of employees have a positive outlook, compared to less than 55 percent in the middle of 2008. The survey was conducted in December.

"It's a very positive reflection of employee confidence in Ford," said spokeswoman Marcey Evans, who confirmed the authenticity of the report. "It reflects their confidence in our company and their confidence in our products."

The December results were 2 percentage points higher than the previous survey, conducted last June.

The survey also asked workers if they were looking forward to their future as a Ford employee, and 85 percent said they were.

Ford was the only U.S. automaker to pass on federal bailout and the only one to avoid bankruptcy. Despite an overall decline in car and truck sales, it gained 1.1 percentage points of market share in the United States last year.

That helped the Dearborn automaker earn more than $2.7 billion -- its first annual profit since 2005. Over the past year, Ford's stock has soared to levels not seen since the end of 2004, and the company has restored some of the employee benefits it previously cut.


UAW aims to rebuild, rebound

Experts see incoming president as the right person at the right time

March 14, 2010

General Motors and Chrysler aren't the only ones trying to bounce back from their bankruptcies last year.

The UAW also faces a historic challenge of rebuilding not just its membership -- which has fallen from a high of 1.5 million in 1980 to a historic low below 470,000 -- but also its image.

How low the union's image has sunk became apparent during congressional hearings in late 2008, when GM and Chrysler sought federal aid. Politicians, bondholders and others over the next several months lashed out at the union and blamed it for the automakers' woes.

"The vast majority of my constituents are not making anywhere near what General Motors, Chrysler and Ford pay their employees," U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., said at the time.

It's a point of view the UAW faced repeatedly. "They think we are overpaid, lazy workers, and we are not," said Ronda Danielson , president of UAW Local 879 in St. Paul, Minn.

Despite the criticisms, the UAW emerged from the crisis with a surprising amount of potential. The union protected base wages, pensions and retiree health care. And its health care trust fund now owns 17.5% of GM and 67.7% of Chrysler.

That could give the UAW a chance to recast its image, which is critical to rebuilding membership ranks.

Bob King, who is expected to be elected president of the 75-year-old union in June, already has given hints of his new strategy. He's expressed a desire to better promote the union's charitable activities, and he's signaling that the insular union will be more open and transparent.

"I think we hit the low point last year and we're on the rebound," said Mike Dunn, chairman of UAW Local 5960 in Lake Orion.

King excels at strategy, innovation

King is known as an effective organizer and strategist who has the right skills to lead the UAW as it fights to recover from the worst crisis in its history.

King, 63, led the UAW's national organizing department for eight years as vice president before taking charge of the UAW's Ford department in 2006. He is the union's nominee to become president at its constitutional convention in June.

UAW President Ron Gettelfinger guided the UAW through an era of retrenchment as the nation slid into its worst recession in decades and General Motors and Chrysler filed for bankruptcy.

Now, UAW members are looking for King to preside over an era of restoration.

King declined to be interviewed for this report, but those who know him say he is capable of leading the union through uncharted territory.

"Bob has always shown himself to be absolutely about education, learning and innovation," said John Beck, associate professor of labor and industrial relations at Michigan State University. "He is the right person at the right place at the right time."

A battered image

But King faces the challenge of reversing declining union membership at a time when the labor movement at large has lost power and continues to suffer from an image of workers being overpaid.

"Generally speaking, the image of the UAW has reflected the strength of the labor movement," said Mike Smith, director of the Walter P. Reuther Library of Labor and Urban Affairs in Detroit.

From the 1940s to the 1960s, the UAW was hailed for winning health care benefits and cost-of-living increases for its members.

People thought more favorably about labor unions in the 1950s, when more than 30% of all U.S. workers belonged to a labor union, Smith said.

But labor union membership has shrunk dramatically.

In 2009, just 12.4% of U.S. workers belonged to a union, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

And the favorable image that many people once had of unions, including the UAW, had shifted to one where many saw union workers as overpaid.

By the time GM and Chrysler needed to borrow taxpayer dollars, UAW wages were still higher than those of nonunionized Asian automakers -- making the UAW an easy target for Republican politicians.

Jeff Wright, president of UAW Local 249 in Kansas City, Mo., said he thinks repairing the UAW's image will be difficult as long as unions are outspent by corporations on lobbying.

"I don't know how you fix that image," Wright said. "I don't think corporate America will ever stop blaming -- not just the UAW -- but unions in general."

In 2009, labor unions spent $43.4 million on federal lobbying, while the automotive industry spent $573 million, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

New approach

King said during a news conference in December that he is optimistic about the UAW's future. Union watchers expect King to bring a new style to the union that is more cerebral, strategic and aggressive.

He already has said the UAW would craft a new strategy focused on global economic and social justice. King also said the UAW should talk more about the charitable activities of its local chapters.

"It's a great story that we probably should do more to promote," King said. "A lot of people don't understand the role that our membership and our local leadership really plays in the communities that they live in."

King also seems determined to build up the union's image through the news media.

Aside from frequent appearances with Paul W. Smith on WJR-AM (760), Gettelfinger rarely spoke to the news media until last year, when he appeared often on national news programs in defense of federal loans for GM and Chrysler.

In February, the UAW outlined an ambitious set of duties for a new public relations director, such as scheduling news media interviews for UAW officers.

King can be a fiery orator. Last May, when King spoke to workers at a Ford plant, he took a swipe at GM as it prepared for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and plant closures.

He asked the crowd, "If you're going to take American tax dollars, where should you build?"

"In America!" they shouted.

Dissent in the ranks

One of King's challenges is to contend with dissension within the UAW.

Many members believe that the union should try to win back concessions it has given up when the union returns to the bargaining table with automakers in 2011.

In 2005, the UAW went back to the bargaining table mid-contract and accepted cuts in wages and health care benefits for retirees. And in 2007, during regular contract talks, autoworkers agreed to a lower, second-tier wage for new workers at about $14 per hour, or about half the existing average hourly wage.

"We have to look at the 2011 contract coming up, and look at how do we get back what we've given up," said Gary Walkowicz, a bargaining committeeman at Ford's Dearborn Truck Plant.

Last fall, Walkowicz led a successful effort to defeat proposed changes in Ford's labor contract that King endorsed.

The dissension is evident on the UAW's Facebook page, where comments such as the following are common: "The UAW is run by Zombies now. Make sure you have the Zombie Handbook so you can drive a stake through the heart of their stupid attacks on Solidarity."

"You are going to have a lot of people who want payback," MSU's Beck said. "That is going to be Bob King's biggest challenge."

UAW through the years
UAW through the years
(Click picture to enlarge)


Ford's new Police
aims to please
Ford Police Interceptor Concept (Ford)

Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News
March 14, 2010

Dearborn --Ford Motor Co. says its new Police Interceptor offers big improvements over the aging Crown Victoria it replaces next year, but some experts say it may be a tough sell -- particularly in these days of budget austerity.

As The Detroit News first reported last year, the new police car Ford unveiled Friday in Las Vegas is based on the redesigned Taurus. Ford would not discuss the specifics of its performance, but said it will be faster and more economical than the venerable Crown Vic.

Ford also confirmed that it will offer a second police "utility interceptor" later this year. Sources say that will be based on the new Ford Explorer.

The Interceptor also is safer and offers an array of features law enforcement agencies say they want in a new police car, including better ergonomics, easier access to the rear seats and enough room for all of their gear.

Unlike the civilian Taurus, the Police Interceptor features a column shifter, a key requirement to free up space between the front seats for weapons storage and communications equipment. In fact, the dimensions of that space on the Police Interceptor will be the same as on the Crown Vic, allowing agencies to reuse equipment from existing cars.

"Helping law enforcement serve and protect is what we do," said Ford Americas President Mark Fields, noting that the Dearborn automaker controls more than 70 percent of the police market in the United States. "Our new Ford Police Interceptor aims to deliver what police really want most: exceptional safety, legendary durability, pursuit-rated performance and just as good driving dynamics."

He said the base model will be available with either front- or all-wheel-drive, while the high-performance model will only be available with the latter. Many departments prefer rear-wheel-drive vehicles like the Crown Vic. But Ford thinks they will warm to the advantages of all-wheel-drive, which it says is safer and easier for rookie officers to master.

Part of the reason Ford abandoned the Crown Vic was its inability to meet tough new federal rollover protection requirements.

The new squad car exceeds those requirements. It also offers electronic stability control specially tuned for more aggressive police driving, a rear-view camera and blind-spot sensors. It was designed to withstand a 75-mile-per-hour rear-end crash and, unlike the body-on-frame Crown Vic, it features inherently safer unibody construction.

But that may be another sticking point for some.

"It's going to be interesting to see if they can break the strong preference for body-on-frame construction," said Jim Hall of 2953 Analytics LLP, who noted that such vehicles are easier to get back on the road after punishing ramming maneuvers. "A unibody vehicle will be damaged more easily and out of service longer."

While acknowledging the benefits of the new Police Interceptor, he said some departments also may be concerned about the prospect of higher maintenance costs associated with things like all-wheel-drive and turbos.

Ford says the Police Interceptor, which was designed with input from a panel of law enforcement officials, is built to withstand the rigors of police work.

It will be available as soon as production of the Crown Vic ends in September of 2011, but Hall still thinks some agencies will try to keep their existing vehicles in service as long as possible.

"If a company could figure out a way to remanufacturer Crown Vics, they'd have police departments beating a path to their door," Hall said. "Price is probably going to be as important as anything else."

Ford has not announced pricing.

The car received a warm reception from law enforcement officials Friday in Las Vegas.

Ken Czubay, who is in charge of sales and marketing for Ford in the U.S., still expects to sell between 40,000 and 50,000 each year, despite the fact that many police departments are facing serious budget constraints.


Toyota rebuffs Canada's request for top exec to appear before panel

Steven Chase

From Saturday's Globe and Mail
Saturday, Mar. 13, 2010

He's the top Toyota executive in North America but Yoshi Inaba is refusing a request by Canadian MPs to appear before them next week and face questions on his company's massive safety recall.

It was only last month that Mr. Inaba dutifully attended U.S. hearings on the same topic at the request of American lawmakers pursuing the same inquiries about Toyota.

The troubled automaker's unwillingness to make Mr. Inaba available for Canadian politicians has angered the Harper government and opposition MPs, who want to see more than just Toyota Canada officials called on the carpet.

Merv Tweed, the Conservative MP chairing a committee probing the matter, says the refusal amounts to a slight and has left the perception that Toyota is abdicating its responsibility to give a full accounting to Canadians.

Brian Jean, a Tory MP who serves as parliamentary secretary to Transport Minister John Baird, spoke for the Harper administration last night, saying “the government is extremely disappointed.”

MPs are set to grill the car maker Tuesday, and both Toyota Canada CEO Yoichi Tomihara and managing director Stephen Beatty will attend.

But the vehicle maker has balked at the Commons transport committee's request that Mr. Inaba, Toyota's North American chief, also appear.

As a senior executive, Mr. Inaba was at the table when Toyota was questioned by U.S. lawmakers in Washington last month – and the Tories say they want the auto makers to give Canada equal treatment.

Mr. Tweed, chair of the Commons transport committee, said it's highly unusual for a company to ignore a request from Parliament, adding it leaves the perception the “American market is more important” to Toyota.

Toyota Canada did not immediately respond to requests for comment but letters it sent to the Commons committee said the auto maker felt Mr. Inaba was not relevant to the Canadian hearings.

The company told MPs that while Mr. Inaba is responsible for all consolidated North American operations, Toyota Canada does not report to him.

Toyota Canada was “directly responsible” for all vehicles sold in Canada, it said.

But Mr. Tweed said Mr. Inaba's seniority surely means he's got a better sense of what happened. “I think Mr. Inaba might hold the key to some of the issues,” the chair said.

Liberal MP Joe Volpe, also on the committee, said Toyota must reverse itself. “I have very little patience for people who are not going to respect a request by parliamentarians.”

Mr. Tweed said Toyota will be asked again to send Mr. Inaba.

The Conservative committee chair didn't say what else might be done – but parliamentary committees can also issue summonses for reluctant witnesses that carry the power of subpoena in Canada.

However, Mr. Inaba does not live or work in Canada, so he could avoid any summons by staying out of the country.



Volume 40, No. 10
March 12, 2010

Tories Take Over Two Months on Do-Nothing Budget, CAW says

"This budget does little to help Canadian workers secure their footing during a period of severe economic instability and is rooted in government-destroying, deeply ideological values," CAW President Ken Lewenza said in response to Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's budget March 4.

The budget shifts the Conservative government policies further in favour of businesses and corporations, to the detriment of average Canadians. It outlines a series of plans to reduce the federal deficit through major spending cuts, including $6.8 billion from the public service budget. The budget also highlights the government's intent to further reduce tariffs on manufacturing inputs, deregulation of the telecommunications and uranium mining sectors, an expansion of free trade, and boasts that Canada will have the lowest corporate tax rate in the G7 by 2012.

The Harper government also re-announced $19 billion earmarked for stimulus projects in 2010. Lewenza said what Canada needs is a commitment from government to invest in ongoing infrastructure development to close the current funding deficit and genuinely build the country, not just through one-off stimulus projects.

"With hundreds of thousands of Canadians facing tremendous insecurity and hardship because of inadequate Employment Insurance and pension benefits, I expected to see tangible support from this government," Lewenza said. "After taking more than two months to recalibrate, this budget is nothing short of pathetic."

The Harper government is refusing to improve eligibility criteria and ensure the special EI extensions go to all workers, so that more workers will be covered by EI, instead of falling through the cracks in the country's social safety net. Lewenza said these demands are even more important today with approximately 800,000 unemployed Canadians expected to lose their EI in the coming months and that all EI enhancements are still scheduled to end this year.

"The past months have shown us that Canadians are very concerned about their pensions and retirement savings," Lewenza said. "In the face of a looming pension crisis, this was the time for our government to take the lead and act on major pension reforms, including major improvements to Canada's public pension system. They did nothing."

On positioning Canada's economy for future growth, the Conservative government has once again failed to provide the necessary investments in long-overdue renewable energy infrastructure projects, public transit improvements and other initiatives to spur sustainable and 'green' economic development that help put people back to work, Lewenza said.  
CAW Donates to 50 Women’s Shelters Across Canada 
The CAW donated $100,000 to women’s shelters across the country in co-ordination with International Women’s Day.  
In Toronto, Peggy Nash, assistant to CAW President Ken Lewenza, toured the Redwood Shelter for women and children and presented a cheque. CAW representatives presented cheques to shelters across Canada. The donations come from the union’s Social Justice Fund, monies negotiated to help support socially-progressive projects and causes both in Canada and abroad.

According to recent estimates, half of all women will experience violence in one form or another, but only 10 per cent will report it. Up to 80 per cent of those perpetrating the violence are spouses, partners or ex-spouses. In fact, only five per cent of women are unable to identify their abuser.

Every year in our country, tens of thousands of women with their children are admitted to shelters. “We know that when women leave their abusive partners, this is a particularly dangerous time for them,” said Nash. “Half of the murders committed by ex-spouses happen in the first two months of separation, which is a chilling statistic. It is at this time that women are most in need of protection and the many services provided by shelters.”

Today gender based violence has been identified as the world’s largest and most persistent human rights violation, and Canada is no exception. The federal government estimates the costs of violence against women at $1.1 billion per year in direct medical costs, rising to $4 billion a year after we factor in the costs of criminal justice, social services and lost productivity.

“If governments are serious about combating the unrelenting problem of violence against women, they must commit to funding for women’s shelters, invest in affordable housing and a national child care program, all of which provide women the options necessary to leave violent relationships,” said Nash.

In addition to making an annual donation, the CAW is urging the federal and provincial governments to provide core funding to agencies which provide services to women and their children who are fleeing violent relationships.

Workers Donate Sick Days for Haitian Relief Effort
(Photo) Members of CAW Local 302 at the Radisson Hotel in London donated the equivalent of one sick day to raise approximately $1,500 for the Haitian relief effort.  Chairperson Tom Campbell is shown here with Dr. Barry Slauenwhite, President and CEO of Compassion Canada, presenting the cheque for the donation.

CAW Reaches New Agreement with MTS Allstream

The CAW reached a new agreement with MTS Allstream March 9, covering approximately 600 workers across the country.

The majority of the workers are employed as technicians or in administrative positions and based in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary, with other smaller bases across Canada.

“The bargaining committee is pleased with this agreement as we were able to fight back the many concessions the employer insisted were necessary,” said CAW Local 2000 President Dylan Gadwa, representing the members at MTS Allstream.

MTS Allstream is the third largest telecommunications company in the country.

Voting on the new deal will take place over the next two to three weeks. Details of the agreement will be made public upon ratification.

Native Land Rights Meeting at CAW Kitchener Office

(Photo) by CAW Local 27 Human Rights Activist Dave Henry.
Leadership and activists from CAW local unions 1524, 1917, 112, 27, 707, 1106 and 414 took part in a meeting at the CAW Kitchener, Ontario area office to learn about land rights issues of the Six Nations of the Grand River from Chief Bill Montour of the Six Nations Elected Band Council and Hazel Hill of the Haudenosaunee Development Institute of the Confederacy Chiefs. Those at the February 28 meeting resolved to hold a community meeting at Bellview school in Brantford on March 28 to further constructive dialog over development projects the city wants to allow before aboriginal title is determined.

New Agreement Ratified at GE Canada

CAW members at GE Canada have voted 85 per cent in favour of a new three year collective agreement that provides wage, benefit and pension improvements.

In addition, the agreement calls for $100 million in new investment at GE in Peterborough over the next five years.

Jerry Dias, assistant to the CAW President, said “this is an important agreement not only for our members, but also for the entire community of Peterborough. It helps to ensure greater security for workers and a stronger future for GE facilities in this community for years to come,” Dias said.

The agreement provides for wage increases of 5.5 per cent including COLA over the next three years.

It also provides pension gains and improvements in extended medical coverage such as hearing aids and paramedical coverage. The current drug plan was maintained. Layoff and recall language was improved.

CAW Locals 524, 252, and 2228 represent GE workers in Peterborough, Toronto, Burlington and Arnprior, Ontario. The workers produce nuclear fuel rods and also manufacture and repair large electric motors. The CAW represents approximately 750 GE workers.

Letter to the Editor from CAW President Ken Lewenza

CAW President Ken Lewenza sent the following letter to the editor of the Globe and Mail in response to a March 2 story:

“It’s disappointing to read that Stephen Harper’s former communications director Kory Teneycke is once again spinning the Reform Party’s old stand by of “problem” unions and labour laws as an impediment to productivity.

…There is strong evidence that unions and labour laws enhance productivity. Part of a union’s role, including that of the CAW, is to help maintain good jobs for members through bargaining including negotiations to ensure investment.

The independent Harbour Report, which studies productivity in auto assembly, has repeatedly shown unionized auto plants in Canada are among the most productive in North America, ahead of non-unionized plants.

High levels of unionization force employers to take wages out of the competitiveness equation and find innovative ways to improve productivity, through technological investments, better education and training provisions.

A recent Conference Board of Canada report dispels Teneycke’s claim. The paper concludes that the quality of the labour force has not been a constraint on capital investment in Canada. Therefore, we must look elsewhere to explain the growth slowdown in capital investment and productivity.”

Unionization levels in Canada were at their highest in the 60s and 70s, and unfortunately have been in decline since the 1980s – right at the same time neo-conservative economic policies started to gain widespread traction. Teneycke’s attempt to scapegoat hard working Canadians such as those at GM and Chrysler is simply an attempt to deflect
attention from the failure of his own Conservative economic values.

National Skilled Trades Conference Caesars Windsor

(Photo) The National Skilled Trades Council met at Caesars Windsor March 5-7, 2010.

Generosity of CAW Members Inspires London Community

CAW members working at Ford in St. Thomas, Ontario dug deep this year to fundraise for the London and Middlesex United Way, despite the fact that 1500 workers are slated to lose their jobs when the plant closes in 2011.

In December, workers delivered a cheque to the United Way for $360,905 and announced plans to launch another fundraising drive next year.

“We hope this money goes a long way to support our community that is in such desperate need,” said
Dennis McGee, President of CAW Local 1520.

Over the past year, over 8,000 jobs have been lost in the London region, according to the London Free Press. The region had also registered the second highest unemployment rate in the country due in large part to major losses in the manufacturing sector.

“It is inspiring to see what Ford workers did. We told them we would understand if they could not run a campaign, but they wanted to. They care so much for the community. There are terrific individuals there,” said United Way London and Middlesex Chief Executive Andrew Lockie in an interview with the London Free Press.


Ford debuts new
Police Interceptor

Police departments throughout the country, including the Michigan State Police, have enjoyed years of patrols in Ford Crown Victorias. (Elizabeth Conley / The Detroit News)

Based on Taurus platform, the new model
arrives at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News
March 12, 2010

Ford Motor Co. will unveil the new Ford Police Interceptor today -- the replacement for the venerable Crown Victoria that has been the backbone of the nation's law enforcement fleets since the early 1990s.

As The Detroit News first reported last year, the new model will be based on the same platform as the new Ford Taurus. However, it will be built for law enforcement work and incorporate several modifications to meet the needs of police officers.

It will make its debut before an audience of law enforcement officials at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, according to an internal Ford communication obtained by The News.

The Crown Vic, which is assembled at Ford's factory in St. Thomas, Ontario, will remain in production through September of 2011.

The new Police Interceptor is being developed in conjunction with Ford's Police Advisory Board, which provided input during the past on key vehicle attributes, such as safety, performance, durability, driver convenience and comfort. Ford says it will be available as soon as production of the Crown Vic ends and promises there will be no interruption in deliveries to police departments.

The Crown Vic is much-loved in law enforcement circles, and some departments already have expressed displeasure with Ford's decision to end production of the aging rear-wheel-drive sedan.

Ford currently controls about 75 percent of the police pursuit vehicle business in the U.S. and sells approximately 45,000 police vehicles annually.

Unveiling the Police Interceptor today will give police agencies and aftermarket outfitters plenty of time to prepare for the transition to the new squad car.


Kraft Foods To Replace U.S. Sales Fleet With Ford Vehicles for Efficiency, Quality

DEARBORN, Mich., March 11 /PRNewswire

  • Kraft Foods, the world's second-largest food company, takes delivery of 2,500 2010 Ford Fusions for its national sales staff

  • Kraft Foods cites total cost of ownership, including fuel economy benefits, as the driving force in replacing U.S. sales fleet with new Ford vehicles

  • Ford's fleet share through December 2009 was 24.8 percent – a 1.9-point increase over the same period in 2008 – and the company's share of commercial and government fleets was the highest of any vehicle manufacturer

For Kraft Foods – the world's second-largest food company – the 2010 Ford Fusion has proven to be an ideal solution in helping to reduce fuel use and C02 emissions for 2,500 members of the company's national sales staff.  

Kraft Foods has worked with Ford to meet its sales fleet vehicle needs for more than 25 years. After conducting a thorough lifecycle cost analysis of dozens of vehicles from various manufacturers, the company decided on the Fusion for its U.S. sales fleet.  

"Transportation and Distribution is one of six sustainability focus areas at Kraft Foods," said John Dmochowsky, sales fleet manager, Kraft Foods.  "The company has realized substantial fuel and cost savings over the last several years by switching from six- to four-cylinder engines."  

Dmochowsky says one of the goals with its sales fleet program is to reduce fuel use and C02 emissions. Over the past two years, Kraft Food's U.S. sales fleet has reduced its C02 emissions by 6.5 percent.

"It comes down to total cost of ownership and the right vehicle for the job, and we hit both elements with the Ford Fusion," he said.  "In addition to being fuel efficient, the Fusion has a comfortable, spacious interior and an attractive design.  It's a good reflection on Kraft Foods."  

That careful attention to all aspects of a fleet vehicle is drawing more companies like Kraft Foods to Ford, according to Ford Sales Analyst George Pipas.  

"Fleet customers are giving Ford more consideration because they're watching their costs carefully, and they know that our residual values, fuel economy and quality have improved significantly," said Pipas. "The projected resale value of Ford vehicles from the 2009 to 2010 model year increased by more than $1,300 per vehicle – that's more than any other full-line manufacturer."  

For Ford, the strength and breadth of the company's current product lineup is growing its share of the national fleet market. Ford's fleet share through December 2009 was 24.8 percent – a 1.9-point increase over the same period in 2008 – and the company's share of commercial and government fleets was the highest of any vehicle manufacturer, with F-Series trucks, E-Series vans, Focus, Fusion and Escape as top sellers.  


Loonie bulks up for parity

Traders bet out central bank will boost loan rates before U.S. does, luring investment into Canada

John Spears Business Star Reporter
March 11, 2010

Get ready for a Canadian dollar that's worth more than the U.S. buck.

Currency experts say it will happen by the summer. But Canadian manufacturers aren't cheering because it will make their goods more expensive on world markets.

CIBC World Markets predicts the loonie will rise to $1.02 against the U.S. dollar by September, then slide back to about 97 cents U.S. by the end of the year.

"We've already seen the Canadian dollar gain several cents in recent weeks," said Avery Shenfeld, chief economist for CIBC.

Traders are anticipating an interest rate hike by the Bank of Canada in July, he said.

The U.S. Federal Reserve probably will not follow suit for another six months, so the relatively higher rate in Canada will help push the loonie higher.

Camilla Sutton of Scotia Capital also predicts a stronger Canadian dollar.

"We could go to par any time," she said in an interview.

Sutton sees the dollar hitting par by the end of June, "then going through par for the rest of the year."

"Currencies are a relative game and, on a relative basis, Canada looks very, very strong to the rest of the world," Sutton added in an interview..

"We have everything going for the Canadian dollar including a hawkish central bank ... stronger fundamentals, very low sovereign risk."

Canadian manufacturers aren't cheering.

Jayson Myers, chief executive of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, said that many Canadian companies sign deals months in advance of when the goods they make are delivered and they get paid.

A rising Canadian dollar makes Canadian goods more expensive in the United States. So, to maintain their price in American dollars, Canadian firms must cut their price in Canadian currency, Myers said in an interview.

That reduces revenue and profit margins.

The Canadian dollar was at 78 cents U.S. a year ago, he noted.

Firms signing export contracts at that time may have taken measures to protect themselves if the dollar rose to 90 cents, he said, but probably few prepared themselves for a dollar at par.

One way for Canadian firms to combat the rise in the dollar is to reduce costs by investing in new technology to raise productivity, he said. But, as the rising dollar erodes profit margins, it gets harder to find the money for that investment.

Myers acknowledged that little can be done to keep the dollar from floating higher, but said governments can ease the burden with targeted tax measures.

A business coalition led by Myers did ask the federal government to allow them to write off the cost of new equipment more quickly but the measure was not part of last week's budget.

Instead, the government eliminated tariffs on new equipment.



Ford launches compact
car made for India
Ford executives Michael Boneham, left, and Joe Hinrichs introduce the new Figo in New Delhi, India, on Tuesday. (Manish Swarup / Associated Press)

Erika Kinetz / Associated Press
March 10, 2010

Mumbai, India -- Ford Motor Co. launched its first made-for-India compact car Tuesday, as the U.S. automaker continues its push into fast-growing Asian markets.

The four-door Figo, Italian for "cool," is the Dearborn-based automaker's first car designed -- and priced -- for the mass Indian market.

"Come heat, come dust, come monsoon rains or Delhi traffic, the Figo was born and bred for India," said Michael Boneham, president and managing director of Ford

As the global auto industry suffers, India has been enjoying an auto boom. An economic rebound, rising incomes and pent-up demand drove car sales to 1,370,659 vehicles from April to February, 25 percent more than during the same period the previous year.

Ford has ramped up investment in China and India, but has been slow to adjust to the proclivities of Indian car-buyers, three-quarters of whom buy super-small, super-affordable cars.

The luxurious sedans Americans favor find little room on India's teeming streets, and they're priced stratospherically out of reach for a nation where the per capita income is about $960.

The Figo is different.

Ford squeezed the car into a tiny frame -- 12.5 feet by 5.5 feet -- to ease its passage through the tide of bullock carts, angry taxis, handcarts, motorbikes and cows that clog city roads.

And they used easy-to-replace components, like bumpers, to handle the unavoidable dents and dings.

"The Figo team went to great lengths to ensure that key components are easily and affordably replaced," Boneham said.

The car also has extra durable lubricating and cooling systems, to deal with India's extreme heat and torrential rains.

But its most Indian feature of all is the price.

Starting at $7,690, the Figo is within reach of "Sandeep," Ford's vision of its archetypal consumer -- a 27-year-old man, recently married and ambitious, with an income of $6,000 to $8,000 a year.

Sandeep may be budget conscious, but he's not without aspirations. Higher-end Figos come with keyless entry and Bluetooth connectivity.

Like other global auto majors, Ford also hopes to turn India into a small car export hub. Boneham said the Figo would first ship to South Africa.

"We'll be adding more markets as people across the region see how cool the Figo really is," he said.


Lawsuits could cost
Toyota $3-billion


MIAMI The Associated Press Published on Tuesday, Mar. 09, 2010

Toyota owners claiming that massive safety recalls are causing the value of their vehicles to plummet have filed at least 89 class-action lawsuits that could cost the Japanese auto giant $3-billion (U.S..) or more, according to an Associated Press review of cases, legal precedent and interviews with experts.

Those estimates do not include potential payouts for wrongful death and injury lawsuits, which could reach in the tens of millions each. Still, the sheer volume of cases involving U.S. Toyota owners claiming lost value – 6 million or more – could prove far more costly, adding up to losses in the billions for the automaker.

Such class-action lawsuits “are more scary for Toyota than the cases where people actually got injured,” said Tom Baker, a University of Pennsylvania law professor. “A super-big injury case would be $20-million. But you could have millions of individual car owners who could (each) be owed $1,000. If I were Toyota, I'd be more worried about those cases.”

As Toyota continues to deal with the recalls and wavering public confidence in its vehicle safety, its biggest financial fight may be in the courtroom. A key decision could come at a March 25 hearing in San Diego, where a panel of federal judges will consider whether to consolidate the mushrooming cases into a single jurisdiction.

After that, a judge will decide whether all claims filed by Toyota owners nationwide can be combined in a single legal action – known as “certifying a class” – and whether the claims have enough merit to move toward either trial or settlement.

Concealed Problems?

Toyota owners suing the company contend their vehicles have dropped in value because of the recalls and that Toyota knew all along about safety problems but concealed them from buyers. They point to evidence such as Kelley Blue Book's decision this month to lower the resale value of recalled Toyotas an average of 3.5 per cent, ranging from $300 less for a Corolla to $750 less for a Sequoia.

The lawsuits started appearing on state and federal dockets last fall, when Toyota began recalling some 8 million vehicles worldwide because of persistent complaints about sudden unintended acceleration. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 52 people have died in accelerator-related crashes.

The AP conducted an extensive review of federal court filings and uncovered a total of 89 class-action lawsuits filed nationwide as of Monday. Toyota attorneys said last week in a court filing that the company is aware of 82 such cases.

One leading attorney in the class-action effort, Northeastern University law professor Tim Howard, said the number of owners claiming economic damages because of the recalls could reach 6 million. If each were awarded $500 – likely a conservative estimate – Toyota would have to fork over $3-billion in economic loss damages alone.

This does not include possible payouts in wrongful death or injury cases as well as lawsuits filed by shareholders claiming losses from share prices that have tumbled more than 16 per cent since January.

Corporations often settle big cases rather than risk an even bigger damage award at a trial.

Previous Cases

Automakers in the past have been forced to pay vehicle owners for lost value because of safety problems. Ford, for example, agreed in 2008 to compensate 800,000 Explorer owners who sued because of rollover dangers. That settlement provided owners only with vouchers of between $300 and $500 to buy new Ford products.

In that case, the lawyers received about $25-million in fees and costs, and the Toyota case could result in a similar windfall for attorneys. A study by the Federal Judicial Centre concluded attorneys in class-action lawsuits typically get fees between 27 per cent and 30 per cent of what they recover in damages – which could reach $1-billion in a $3-billion settlement.

Toyota could end up facing an even bigger payoff if a judge decides attorneys' fees should be added to any plaintiffs' award.

The San Diego hearing will be conducted before the seven-member Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, which decides whether similar lawsuits filed in multiple federal districts should be centralized in one location for pretrial motions, hearings and the like. A federal judge would be chosen to determine whether the Toyota cases should be certified as a class action and make other key rulings, such as deciding on a likely Toyota motion to dismiss.

Under federal law, a class action must have 100 or more plaintiffs, damages sought must exceed $5-million and the judge must be persuaded the claims are identical or very similar. If a class is not certified, each lawsuit would have to be pursued on its own.

Quick Fix

Toyota has so far recalled 5.6 million vehicles in the U.S. because of problems caused by what it says are accelerator pedals that become sticky or get trapped under floor mats. Another 437,000 Prius models have been recalled worldwide for what Toyota says is an antilock-braking glitch.

The vast majority of lawsuits claiming economic loss stem from the accelerator problems, and many contend the company's effort to fix floor mats or accelerator pedals are insufficient. Dozens of lawsuits claim Toyota has ignored problems with its electronic throttle system.

Separately, NHTSA is looking into claims from more than 60 Toyota owners that their vehicles continue to surge forward unexpectedly despite having their vehicles repaired.

Toyota has denied that its electronic throttle is to blame and has been focused on dealing with the recalls – a strategy that could affect the outcome of the lawsuits.

“Toyota's strategy (should be) to fix them, fix them immediately and at no cost, and do it as quickly and effectively as you can so after the dust settles, your car's value won't have depreciated much,” said Edward C. Martin, a law professor at Cumberland School of Law at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala.

“We do not believe that electronics are at the root of this issue,” Toyota spokesman Mike Michels said Monday.

Consumer Concerns

In some of the lawsuits, Toyota owners seek additional damages because they're afraid to drive what they call “defective and dangerous” cars, while still others claim insurance premiums will likely go up.

“My wife has been worried about it for a while. She's eight months pregnant and she's terrified to drive the car now,” said Jerry Borbon, a Miami lawyer who is still driving his 2008 Toyota Prius and is a plaintiff in a potential class-action lawsuit.

“We thought about trying to get rid of it, but we're stuck with it,” he said, adding Toyota's damaged reputation has made it hard to sell the vehicle. “I don't feel secure in the car and I don't want my wife driving it.”

“There are a lot of unknowns and the big questions are what did Toyota know when,” said Catherine Sharkey, a professor at the New York University School of Law. “If it turns out that Toyota had knowledge of these defects and did not act soon enough, then the best strategy is settlement.”

In a sign of the widespread impact of the recalls, a Los Angeles federal judge who has been assigned many of the potential Toyota class-action cases is concerned his ownership of a Toyota might force him off the cases.

U.S. District Judge A. Howard Matz put a one-paragraph statement into the dockets of more than two dozen cases: “The court owns a 2000 Toyota Avalon SLX. In addition, the adult son of the court who has not lived in the court's home for many years owns a 2005 Prius.”

Mr. Matz's statement also asks whether he or his son could be considered plaintiffs if the cases are certified as class actions. If so, the judge would not be able to preside over the cases because of a possible conflict of interest.


U.S. police help slow runaway Toyota Prius

El Cajon, Calif. The Associated Press Published on Tuesday, Mar. 09, 2010

A California Highway Patrol officer helped slow a runaway Toyota Prius from 94 miles per hour to a safe stop Monday after the car's accelerator became stuck on a San Diego County freeway, the CHP said.

Prius driver James Sikes said the incident occurred just two weeks after he had taken the vehicle in to an El Cajon dealership for repairs after receiving a recall notice, but he was turned away.

“I gave them my recall notice and they handed it back and said I'm not on the recall list,” Mr. Sikes said.

In a statement, Toyota said it has dispatched a field technical specialist to San Diego to investigate the incident.

Toyota has recalled some 8.5 million vehicles worldwide — more than 6 million in the United States — since last fall because of acceleration problems in multiple models and braking issues in the Prius.

On Monday, Mr. Sikes called 911 about 1:30 p.m. after accelerating to pass another vehicle on Interstate 8 near La Posta and finding that he could not control his car, the CHP said.

“I pushed the gas pedal to pass a car and it did something kind of funny ... It jumped and it just stuck there,” the 61-year-old driver said at a news conference.

“As it was going, I was trying the brakes ... it wasn't stopping, it wasn't doing anything and it just kept speeding up,” Mr. Sikes said, adding he could smell the brakes burning he was pressing the pedal so hard.

A patrol car pulled alongside the Prius and officers told Sikes over a loudspeaker to push the brake pedal to the floor and apply the emergency brake.

“They also got it going on a steep upgrade,” said Officer Jesse Udovich. “Between those three things, they got it to slow down.”

After the car decelerated to about 50 miles per hour, Mr. Sikes turned off the engine and coasted to a halt.

The officer then maneuvered his car in front of the Prius as a precautionary block, Mr. Udovich said.

Toyota owners have complained of their vehicles speeding out of control despite efforts to slow down, sometimes resulting in deadly crashes. The government has received complaints of 34 deaths linked to sudden acceleration of Toyota vehicles since 2000.

One of the crashes claimed the life of a CHP officer in August.

Off-duty CHP Officer Mark Saylor was killed along with his wife, her brother and the couple's daughter after their Lexus' accelerator got stuck in La Mesa.

The Toyota-manufactured loaner vehicle slammed into a sport utility vehicle at about 100 miles per hour, careened off the freeway, hit an embankment, overturned and burst into flames.


GM to reinstate 661 closed dealers

Owners must fulfill requirements to reopen showrooms

Robert Snell / The Detroit News - March 7, 2010

General Motors Co. has offered to restore more than half of the 1,160 dealers who appealed the automaker's attempts to close them down.

The Detroit automaker said Friday it is sending letters to 661 dealers by Monday night offering to reinstate their stores -- if they comply with standard requirements for facilities, capitalization and inventory financing. The balance of the dealers who have appealed will continue toward arbitration.

Restoring dealers could help GM boost sales by having more outlets buying cars and trucks. Increasing sales and GM's share of the U.S. auto market, is a primary goal of CEO Edward Whitacre Jr.

The move also is GM's bid to end a lingering dispute about the automaker's bankruptcy-related decision to prune its vast U.S. dealer network. The reduction effort spurred retailers to angrily lobby Congress, which passed a law in December giving dealers the right to challenge the decisions.

"This is the end of what has been a really tough time for lots of people inside and outside the company, lots of communities and lots of dealerships," GM North American President Mark Reuss said. "We are looking forward to wiping the slate clean."

Ed Tonkin, chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association, hailed GM's "good faith effort." We "hope that this carries forward in its continuing settlement and arbitration discussions with the remaining wind-down dealers," he said.

Dealers have 10 days to sign the letters and return them to GM, and 60 days to fulfill the requirements in the letters.

Reuss wouldn't provide a breakdown of the 661 dealers by brand, size or region. When GM thinned its dealer ranks last year, a disproportionate number of Cadillac dealers were targeted, as well as stores in metro areas.

As part of GM's restructuring, the automaker planned to close more than 2,000 dealers by October as it shed four brands and shrank its overall footprint. The automaker said the plan would save $2.5 billion.

Chrysler LLC closed 789 dealers as part of its bankruptcy, and some of those retailers also are appealing. In total, more than 1,300 GM and Chrysler dealers challenged the closing decisions.

The unknown cost to GM of absorbing about 660 dealerships is nominal compared to the potential upside, said analyst Joe Phillippi of AutoTrends Consulting Inc. in Short Hills, N.J.

"In a lot of markets, GM wants or needs representation if they're going to grow volume and market share," he said. "This may have been a directive from Whitacre saying 'If we want to sell more units and more market share, why are we eliminating all these dealers?' "

Automakers book revenue when vehicles leave the factory bound for dealers, not when they are sold to consumers. Whitacre has said reinstating some dealers would not hurt the company.

Tammy Darvish, vice president of DARCARS Automotive Group in Silver Spring, Md., owns a Chevrolet dealership ordered closed. She said news of the reinstatements means little until dealers know the strings attached.

"They could make it cost-prohibitive or they could set conditions like they need 30-year site control of our properties, which is what Chrysler is doing," said Darvish, who has fought to have dealerships restored nationwide. "It should be as simple as if the dealerships are viable and sustainable, they should be reinstated."

Even with the restored dealerships, GM will have a smaller dealer network than before it filed for bankruptcy last year.

GM has about 5,500 dealerships, down from 6,150 at the end of 2008. That number will fall to about 4,100 this fall once dealerships that were not offered new franchise agreements close or stop selling GM vehicles.

Alan Spitzer, head of the Spitzer Auto Group and co-founder of the Committee to Restore Dealer Rights, praised GM's decision.

"GM is trying to do the right thing," Spitzer said, adding that GM was trying to reduce the amount it would have to spend in hundreds of arbitration panels. Spitzer has filed for 10 separate arbitrations for seven closed Chrysler dealerships and three GM dealerships. Spitzer has dealerships in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida.


Harper to ask Canadians for
input on pension reform

Bill Curry March 6, 2010
From Saturday's Globe and Mail

The Harper government is launching a cross-country debate on Canada's pension system, asking Canadians what it will take to get them to save more for retirement and what should be done to keep those savings safe.

The consultations, which Finance Minister Jim Flaherty will announce within days, come as many Canadians emerge from the economic crisis poorer and wiser.

Ottawa's own recession-induced cash problems contribute to the debate. This week's federal budget forecasts 5-per-cent annual increases in elderly benefits due to an aging population at a time when the government is trying to rein in spending. Public-sector unions fear their own pensions are at risk as governments look to squeeze staffing budgets.

At the individual level, several studies warn that middle-class Canadians simply aren't saving enough.

Last year's recession ravaged RRSP balances and drove Canadian companies like Nortel into bankruptcy. Nortel employees then were shocked to discover their pension plan was underfunded by billions of dollars.

In public meetings and online, Canadians will be asked for their views on potential reforms ranging from tweaks to major new savings vehicles. The debate is fraught with peril for federal and provincial governments, because proposed solutions could pit young against old or rich against poor.

Pension policy experts say the coming weeks are a rare window of opportunity for historic improvements while the hard lessons of the recession are still fresh.

“We're still in a sweet spot in terms of being able to galvanize people to do something about this,” said Moshe Milevsky, a York University finance professor who contributed to the March issue of the public policy magazine Policy Options, devoted almost entirely to debating the proposals at hand.

“The financial crisis has taught us a very, very important lesson that's related to pensions and that lesson is that an RRSP, as large as it is, is not a pension, because from one year to the next, it can lose a quarter of its value,” he said.

The goal of the government's tour will be to produce clear recommendations for a federal-provincial finance ministers' pension summit in May.

Proposals up for discussion include raising the mandatory payroll contributions to the Canada Pension Plan, allowing employers and workers to access a supplementary version of the CPP, encouraging new privately run savings plans, or expanding tax shelters like RRSPs and tax-free savings accounts.

There are also calls for regulations that would require private pension plans to be well funded and more transparent, much like the rules for banks and insurance companies.

“We haven't taken any of the options off the table,” said Conservative MP Ted Menzies, the Finance Minister's parliamentary secretary.

In addition to the government-led consultations, MPs on the House of Commons finance committee – including Mr. Menzies – are expected to hold their own hearings.

The Liberals are in favour of letting people have the CPP manage their retirement savings if they want to, and the NDP is siding with unions calling for a doubling of benefits under the existing system.

Liberal finance critic John McCallum said pension reform should be the finance committee's priority, but expressed skepticism that the government will take action three months from now when the consultations are complete.

“It's been on the table for months if not years, and what are they doing? Holding more consultations,” he said. “I think there's fairly broad consensus for a supplementary Canada Pension Plan – which we have proposed – but I don't sense this government wants to go there at all.”


No sign GM will reverse dealership closings in Canada

Dealers association calls for GM Canada to admit fault in nixing franchises

Tony Van Alphen Business Reporter
March 6, 2010

The country's auto dealers association says General Motors of Canada should admit its mistakes and reverse plans to close many of its retailers after the company's parent suggested it erred in more than half of the decisions to shut down U.S. stores under a restructuring plan.

Rick Gauthier, president of the Canadian Automobile Dealers Association, said Friday it's hard to believe that GM made the right decision here in terminating the 240 retailers it targeted for nonrenewal of franchise agreements, in view of a major shift by parent GM.

"They (GM Canada) are not infallible," Gauthier said. "But they have seen fit not to admit they made one mistake regarding a closure here. Yet, the parent company, which dictates policy on the Canadian arm, is admitting it probably got it wrong 50 per cent of the time."

Parent GM announced earlier in the day it will reinstate 661 dealers out of 1,100 it slated for closing in the U.S. last year as part of a survival plan to become profitable again.

The move came after the U.S. government mandated arbitration in December for GM dealers the company had pegged for closing. But Mark Reuss, president of GM North America, said GM planned to contact dealers to discuss settling outside of arbitration to avoid the time and cost.

The company will start sending letters of intent to dealers and if they meet requirements, factory deliveries would resume.

In Canada, GM offered "wind-down" agreements for a short time to targeted dealers that partly compensated them for the loss of franchises. If they didn't accept the terms and close their stores by the end of 2009, the company said it would not renew agreements when they expire this October.

GM said it needed to slash its dealer networks in both countries as part of restructuring plans so the struggling automaker could qualify for government aid.

Most dealers accepted the wind-down agreements, but two groups have sued GM for damages and renewal of their franchises.

GM of Canada says 26 dealers sought and received management reviews, but the company still needs to finish assessments.

"There have been no reversals to date," said GM communications director Tony LaRocca.

He noted processes to resolve disputes in the two countries are like "comparing apples to oranges."

Gauthier said the association is critical of the management reviews for lack of transparency and fairness. The arbitration process also limits what dealers can gain and forces them to individually contest a major corporation with vast financial resources, he added.

In the U.S., GM gained court protection from creditors, which lifted many obligations to dealers, but Gauthier said the company is now honouring them. In Canada, dealers helped GM avert court protection but they now can't get fair treatment, he noted.

"GM owes it to its dealers to inject some element of fairness in its review process," said Gauthier, who represents about 3,400 dealers with numerous manufacturers.

He said GM Canada should also give dealers who accepted wind-down agreements a "fair hearing."

A group of 19 dealers that didn't sign the wind-down agreements sued GM of Canada last November for millions of dollars in damages and an injunction to remain open for at least another five years. They alleged GM effectively ended their franchise agreements in a "high-handed, oppressive and patently unfair" manner.

GM, which is asking the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to move the case to the dealer arbitration program, said in its statement of defence it dealt with store owners "in good faith and has made significant efforts to ensure the smoothest transition and wind-down of operations possible for them under difficult circumstances."


Panel head under fire
over Toyota documents

Calif. lawmaker accuses committee leader of 'misrepresentations' over subpoenaed material

Christine Tierney / The Detroit News
March 5, 2010

Allegations that Toyota Motor Corp. tried to hide vehicle defects aren't new: Former Toyota lawyer Dimitrios Biller has claimed for months that he had documents to prove it -- but was prevented by a court from revealing them.

Last week, the public got its first glimpse of Biller's documents, which were subpoenaed by the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and briefly posted on its Web site by Chairman Ed Towns, D-N.Y.

They seemed deeply damaging to Toyota at first glance. But they were quickly taken off the site, and Towns is now under fire from members of his committee for his handling of the affair.

In addition to posting the documents, Towns wrote to a senior Toyota official on Feb. 26 demanding an explanation for the documents, which, he said, "indicate Toyota deliberately withheld records" that it was required to share with plaintiffs in civil suits.

Towns' letter, which was made public, contained excerpts from the documents to back up his assertions.

This week, Rep. Darrell Issa of California, the ranking Republican on the House committee, said his staff discovered "factual misrepresentations" in Towns' letter to Yoshimi Inaba, president of Toyota Motor North America.

For instance, Towns cites a memo Biller wrote on Dec. 6, 2006, suggesting that Toyota preferred to settle cases rather than disclose information it kept in so-called "Books of Knowledge."

Towns quotes Biller as saying: "TMS [Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc.] conclude that it would be better to pay a premium to settle this case and avoid producing the 'Books of Knowledge.' "

But Issa's staff said Towns left out a crucial part of the sentence. The full sentence is: "TMS [Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc.] conclude that it would be better to pay a premium to settle this case and avoid producing the 'Books of Knowledge' before Toyota and its counsel had an opportunity to inspect those materials."

Issa's staff also found that the phrase "sudden unintended acceleration" had been injected into a passage that referred to a suit alleging transmission problems.

In addition, Issa noted that a Texas plaintiff lawyer, E. Todd Tracy, reviewed the Biller documents in connection to 17 cases that he had reopened on the basis of Biller's allegations.

"After reviewing the documents, in December 2009, he concluded that: 'I did not see any type of concealment, destruction, or pattern of discovery abuse' and that 'I believe Biller, in his own mind, probably thinks there's something there. But the documents just don't support it,' " Issa quoted Tracy as saying.

A House committee spokeswoman said Issa's complaints were beside the point. "Mr. Issa's comments do not address the central issue -- has Toyota been illegally withholding documents for years," said Jenny Rosenberg.

Biller, who worked for Toyota from 2003 until 2007, is suing Toyota, claiming wrongful termination and emotional distress. He also alleges racketeering at the Japanese automaker.

"Biller continues to make inaccurate and misleading allegations about Toyota's conduct that we strongly dispute and will continue to fight against vigorously," said Toyota spokeswoman Martha Voss.

Toyota sued Biller in 2008 to stop him from using confidential material. It argued successfully that Biller violated a $3.7 million settlement by retaining his files.

This month, an arbitrator in the lawsuit blocked Biller from disclosing internal company documents, but the House Oversight Committee's subpoena superseded the other rulings.

The committee dispute also reflects partisan strains.

"I am concerned that sending this letter without consultation with the minority and its misleading content sheds a negative light on what has otherwise been a successful bipartisan effort," Issa wrote.


Volume 40, No. 9 – March 5, 2010

Community Forums Highlight Need for Pension Reform

Thousands of retirees, union members and activists have taken part in recent pension forums held in communities across Ontario and Manitoba.

Retirees have outlined fear of their pensions being cut because of insolvent or bankrupt employers, while active workers have expressed deep concern about the security of their pensions when they reach retirement.

Federal and provincial politicians have been invited to these community forums with a number of NDP and Liberal politicians attending. No Conservatives attended the forums held in Brampton, Toronto, Oshawa, Sudbury, London, Winnipeg or Brandon. Others are scheduled.

CAW President Ken Lewenza said the community forums, organized in conjunction with the Canadian Labour Congress, highlight the immediate need to fight for pension reform for all Canadians.

“More than 60 per cent of Canadians don’t have a private pension plan, so we need to work hard to reform both the private pension system and also the Canada Pension Plan,” Lewenza said. “We’re determined to build a better pension system for all workers.”

“We need both the federal government and provincial politicians to understand how concerned those retirees, their families and active workers who are looking ahead to retirement are about this issue,” said Jenny Ahn, CAW director of membership mobilization and campaigns.

One of the keys to creating more pension security is reform of the CPP, said Ahn. Here are some priorities raised in the community forums:

- Double benefits for the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) over a seven-year period. This would increase CPP earnings to a maximum of $1,635 per month;

- Increase the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) to Old Age Security pensions;

- Introduce a federal system of pension insurance. This would protect pensions to a maximum of $2,500 a month when an employer enters bankruptcy proceedings and cannot pay out pension benefits. The insurance system would also adopt pension plans when an employer declares bankruptcy and shuts down permanently.

For more information on the pension forums or to find one in your area, please visit: www.caw.ca/en/7978.htm.

Workers Reject Concession Demands At Westcast

CAW Local 504 members who work at auto parts maker Westcast Industries in Strathroy, Ontario have rejected a company offer loaded with concession demands.

The CAW and company had been in contract talks since mid-December when the company presented a final offer on February 18 that included more than $10 per hour in wage, benefit and pension cuts. It also introduced a two-tier wage system for new hires and a $1000 signing bonus.

Workers voted 75 per cent against the company offer. The existing collective agreement has been extended for one month.

CAW Local 504 President Randy Smith said “that the workers have voted and clearly want our CAW bargaining committee to renew talks with the company. It’s time the company got back to the bargaining table and negotiated a fair and equitable settlement.”  

There are 75 active workers at the plant, located northwest of London, Ontario. The workers produce exhaust manifolds. Three years ago the plant had 250 workers.

CAW Calls for Job Investments and Income Supports for Unemployed and Pensioners

CAW President Ken Lewenza called for job creation to be a central part of the March 4 federal budget, especially in developing and promoting clean energy sources, greener infrastructure and manufacturing.

This budget needs to take major steps to better position the country and the economy to deal with climate change and its impact on jobs, said Lewenza. “Our country has an important opportunity to become a leader in green technology, which would deliver a badly needed economic boost. Instead though, as we saw during the UN climate change negotiations in Copenhagen, our government is content to let the country stagnate and pull Canadians back when we want to move forward.”

In a news release prior to the budget, Lewenza said that part of a longer term economic plan must include reducing the country’s reliance on the tar sands as an economic driver - widely recognized as an environmental catastrophe.

The country has high expectations of the upcoming federal budget, given that it took the government more than two months off to write it, said Lewenza.

“We need a budget that invests in Canadians and our future,” said Lewenza. This should include an indication the government intends to address the looming pension crisis, along with the provinces, as well as income and training supports for workers who have lost their jobs.

Approximately 500,000 unemployed Canadians will lose their Employment Insurance benefits in the months to come. Lewenza called for an extension of EI benefits and improving the qualifying rules, so that more workers are covered by EI, instead of falling through the cracks in the country’s social safety net.

Lewenza also cautioned against cutting programs and public services when the country is only beginning to recover from the recession, and only in some regions. “Conservative-leaning critics would have us believe that paying down the deficit must be the number one priority of the government. But Canadians understand that the deficit cannot be reduced if massive unemployment and underemployment continues.”

Alternative Federal Budget Targets Job Creation

Putting Canadians back to work is the best way to balance the federal government's budget. That's the key message of the Alternative Federal Budget (AFB) project, recently released by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

The AFB is produced each year by a broad coalition of community, labour, and environmental organizations, including the CAW. This year's AFB, recognizing the continuing crisis in Canada's labour market, urged federal support to create and maintain 330,000 jobs, and to get the unemployment rate back down to pre-recession levels by 2011. Its ambitious job-creation strategy includes support for manufacturing, job-creating environmental investments, and a dramatic improvement in EI qualifying rules (to help the more than 1 million unemployed Canadians who don't qualify for benefits).

By creating new jobs, the AFB strategy actually generates more government revenues that helps to bring down the government deficit. Under the AFB plan, the federal debt burden starts shrinking (as a share of GDP) by 2011.

Full details of this year's AFB are available at www.policyalternatives.ca

Cut Search and Rescue Response Times, FFAW Urges

FFAW/CAW President Earle McCurdy says an Inquiry Commissioner’s decision to reduce response times for rescue helicopters in Newfoundland’s offshore oil industry highlight the inadequacy of federal government search and rescue services.

McCurdy praised Commissioner Robert Wells’ recent recommendation that response times for rescue helicopters in the offshore oil industry be reduced from the current one hour to 15-20 minutes to get in the air.

The federal government must adopt the same response time for its search and rescue service covering fishermen and others in the North Atlantic, he said.

The current search and rescue response standard is 30 minutes from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays, which increases to two hours response time in other hours.

“Every minute counts during an emergency at sea,” McCurdy said. “The North Atlantic is a harsh environment and our members who work in that environment deserve emergency response times that are second to none. Surely the lives of fish harvesters are worth no less than those of offshore oil workers,” McCurdy said.

Since the offshore oil industry began off Newfoundland, more fish harvesters have lost their lives at sea than the combined total of the Ocean Ranger disaster in 1982 and the Cougar helicopter tragedy in 2009.

McCurdy said he fully supports Commissioner Wells’ recommendation and the efforts of offshore oil workers, their union and families to improve response times. He said offshore oil workers deserve the best service that can be provided and that fish harvesters deserve no less.

The FFAW/CAW has about 15,000 members in Newfoundland and Labrador of which about 8,000 are fish harvesters.

Rich Northern Nations Must Pay Down Climate Debt, Urges Klein
Climate change is tantamount to a silent war being waged by the rich against the poor, says Naomi Klein. "Twenty per caent of the world's population is responsible for 76-80 per cent of historic emissions," Klein told the hundreds of people packed into a Toronto community church.

Klein's speech was the first of the David Lewis lecture series, sponsored by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives on Feburary 25. In her speech, she addressed the issue of climate debt, namely the idea that rich countries should pay reparations to poor countries for the climate crisis and the severe damage it is causing.

Klein urged a return to the sense of historical responsibility, which was a key part of the Kyoto Accord, recognizing that rich countries have been responsible for high levels of carbon in the atmosphere, brought about through unsustainable industrialization and over-consumption.
To underline this point, Klein quoted Bolivia President Evo Morales, who said, "the earth does not have enough for the North to live better and better, but it does have enough for us alal to live well."

David Lewis (1909-1981) was a leading labour lawyer, life-long social democrat, a founder of the NDP and its national leader from 1970 to 1975. The lecture series will focus on issues of social democracy, organized labour, and income inequality. To watch the entire speech, please visit: http://www.rabble.ca/rabbletv/program-guide/2010/03/features/naomi-klein-speaks-climate-debt-torontoPhoto: Mark Knudsen/Klimaforum09.

Ontario to Invest $81 million in Ford Essex Engine 
The government of Ontario announced it would invest up to $81 million in the Ford Essex Engine plant in Windsor, ON. The announcement came from Finance Minister Dwight Duncan and Sandra Pupatello, minister of economic development and trade on February 26. This means that several hundred laid off workers will be recalled. The workers are represented by CAW Local 200.
The new investment is in addition to an earlier $168 million investment by the province, $80 million from the federal government and $590 million from Ford, all of which helped re-open the shuttered plant.  Photo: L-R Ford Windsor Site Operations Manager Alexandria Maciag, President of CAW Local 200 Dan Cassady, Windsor West MPP/Ontario’s Minister of Economic Development and Trade Sandra Pupatello, CAW National President Ken Lewenza, Windsor/Tecumseh MPP/Ontario Minister of Finance Dwight Duncan and Ford Vice President of North American Manufacturing Operations Jim Tetreault. 

Airline Workers’ Voices Must be Heard on Canada-EU Deal

A coalition of Canadian and European air transport unions has issued a joint call to government officials demanding airline workers voices are heard on issues impacting employment under the new Canada-EU Air Transport Agreement, signed on December 18 2009.

In a February 10 letter addressed to chief negotiators Rob Ready (Canada) and Philippe Burghelle Vernet (European Union), Coalition members including the CAW demanded that civil aviation unions in each country be treated as stakeholders in ongoing joint committee work on issues relevant to employment and the working conditions of air transport employees.

“Airline workers in Canada have been effectively shut out of the negotiation process, even though they stand to suffer most from this deal,” said Peggy Nash, Assistant to the CAW President. “Workers’ voices must be heard when the Joint Committee first sits in April.”

The Air Transport Agreement establishes a framework aimed at deregulating air travel between Canada and the 27-member EU state, including unrestricted access to both international and regional routes, abolishing limits on foreign ownership requirements and eroding workplace wage and benefit standards. The deal builds on similar ‘Open Skies’ agreements signed by Canada over the years, including a landmark 1995 agreement with the United States.

Open Skies agreements have been a key policy plank in successive governments’ push to deregulate the Canadian air transport industry, which first gained traction under Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in 1984. Deregulation has contributed to the destabilization of the airline industry (over 25 airline bankruptcies in Canada alone), massive job losses and a deterioration of workplace standards.

For more information, visit: http://www.caw2002tca.ca/

Investment in Halifax Shipyard Creates New Jobs

The Nova Scotia government’s decision to invest $20 million to modernize the Halifax shipyard will create jobs for marine workers and ensure the yard can successfully bid on future contracts, CAW Atlantic area director Les Holloway says.

“This is a tremendous step forward for marine workers and the local community that is the result of many years of hard work and the establishment of the CAW’s shipbuilding campaign, which for years highlighted the importance of reinvigorating the Canadian shipbuilding industry,” said Holloway.

Premier Darrell Dexter said the investment in the Irving owned yard is a repayable loan that will help secure a stronger future. New investment in wharves, cranes, fabrication areas and office upgrades will provide jobs for workers and suppliers across the province.

“This investment will not only improve infrastructure at the shipyard and create jobs during construction, it will help the shipyard modernize its facility so it will stay competitive and able to bid on more contracts in the future,” Dexter said February 25.

“On behalf of the members of Local 1, I want to thank the province for its support of these important improvements,” said Karl Risser, President of CAW/Marine Workers Federation Local 1. “There are many of us whose roots go deep at this shipyard and this news is the best signal to the next generations of shipyard workers.”
In the fall of 2009, the Halifax Shipyard landed a contract worth $219 million to build nine mid-shore patrol vessels for the Canadian Coast Guard.
EDUCATION UPDATE!                                                                 
New in Education – Building Strong Local Unions!

Having a strong local union is important in fighting back against some of the challenges currently facing CAW members across the country.

In this week-long program offered at the CAW’s Family Education Centre in Port Elgin, Ontario a series of new and innovative approaches will be used to explore what makes a local union strong. We’ll consider leadership, activism, membership engagement and building strong community links. We’ll also look at the role technology can play in communication with members and our work on campaigns through hands-on activities.

This program uses new approaches to education that are designed to engage, challenge, motivate, inspire and educate new as well as seasoned activists, standing committee members and elected leadership – anyone who has an interest and commitment to strengthening their local union.

The next two offerings are: April 11-16 and June 20-25. Registration can be made directly through the Family Education Centre. For more information about the course contact CAW National Representative Kim Yardy at: kim.yardy@caw.ca or 1-800-268-5763 ext 6550.



Lincoln MKT takes
dead aim at Audi
The MKT is a Top Safety Pick of the U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Ford

Jeremy Cato - Globe & Mail

Mar. 04, 2010

The good news about the 2010 Lincoln MKT starts with the new EcoBoost engine. It continues to the roomy cabin, extends to the luxurious interior and ends with the relative quickness – the overall drivability – of this big crossover utility wagon.

The bad? The hearse-like exterior styling will most definitely not be for everyone. Neither will the big grille that looks like it could double as a grille for barbequing a thick and juicy Porterhouse steak.

Design? In a nutshell, Ford's Lincoln luxury division has produced a wagon with a short front end and squared-off rear. Looks perfect for carrying a coffin. And the third-row seat might be useful in a pinch – pun intended – but it's not really practical for anyone tall enough to see over a bank teller's counter.

The shapes and look of a car are an utterly subjective topic; you may not agree with me at all. Certainly Ford's global product boss, Derrick Kuzak, would take issue.

“We always start with design,” he says, pointing to how Ford “fully differentiates” Lincolns from Ford. “There is a clear point of view for Lincoln – elegant, flowing – and I'm hopeful you see that. The clear Lincoln point of view starts with Lincoln from the face.”

Here, the face of the MKT is more a toothy grin.

Critics are on safer ground when talking about the MKT's luxurious interior, the one packed with high-tech features. And big as it is, most folks would probably like driving this Lincoln.

“We want to make this (Lincoln) brand a true premium brand – a brand that looks premium. You see it in the choice of materials, the fit and finish,” says Kuzak. “We want a brand that can compete with Audi in terms of fuel economy.

“Quietness? Across every one of our vehicles they are all equal to or quieter than Audi. And technology that is leading edge – and more technology than the majority of the premium manufacturers.”

Kuzak, a soft-spoken aerospace engineering PhD by training, does not shy away from making his points. The Ford and Lincoln products are all done under his leadership, so it is not hard to see why.

The MKT, he argues, “by data is quieter than an Audi Q7. It's a better value than Q7 and [Mercedes-Benz's] R-Class. The MKT has better fuel economy. It is the best interior we've ever done – fine fit and finish and choice of materials.”

There goes the gauntlet. Wham! Right on the floor in front of Audi, Lincoln's target. The main one, but not the only one.

Kuzak's team is also shooting at the R-Class, as he mentioned, and Honda's Acura MDX, the Buick Enclave and Volvo X90. All of these, including the MKT, are full-size crossover wagons, car-based vehicles with a third-row seat.

In the MKT, there is seating for up to seven versus five for the Lincoln MKX mid-size crossover (a vehicle that shares the same basic platform).

You will spend close to $60,000 (taxes included) for an MKT if you go with the new twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V-6. If you can afford it, get it (the official base price is $53,350, freight not included).

This is a great engine, one with loads of power (355 horsepower), yet has the same fuel economy numbers of the base MKT with its non-turbo, 3.7-litre V-6 at 268 hp ($49,950). All MKTs come with standard all-wheel-drive, which means it is a $3,400 step from the base model to get EcoBoost.

The EcoBoost V-6 will propel the MKT from 0-100 km/h in just 6.5 seconds. Yet with EcoBoost, the MKT gets better fuel economy than the Acura MDX and the V-8-powered Audi Q7. Remember, this Lincoln is a full-size crossover vehicle that weighs 2,234 kg and is 5,273 mm. It's big.

Safe, as well. The MKT is a Top Safety Pick of the U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Standard equipment includes stability and traction control, and front, side, and head-protecting side curtain airbags. Safety options include systems that warn the driver of an impending collision ($1,300).

If you haven't been in a new Lincoln lately, the MKT will be a surprise. The build quality, ergonomics and technological sophistication are all there. This is no outdated Town Car hauling you from the airport to your hotel.

The driving experience is not bad at all. Big as it is, the MKT handles well. The EcoBoost V-6 makes this wagon quick, and a pressurized direct fuel-injection system eliminates turbo lag – the hesitation often suffered by turbocharged engines.

Punch the gas, and away you go. If you like, take hold of the steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters to manage the six-speed automatic transmission. The ride here is steady and controlled.

Better still, the cabin is excellent. The build quality and ergonomics are a match for the R-Class and the Q7. There is high-quality stitched leather throughout. A twin-panel panoramic glass roof is part of a $5,000 package that also includes an up-market sound system, blind spot warning system and voice-activated navigation.

Bucket seats in the second row ($1,200) reduce the maximum seating to six, but these seats are comfortable and buying them also gets you deep, roll-top-covered storage bins between seats. Feels like a limousine. For $900 extra, there's even a little refrigerator to cool drinks.

The third-row seats are small, though the second-row seats adjust forward and backward and have a slide/fold-forward feature to allow access. It's still no fun crawling back there. For $700, Lincoln will sell you power operation for the 50/50 third row.

My test vehicle also had the automatic parking system (an extra $700). It measures parking slots and parallel parks the vehicle with little help from the driver. It works.

Not so ideal – at least in my tester – was the backup camera. It had a tendency to fog up during my test drives and this can be a problem. From the driver's seat, you can barely see out the rear window when the third-row headrests deployed, so the camera is useful when not fogged up.

The truth is, Lincoln has a very competitive luxury crossover here. That said, the Lincoln brand remains a work in progress and getting the word out on the progress made with products like the MKT is a big job.

But look at the price, compare it feature for feature with its rivals. The MKT might surprise you. It did me.



Type: Full-size crossover wagon

Price: $54,900

Engine: 3.5-litre V-6, turbocharged

Horsepower/torque: 355 hp/350 lb-ft

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Drive: All-wheel-drive

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 13.1 city/9.1 highway; regular gas


Toyota recall issues persist

Regulators probing complaints of unintended
acceleration involving repaired vehicles

Christine Tierney / The Detroit News
Marc 4, 2010

U.S. safety regulators are looking into fresh complaints from a few Toyota owners reporting unintended acceleration of recalled vehicles that were just repaired.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Wednesday it had identified 10 post-recall allegations of unintended acceleration in Toyota Motor Corp. vehicles.

NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said the agency was looking into the reports and trying "to get to the bottom of the problem and to make sure Toyota is doing everything possible to make its vehicles safe."

"If Toyota owners are still experiencing sudden acceleration incidents after taking their cars to the dealership, we want to know about it," he said in a statement.

Toyota dealers have repaired 1 million of the 5.3 million vehicles recalled in the U.S. to prevent unintended acceleration.

But concerns linger whether Toyota's fixes eliminate the risk. Dealers are shortening and redesigning the gas pedal and adjusting the floor to prevent loose floor mats or other materials from jamming the accelerator pedal. The remedy includes the installation of a fail-safe measure, a brake override feature.

On Tuesday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood rejected allegations that the remedies approved by NHTSA didn't get to the heart of the problem.

"We know from our investigations that the floor mat is a problem," he told the Senate Commerce Committee. "We know the sticky pedal is a problem," he said, referring to a separate recall to fix faulty pedals that can be slow to return and get stuck.

NHTSA has linked 52 deaths to crashes allegedly caused by unintended acceleration of Toyota vehicles since 2000.

Toyota had no immediate comment on the new complaints.

In one incident reported by the Associated Press, Stewart Stogel, 49, of Mount Vernon, N.Y., said his 2009 Camry accelerated to about 15 mph on a street near his home on Saturday, five days after a dealership trimmed the gas pedal and installed new brake override software.

The car didn't stop for several seconds even though he pressed on the brakes. Stogel said he barely avoided a wall and nearly went down an embankment.

Stogel called his dealer, who told him to return with the car so that Toyota engineers could inspect it.

The recalls and safety concerns have taken a toll on Toyota sales, which fell 8.7 percent in February.

Toyota is offering repeat buyers two years of free maintenance to bolster customer loyalty.


Ford takes car sales crown,
rivals struggle to keep pace

March 3, 2010

As Ford Motor Co. roared into first place in the auto sales race in North America, General Motors Co. overhauled its sales and marketing operations in an effort to speed up its transformation into a leaner, more nimble competitor.

Ford rode to the front in both Canada and the U.S. in February with gains of 51 per cent and 43 per cent respectively in each country (year-over-year), while GM posted an 11-per-cent U.S. increase that had its North American president demanding the company shift into a higher gear.

“I don't think we're moving far enough, fast enough,” GM president Mark Reuss said on a conference call about the marketing and sales shakeup. “We've got good product here and we've got to start selling them.”

The marketing and sales shuffle included the appointment of a new president of General Motors of Canada Ltd. Kevin Williams, who had been heading GM's parts and service operations, will replace Arturo Elias, president of GM Canada since August, 2006, who will take on a public policy job for GM in Washington.

The February sales results show that even as the industry is slowly recovering from the crisis that sent two of the largest Detroit auto makers into bankruptcy protection last year, it is still being battered by surprise shocks.

Last month, those shocks were both hot and cold: The firestorm of negative publicity raging around Toyota Motor Corp. hurt overall sales and so did the fierce snowstorms that battered the U.S. Northeast.

“We're at the beginning of a recovery,” said George Magliano, director of North American automotive research for HIS Global Insight in New York.

“It's a slow recovery, but it is a recovery.”

U.S. sales hit an annualized rate of about 10.4 million, down from the January pace of 10.8 million but substantially better than the rate of about 9.5 million in February, 2009, a month when both General Motors and Chrysler LLC were careening toward bankruptcy protection.

The ability of both of those auto makers to pay off more than $75-billion (U.S.) worth of taxpayer loans from the Canadian and U.S. governments that bailed them out, and when they're able to do so, depends on the pace of the recovery.

Ford grabbed the top spot in the U.S. for the first time in 12 years, when 1998 strikes at two U.S. GM parts plants shut down most of GM's North American operations for two months.

In Canada, Ford not only outsold GM in February, but grabbed first place in the year-to-date standings.

Chrysler Canada Inc., also surpassed GM in February to stand second.

The gains of 51 per cent at Ford, 17 per cent at Chrysler and 22 per cent at GM in Canada were part of a 25-per-cent jump overall in Canada.

The Canadian new-vehicle market outperformed its U.S. counterpart – as it has done since the industry first went into a tailspin in 2008.

Toyota Canada Inc. (TM-N74.420.781.06%) matched the overall Canadian market with a 25-per-cent bounce, an indication that it may have sustained less damage from the recall crisis than its U.S. cousin, which reported a 9-per-cent drop.

“I'm surprised that we sold as many vehicles as we did,” said Bob Carter, vice-president of Toyota Motor Sales USA.

Toyota unveiled a hefty incentive program in Canada and the United States yesterday that includes interest-free loans for up to five years.

Other auto makers reported positive and negative effects in February from the Toyota situation. They picked up some business, but noted that some potential Toyota buyers sat on the sidelines, hurting overall sales.

Sales in the U.S. market could have been as high as 11.2 million on an annualized basis without the Toyota recall and the snowstorms, said Mike DiGiovanni, executive director of global markets and industry analysis for GM.

“Three-and-a-half feet of snow on these cars, it took our dealers a bit of time here to get that snow off there and to get customers back into the showroom,” added Susan Docherty, who was GM's vice-president of sales and marketing during a morning conference call, but vice-president of marketing only when the management shuffle was announced yesterday afternoon.


Ford foresees electric,
hybrid car sales jolt

New alternative-fuel plans to help meet 10-year, 25% forecast

Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News
March 2, 2010

Dearborn -- Ford Motor Co. says hybrids and other electric vehicles will account for as much as 25 percent of its global vehicle sales by 2020.

Ford will take another big step toward that goal today at the Geneva Motor Show, where it is expected to announce that it will bring two new hybrids, a plug-in hybrid and two all-electric vehicles to Europe by 2013.

These will be the same vehicles Ford has promised to deliver to U.S. showrooms by 2012. The Europeans will get them six to 12 months later.

As in the United States, the first one will be a battery-powered version of the Ford Transit Connect Electric, which will be available to commercial customers in Europe next year.

"There is no question in our mind at this point that oil, as the only alternative for our vehicles, is not a good business strategy," said Nancy Gioia, Ford's director of global electrification. "Around the world by 2020, we see 10 to 25 percent of the Ford fleet electrified."

Gioia said most of these vehicles will be hybrids, which she expects will account for about 70 percent of that mix. About 20 percent will be plug-in hybrids.

Gioia stressed that these are rough estimates and said Ford's global vehicle strategy will allow the automaker to increase or decrease output of all three as the market dictates.



Ford set to show off Focus wagon
Focus Wagon

Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News
March 2, 2010

Dearborn --Ford Motor Co. is scheduled to unveil yet another version of its new Ford Focus compact today at the Geneva Motor Show -- this time, a wagon.

The Focus wagon will go on sale next year in Europe, where it is expected to be a big seller. However, the Dearborn automaker is not planning to bring it to the United States.

However, Ford's head of global product development, Derrick Kuzak, told reporters in Geneva that his company will produce a global performance version of the Focus powered by a four-cylinder EcoBoost engine.

The Focus wagon is the fifth vehicle Ford has revealed that will be built on its new global C-car platform, an architecture the company says will provide the underpinnings for at least 10 vehicles worldwide and account for 2 million units annually by 2012. The company has already unveiled the new Ford C-Max and Grand C-Max and four- and five-door versions of the new Focus. All but the C-Max will be sold in the United States.

"A key strength of the Ford Focus range in Europe has always been its wagon, and its popularity is second only to the five-door," said Ford of Europe CEO John Fleming. "These customers want the extra space and flexibility a traditional wagon provides, yet they still expect all of the technology, great driving dynamics and superb styling. We believe the new Focus wagon will more than satisfy their requirements in every way."

About 30 percent of the Focuses Ford sells in Europe today are wagons. In Germany and Italy, that figure is closer to 50 percent.

However, Frank Davis, executive director North American product programs, said the Focus wagon has not sold well in the United States in the past, but added that Ford has the capacity to produce the vehicle at its Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne. A Focus wagon is not sold in the U.S. now.

Still to come is a compact sport utility vehicle based on the same platform.

"As the segment develops around the world, we see clear preferences among customers for the six main body styles, with variations by region and even within a region," Kuzak said. "For example, the preferred body style in China and Russia is the four-door sedan, while in Britain and Spain, the five-door is most popular, and we believe there is also a customer trend toward five-door small cars in North America."


GM to recall 1.3M vehicles for power steering fix

Nathan Hurst / Detroit News Washington Bureau
March 2, 2010

Washington -- General Motors will recall 1.3 million compact vehicles to correct a power steering problem, the company announced late Monday.

GM plans to replace defective power steering motors that are prone to failure, but an exact fix for the affected cars isn't yet ready; customers will be notified when one is, and company officials say the cars can be safely driven until a fix is prepared.

"While greater steering effort under 15 mph may be required, these vehicles are safe to drive because the customer can still steer the vehicle," Jamie Hresko, GM's vice president of quality, said in a statement.

"When the condition occurs, both a chime will sound and a 'Power Steering' message will be displayed."

GM's announcement comes on the heels of a troubling series of recalls by Japanese rival Toyota Motor Co. following numerous complaints of unintended acceleration and braking issues.

All told, Toyota has issued recalls for more than 8.5 million vehicles, more than 6 million of them in the U.S. alone.

GM's recall, while smaller in scale than Toyota's, extends beyond earlier problems report by federal auto safety regulators.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched a preliminary investigation in late January into more than 905,000 Chevy Cobalts. The agency acted after receiving more than 1,100 complaints from consumers related to power steering failures.

In addition to the 2005-2010 Cobalts, GM is recalling 2007-2010 Pontiac G5s, 2005 and 2006 Pontiac Pursuit models, sold in Canada, and the 2005 and 2006 Pontiac G4, sold in Mexico.

NHTSA records show 14 crashes have resulted due to power steering failures, with one injury reported; a formal investigation was announced in early February.

"After our in-depth investigation, we found that this is a condition that takes time to develop. It tends to occur in older models out of warranty," said Hresko, the GM quality executive. "Recalling these vehicles is the right thing to do for our customers' peace of mind."

The automaker will fix older models first because it usually takes 20,000 to 30,000 miles of driving for the condition to develop.

GM said if the power steering assist fails, it usually comes back for a time after the car is shut off and restarted.

GM spokesman Greg Martin said the recall announcement, which came just hours before a Senate committee was due to begin grilling Toyota executives for the third time in a week over that company's own safety and quality woes, wasn't connected to comments made last week at a House committee hearing on the Toyota recalls.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood took heat from House members who questioned whether Toyota's popular compact Corolla model, which has also experienced power steering issues, was receiving more attention from safety regulators than GM's Cobalt, despite the American car having generated more consumer complaints.

"The timing of the announcement wasn't connected with any comments made in Congress," Martin said.


GM to recall 1.3M vehicles for power steering fix

Nathan Hurst / Detroit News Washington Bureau
March 2, 2010

Washington -- General Motors will recall 1.3 million compact vehicles to correct a power steering problem, the company announced late Monday.

GM plans to replace defective power steering motors that are prone to failure, but an exact fix for the affected cars isn't yet ready; customers will be notified when one is, and company officials say the cars can be safely driven until a fix is prepared.

"While greater steering effort under 15 mph may be required, these vehicles are safe to drive because the customer can still steer the vehicle," Jamie Hresko, GM's vice president of quality, said in a statement.

"When the condition occurs, both a chime will sound and a 'Power Steering' message will be displayed."

GM's announcement comes on the heels of a troubling series of recalls by Japanese rival Toyota Motor Co. following numerous complaints of unintended acceleration and braking issues.

All told, Toyota has issued recalls for more than 8.5 million vehicles, more than 6 million of them in the U.S. alone.

GM's recall, while smaller in scale than Toyota's, extends beyond earlier problems report by federal auto safety regulators.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched a preliminary investigation in late January into more than 905,000 Chevy Cobalts. The agency acted after receiving more than 1,100 complaints from consumers related to power steering failures.

In addition to the 2005-2010 Cobalts, GM is recalling 2007-2010 Pontiac G5s, 2005 and 2006 Pontiac Pursuit models, sold in Canada, and the 2005 and 2006 Pontiac G4, sold in Mexico.

NHTSA records show 14 crashes have resulted due to power steering failures, with one injury reported; a formal investigation was announced in early February.

"After our in-depth investigation, we found that this is a condition that takes time to develop. It tends to occur in older models out of warranty," said Hresko, the GM quality executive. "Recalling these vehicles is the right thing to do for our customers' peace of mind."

The automaker will fix older models first because it usually takes 20,000 to 30,000 miles of driving for the condition to develop.

GM said if the power steering assist fails, it usually comes back for a time after the car is shut off and restarted.

GM spokesman Greg Martin said the recall announcement, which came just hours before a Senate committee was due to begin grilling Toyota executives for the third time in a week over that company's own safety and quality woes, wasn't connected to comments made last week at a House committee hearing on the Toyota recalls.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood took heat from House members who questioned whether Toyota's popular compact Corolla model, which has also experienced power steering issues, was receiving more attention from safety regulators than GM's Cobalt, despite the American car having generated more consumer complaints.

"The timing of the announcement wasn't connected with any comments made in Congress," Martin said.


Ottawa sets wheels in
motion for Toyota probe

Bill Curry, Barrie McKenna and Greg Keenan

Ottawa, Washington and Toronto Globe and Mail Published Feb 28, 2010

Senior officials from Toyota and Transport Canada will be summoned to a parliamentary committee in a probe of the safety issues that plunged the world's biggest auto maker into crisis.

Developments in Ottawa yesterday came amid new allegations in the U.S., where a legislator leading the investigation accused Toyota of withholding information in lawsuits, promising to prolong the controversy that has engulfed the Japanese auto giant.

Parliament reconvenes next week, and the House of Commons transport committee is expected to hold a hearing some time in March. That follows high-profile hearings in Washington, where politicians grilled the company and heard personal, and terrifying, stories from Toyota owners about vehicles that suddenly accelerated to high speeds.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced through his parliamentary secretary, Pierre Poilievre, that the government fully supports a committee probe. Mr. Poilievre said he expects the committee will strike policy recommendations aimed at preventing any repeat and determine why the problems went undetected.

Toyota, stressing that it is committed to safety and quality, has recalled millions of vehicles worldwide and taken other action aimed at fixing the problems. “Americans have been learning about some of the gut-wrenching stories that have come out in the aftermath of these revelations,” Mr. Poilievre said. “We think Canadians are entitled to the same answers and we hope to work with our opposition colleagues in order to give them those answers.”

Transport Minister John Baird said he supports an investigation, and said he is willing to testify if asked. Toyota Canada spokeswoman Sandy Di Felice said the company “would welcome the opportunity to address the committee when it's reconstituted.”

Appearing before the committee is “a natural next step” as part of the auto maker's discussions with customers, governments and the media on the recall issues, Ms. Di Felice said.

Stephen Beatty, managing director of Toyota Canada, told The Globe and Mail's editorial board last week that the factors that led to the recalls are different in Canada than they are in the U.S. It has been trying to inform Canadians who have been subjected to a U.S. media “tsunami” of publicity about the situation, he said.

In the U.S. yesterday, the head of the U.S. congressional committee probing the safety problems alleged that the car maker may be deliberately hiding key internal documents, including some that could shed light on why some of its cars sped wildly out of control.

In a toughly worded letter to Toyota's top North American executive, House oversight committee chairman Edolphus Towns demanded that the company come clean and respond to allegations that it's hiding documents.

The missing documents, which Toyota has refused to hand over to plaintiffs in lawsuits against the company, include secret “Books of Knowledge” that catalogue design and testing data on all of its vehicles, Mr. Towns said.

The existence of the documents was recently disclosed by Dimitrios Biller, a former in-house product liability lawyer who represented the company in several cases involving rollover accidents between 2003 and 2007. Mr. Biller now alleges Toyota was aware of problems with its electronic throttle system, but kept the information from plaintiffs and auto safety regulators.

“The Biller documents indicate a systematic disregard for the law and routine violation of court discovery orders in litigation,” Mr. Towns said in a letter to Yoshimi Inaba, chief executive of Toyota Motor North America Inc. “People injured in crashes involving Toyota vehicles may have been injured a second time when Toyota failed to produce relevant evidence in court.”Mr. Biller and Toyota are now suing each other. The car maker has claimed lawyer-client privilege in seeking to block Mr. Biller from citing the documents.

Toyota spokeswoman Cindy Knight pointed out that it's “not uncommon ... for companies to object to certain demands for documents made in litigation” in order to keep “trade secrets” and competitive information out of the hands of rivals. “We are confident that we have acted appropriately with respect to product liability litigation and our discovery practices and look forward to addressing chairman Towns' concerns.”


Ford: Stock pick of the decade?

David Berman Globe & Mail
February 27, 2010

Who can resist a bold stock pick? Eddy Elfenbein, who writes the Crossing Wall Street blog, has gone out on a limb – a really long limb – and picked his stock of the decade. No solar technology, energy exploration or high-falutin concept stock for him. Instead, he’s picking Ford Motor Co.

That’s right, the auto maker. I’m not entirely sure how serious he’s being here (he obviously has big hopes for the stock, but there is little indication that he thinks it will out-gun everything else over the next 10 years), but we’ll play along. Instead of focusing on Ford’s new lineup or its strategy for combatting well-heeled Asian competitors, he instead looks at the company’s recent track record for under promising and over delivering.

“Not only has Ford made a profit in its last two quarters, but the company has beaten Wall Street’s earnings forecast for the last four quarters in a row,” Mr. Elfenbein said.

For example, he noted that Wall Street analysts were expecting a loss of 12 cents (U.S.) a share in the third quarter, but Ford reported a profit of 26 cents. In the fourth quarter, expectations were for earnings of 26 cents a share, but Ford reported a profit of 43 cents.

He also likes the strategy of downsizing, not only shedding half its workforce but also jettisoning brands such as Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin. The company’s bond yields have fallen, suggesting more confidence among bond investors.

“Still, Ford has a long way to go. [Chief executive Alan] Mulally said they won’t be solidly profitable until next year,” Mr. Elfenbein said. “But if all goes well, Ford could easily be a $20 stock.”

That’s the weird part about this stock pick. Ford shares currently trade just shy of $12 – up 850 per cent over their multi-multi-year low close of $1.26 in November, 2008. Compared to that stellar gain, another $8 move in the stock (especially if it takes a decade to occur) implies a gain of just 67 per cent. Surely there are better prospects out there.

Still, being bullish on Ford is certainly a bold move – and perhaps Mr. Elfenbein believes the move to $20 is just the start of good things for the automaker. After all, Ford shares traded at a high of $62 in 1999, before sliding 98 per cent over the next decade.


Oakville's mayor lashes out at
Ford for supporting power plant

Charlene Close 680 News - Feb 26, 2010

TORONTO, Ont. - Ford Canada may be one of Oakville's biggest employers and biggest taxpayers, but that's not enough to stop the town's mayor from lashing out at the automaker.

Ford is leasing land next to its assembly plant at Royal Windsor Drive and the QEW to TransCanada, the company that the province hired to build and operate a 900-megawatt powering generating station.

However, there's a large anti-plant movement that includes the mayor.

Burton told 680News Ford has let its community down.

"They've stabbed this community in the back. Ford posted $2.7-billion in profit from the car business and they're betraying the community that has hosted them for 60 years for $50-million in money from TransCanada," a very angry Burton explained.

"Ford is two-tenths of one per cent of the tax revenue of the town of Oakville. No matter how much their money was I don't see how it could justify releasing the toxic fine particulate matter that this would release," Burton told 680News.

He's so angry with Ford that he's traded in his Ford Edge. He bought the very first Edge to roll off the assembly line in Oakville in 2006. Now he's driving a Mazda Tribute.

Burton will lead a rally at Queen's Park at noon on Tuesday, March 2, hoping to get the attention of Premier Dalton McGuinty. He said the premier is the only one with the power to stop the plant from being built.

He also said this is an issue that affects everyone in the province because the government could decide to put a similar plant anywhere.

"When they're done with this one they've got more to come. Do you want to be the next one. This is power plant poker," Burton said.

TransCanada said the $1.2-billion plant is expected to start generating electricity by 2013.

The company has held open houses to try to assure residents that the plant will be safe and its emissions will be within the acceptable provincial standards


Ford to hire 757 people at
Windsor, Ont., engine plant
with government investment

Feb 26, 2010 - The Canadian Press

TORONTO, Ont. - Ford's engine plant in Windsor, Ont., is expected to get more than 700 new jobs over five years.

The Ontario government said it will contribute up to $81.2-million towards the plant, building on an earlier investment of $17-million that helped reopen the shuttered plant in 2008.

The initiative will allow Ford to introduce new manufacturing technology and will also establish a research and development centre.

To date, Ford has invested $590-million in the plant, which will now build a fuel-efficient engine to be used in the Mustang.

The announcement will help offset some of the 1,500 jobs that will be lost when Ford closes its assembly plant in St. Thomas, Ont., in 2011.

Ford employs a total of 6,000 people at two assembly plants and an engine plant in southern Ontario.


Ford to invest $155M in
Cleveland Engine Plant

Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News
February 26, 2010

Ford Motor Co. will invest $155 million in its Cleveland Engine Plant to produce the new 3.7-liter V-6 for the 2011 Ford Mustang.

The move is part of a broader push to introduce nine new engines and transmissions in North America this year. With today's announcement, Ford is two-thirds of the way to its goal -- investing a total of $1.8 billion to build six of those at factories from Mexico to Canada.

• A new 6.2-liter V-8 engine at the company's Romeo Engine Plant in Michigan

• A new 6.7-liter V-8 Power Stroke diesel at the Chihuahua Engine Plant in Mexico

• A new 6-speed transmission at the Sharonville Transmission Plant in Ohio

• A new 5.0-liter V-8 engine at the Essex Engine Plant in Windsor, Ontario

• A new 6-speed transmission at the Livonia Transmission Plant in Michigan

Together, these projects are creating 1,260 new jobs, but these are being filled by workers from other idled facilities or who have been laid off.


UAW Anger at Contract
Concessions on the Rise

Feb 26, 2010


A year after the bailout of Chrysler and General Motors by the U.S. Treasury, anger over contract concessions is simmering within the ranks of the United Auto Workers (UAW).

At General Motors, where labor strife has lurked below the surface during much of the company's recent history, workers at five different plants who transferred back to GM from its former subsidiary are frustrated by the company's demands for more concessions. Protests by union members are blocking the contract changes deemed necessary by the company. "In regard to the Delphi plants, discussions between GM and the UAW are still ongoing, so no further details are available at this time," says a GM spokesman.

Much of the opposition is coming from workers from GM plants in Saginaw and Grand Rapids, Mich., and Lockport and Rochester, N.Y., where UAW members say they are being pushed to renegotiate a contract that included concessions they signed only last year, when the plants still belonged to the bankrupt Delphi Corp. "We haven't seen anything in writing yet, but we know they're coming for us again," says a GM worker from Grand Rapids. "We also know they want a 'no strike' clause."
"The membership is screaming 'Hell no!' on this deal," says a GM worker from Rochester. "We will no longer allow them to hold the old 'Do it, or we will close your plant' b.s. over us any longer. Our feeling is basically, Go ahead. They have already taken too much for us to care anymore."

The workers say they have given up cost-of-living allowances, overtime after eight hours in place of wage increases, a holiday, some break time, the jobs bank and education benefits. Entry-level wages have been cut in half, which has translated to even lower production-labor costs. "We will not stand for further concessions negotiated by our representatives," proclaimed a resolution that was turned in for consideration at the UAW convention in June by workers from the Ford assembly plant in Chicago. "I've never seen people so frustrated," says a veteran UAW official in Detroit. "These are hard jobs. You might not lift as much as in the old days, but the intensity has gone way up."

The fight has spilled over into the labor relations at Ford. That company, the healthiest of the domestic carmakers, has traditionally had the best relations with the UAW. But last fall workers at Ford voted down contract changes aimed at erasing the gap in labor rates that had opened up with key competitors, who got additional concessions as they went through bankruptcy. GM's labor costs after bankruptcy have fallen from $72 per hour to about $50 per hour under pressure from the Treasury. Ford's hover around $55 per hour after recent adjustments, and the gap is a top issue for Ford's management.

In addition, Ford workers balked at changes that were pushed in the name of greater efficiency at an assembly plant in Kansas City, Mo. The problems were resolved, according to a Ford spokeswoman. But union members say the tension remains. Ford workers also protested plans to give merit-pay increases (which go against the collective-bargaining ethos). Instead, Ford agreed that workers would receive a share of the company's 2009 profits. The payments average $250 per employee for each of Ford's 41,000 workers. A year ago, the union might have been willing to discuss dropping the profit-sharing to protect jobs, but this time it stuck to the letter of the contract.

Officials from the UAW headquarters, in Detroit, have declined to comment on the festering disputes. But critics of the union's leadership acknowledge that there isn't much the union can do to win back lost wages and benefits or even hold the line in the face of new demands for concessions, given the steady decline of organized labor across the automotive sector.


Volume 40, No. 8 –
February 26 , 2010

Supreme Court Rules on Giant Mine Dispute

The Supreme Court of Canada's ruling with respect to the law suit concerning the 1992 Giant Mine explosion in Yellowknife makes several important clarifications on union status and union liability for members' actions during a labour dispute. The explosion took nine lives.

The Court released a ruling February 18 that overturned a multi-million dollar trial court award for the widows of nine replacement workers who were killed by an underground explosion. In 1995 striking miner Roger Warren was convicted of nine counts of murder and is serving a life sentence.

In 2004, the lower court ordered the Government of the Northwest Territories, security company Pinkerton's of Canada and the CAW to pay over $18 million in compensation to the widows. An appeal court overturned that decision and the award. The case was then appealed to the Supreme Court.

CAW Legal Department director Lewis Gottheil said the detailed ruling by the Supreme Court clarifies several important points of law regarding national unions, local unions and the actions of members. This ruling has important implications that apply across the labour movement in Canada, Gottheil said.

"The court has clarified that a national union and a local union are distinct legal entities which are not generally liable at law for the actions of the other," Gottheil said.

"Also the Supreme Court has indicated that the legal concept of vicarious liability doesn't apply to unions in a situation where a "rogue" member in the course of a labour dispute commits an unlawful act," said Gottheil. "In other words, the fact that Roger Warren was a unionized worker on strike did not make his union responsible for the actions he took."

To read the full Supreme Court ruling online go to http://csc.lexum.umontreal.ca/en/index.html and read the citation for Fullowka v. Pinkerton's of Canada Ltd.  

Protection for Precarious Workers in New Brunswick

The government of New Brunswick has introduced new legislation that aims to improve working conditions and employment security for thousands of casual and part-time public service workers.

Bill 35, introduced on February 16, will amend the province's Public Service Labour Relations Act to allow civil servants in both casual and part-time positions to join a union immediately after being hired. The new legislation also guarantees wages and provides recall rights to these workers.

Currently, civil servants in the province must wait six months before gaining access to union rights, which includes collective bargaining and access to a formal grievance procedure. In many cases, employees would be laid off before they reached the qualifying date for unionization. Some have been unable to gain access to union protection for years.

This move is a major victory for labour unions in New Brunswick and is an important step forward to combating the rise of precarious work in Canada, said CAW Atlantic Canada Director Les Holloway.

Holloway said the new legislation is a testament to the hard work and determination of provincial labour unions for nearly two decades. A group of public and private sector unions in the province mounted a court case in 2007 challenging the government's decision to exclude casual workers from its definition of "employee" under the Public Service Labour Relations Act.

“We now need to ensure that an equally urgent solution be found for the rise in precarious work in the private sector,” said Holloway. 

The new legislation is expected to come into force in June.

Reality Check on Women's Equality

Labour and women's groups have issued a report which they say is a "reality check" describing Canada's lagging performance in achieving women's equality. The report will be used at the Beijing +15 meeting at the United Nations in New York, March 1-12.

"Canadian women have lost ground in many areas in the past 15 years," said Barbara Byers, Canadian Labour Congress Executive Vice President. "Our government has sent a report to the United Nations that paints a rosy picture on women's equality in Canada. We have written our own document and it is a reality check on what the government is saying."

The UN meeting in March will evaluate progress, identify challenges, and recommend policies to promote gender equality and the advancement of women. This year holds special significance because it marks the 15th anniversary of the UN's Fourth World Conference on Women.

"Although Canada has made commitments to implement equal pay for work of equal value, the federal government hasn't lived up to these commitments,” said CAW Director of Women’s Programs Julie White. “This issue will be front and centre for us next week at the UN.” White will be attending the UN meeting as part of a labour delegation organized through the CLC.

Kate McInturff, Executive Director of the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA), said, "Five years ago, Canada was ranked amongst the top ten countries in the world for its achievements in women's human rights; in 2009 Canada had fallen to 73rd in the UN Gender Disparity Index.” 

The joint report is called Reality Check: Women in Canada and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action Fifteen Years On, A Canadian Civil Society Response. To read the full report, please visit: http://www.caw.ca/en/8601.htm

Talks Break Off Between CAW/FFAW and OCI

The CAW/FFAW has applied for conciliation after contract talks between the union and Ocean Choice International broke off February 18 in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

CAW/FFAW Chief Industrial Negotiator Ben Baker said the talks with Ocean Choice International (OCI) were bogged down by concession demands by the fish processing company.
“We’ve been in negotiations for the past two days and, quite frankly, talks have not gone very well to this point because the company came in looking for concessions in a number of key areas,” Baker said in a February 18 release. “We’ve applied for conciliation so we’ll be waiting for a conciliator to be appointed and talks will resume once that’s done.”
The talks affect approximately 1,500 workers at OCI fish processing facilities located in communities throughout Newfoundland.
CAW Team Wins People's Choice Chili Contest 
CAW team 'Local Flavour' won the People's Choice award at the fourth annual St. Catharines Community Care Chili Cooking Contest. Using a recipe for 'Niagara Maple Chili', the CAW Local 199 team won rave reviews. More than 500 Niagara area residents turned out to sample the 20 different chili recipes, which brought in more than $4,600 for Community Care.
Niagara Maple Chili features local ingredients such as beef, pork, sausage, tomatoes, onions, peppers, garlic, Niagara's Best Brewery dark beer, maple syrup and applies. While spices and beans were imported, the chili had at least 90 per cent Niagara, Ontario content.
The recipes and competitors entered in the cook-off were varied with teams from culinary schools, high schools, restaurants, fire fighters, Niagara Parks and the CAW.
Karen Golob, John Neely and Doris Maxwell hold some of the local produce/ingredients used to make the Chili. Picture taken by Peter Scott Team 'Local Flavour' captain.

Want to find new ways of reaching out to members?
Check out two great training conferences for labour communicators and networkers – Windsor, Ontario, May 13-16.

CALM May 13-15 www.calm.ca
LabourTech May 14-16 www.labourtech.ca

Tom Brokaw Explains
Canada To Americans


Toyota executives' testimony
comes off as clueless

Daniel Howes Feb 25, 2010

Akio Toyoda's story doesn't add up.

The president of Toyota Motor Corp., the centrally controlled behemoth founded 73 years ago by his grandfather, told a congressional committee Wednesday that he didn't know about mounting sudden-acceleration complaints with Toyota vehicles until late last year.

He also didn't know the substance of a corporate briefing paper prepared in July that touted $100 million in savings on recalls, warned about sudden acceleration complaints in Toyota and Lexus models and described a federal bureaucracy that is not "industry-friendly."

But now, faced with a global brand and P.R. fiasco, Toyoda knows with "absolute certainty" that the sudden unintended acceleration complaints tied to 34 deaths and the recall of 8.5 million vehicles worldwide cannot be attributed to electronic throttle controls in Toyota and Lexus cars and trucks.


The assurances might be more convincing -- to Congress, to consumers, to dealers and to suppliers in the United States -- if the Japanese automaker moved sooner than earlier this month to commission an independent review of its electronic conclusions. But it didn't.

They might be more persuasive if the firm hired to do the testing, California-based Exponent Inc., didn't have ties to Toyota's legal counsel; if contacts on the issue between Toyota and U.S. regulators weren't so extensive; if Toyota's top American executive in the United States, James Lentz, hadn't testified the day before that Toyota's fixes had "not totally" fixed the problem.

Simple question, Toyoda-san: If the electronic throttle control isn't (with "absolute certainty") the problem and if the planned fixes aren't sufficient, what is?

The hearings over the past two days are remarkable for what they didn't yield -- namely, definitive answers. But we do know now how little the top executives in the most revered automaker on the planet seem to know about the circumstances surrounding the most serious threat to their corporate reputation in a generation.

To watch the hearings is to sense a lack of urgency -- the new global quality committee doesn't meet till the end of March? -- and to see a company still processing the reality of the mess it faces, however much Toyoda blames it on a "speed of expansion" that "outpaced the development and training of our people."

"I'm embarrassed for you, sir," Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., said during Toyoda's testimony to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. "I'm embarrassed for dealers. I'm embarrassed for the thousands of people who work for Toyota across the United States."

Why? Lots of reasons, the biggest of which is the simple fact that Toyota's facade of all-knowing invincibility, of being an "American company," of always putting customers first lies shattered -- all of it from the mouths of top executives, including the guy whose name is on the building.

The customer, as Toyoda and his president for North America, Yoshimi Inaba, conceded, increasingly did not come first. High-profile complaints, like that of the "possessed" '06 Lexus ES 350 driven by Rhonda Smith from Sevierville, Tenn., were summarily dismissed.

Astonishingly, her harrowing story apparently was unknown to Lentz. He didn't know the well-publicized details of Guadalupe Alberto, a 77-year-old who died in Flint when the Camry she was driving crashed into a tree -- a testament to his stunning cluelessness, pitiful internal communication, Toyota's lawyers or all three.

Over two days, Toyoda, Inaba and Lentz exposed the fiction that Toyota is an "American" company, if that is defined to mean anything more than a foreign company that employs 172,000 folks in plants, offices and dealerships around the country.

But for sales and marketing decision-making, every substantive call affecting Toyota's operations in the United States -- manufacturing, engineering, safety and recalls, communications -- is made in Japan, they confirmed, a direct contradiction to the corporate spin for, oh, the past decade.

And "Japan," to borrow Lentz's usage, failed to connect the dots on a burgeoning problem that landed its president before a congressional committee and ripped a gaping hole in Toyota's envied reputation for bulletproof quality, reliability and customer service.

Toyoda, the scion of the industrial dynasty, said the right things. He apologized. He took responsibility. He essentially admitted that ambition outstripped execution and strayed from the corporate creed that made Toyota the brand powerhouse it became.

But he didn't bring an end to the nightmare. Buried in his careful statements is red meat for trial lawyers looking to make a buck off Toyota's $30 billion-plus cash hoard and red meat for like-minded politicians trolling for contributions from trial lawyers.

More obvious is the unmistakable admission that Toyota, the gold standard of the global auto industry, allowed the arrogance of success to blind it to festering troubles within.


GM's Hummer deal falls through

Greg Keenan Globe and Mail
Feb 24, 2010

The sale of the Hummer brand by General Motors Co. has fallen apart.

The auto maker said Wednesday it will wind down Hummer operations after a deal to sell the division to Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machines Co. Ltd. could not be completed by the China-based industrial company.

Hummer was one of four GM marketing divisions the auto maker shed last year in a restructuring that included chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the United States.

A deal to sell Saturn collapsed also and that brand is being dismantled.

That leaves Saab as the only one of three unwanted divisions that GM was able to unload. Pontiac was wound down without an attempted sale.

Saab was sold to Spyker Cars of the Netherlands in a deal that closed earlier this week.

GM said it will continue to honour Hummer warranties.

Once Hummer is wound down, GM will be left with Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac, the four brands it said about a year constituted the future of GM.

“We have since considered a number of possibilities for Hummer along the way and we are disappointed that the deal with Tengzhong could not be completed,” said John Smith, vice-president of corporate planning and alliances for


Toyota president to testify to Congress today

Analysts say company president's challenge is to be
genial as he gets 'beaten up with grace'

February 24, 2010
Christine Tierney / The Detroit News

The spotlight now moves onto Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor Corp., who has agreed to testify today before Congress on the company's big recalls.

Toyoda, the grandson of the Japanese automaker's founder, will take full responsibility for the safety concerns weighing on Toyota and Lexus owners, according to his opening statement to the House Oversight and Government Reform committee. The company issued a copy Tuesday.

Toyoda will reiterate his plan to improve safety by stressing quality over quantity at the company which, he says, may have grown too fast in recent years.

But the challenge is how well the Japanese boss, less than a year on the job, can handle the question-and-answer session.

"He probably was in a bubble his whole life," said Adam Hanft, head of brand strategy firm Hanft Projects in New York and a blogger for the Huffington Post and other sites. "This is probably the most challenged he's ever been."

Hanft said he hoped that Toyoda had been prepped to understand that the bare-knuckle approach typical of House hearings is part of the American political game and shouldn't be taken personally.

"It's an opportunity for him to get beaten up with grace," he said.

Japanese executives can seem stiff and formulaic at such events. "He has to defy that stereotype and come across as warm, authentic, engaging," Hanft said.

Toyoda, 53, knows the U.S., having studied at Babson College and worked at the New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. venture in Fremont, Calif.

But people expecting big disclosures or even another session filled with drama like Tuesday's pummeling of James Lentz, a senior American executive at Toyota Motor Sales USA, may be disappointed.

Toyoda will probably respond to questions in Japanese, speaking through a translator, as he did last year at an industry conference in Traverse City.

"It's going to be harder for anybody to question him with the full intensity that they questioned Lentz," said industry analyst Maryann Keller of Maryann Keller & Associates in Stamford, Conn. "You can't have this fluid exchange, where one interrupts the other," she said, when speaking through translators.

"I think the testimony will be unsatisfactory for everybody who expects a monumental revelation," she said.

"He's been CEO less than a year. Most of these cars were not made under his watch. What can you expect but an apology and a promise to try to do better?"

But by now, his ability to resolve this problem is limited, Keller said. "I'm not sure that he can do or say anything that's going to stop this train and reverse what has happened."



U.S. officials may share
hot seat with Toyota

Feb 23, 2010
Daniel Howes

The hot seats at the congressional grillings of Toyota Motor Corp. brass, set to begin today on Capitol Hill, aren't just reserved for the Japanese automaker's executives.

Expanding investigations into sudden unintended acceleration complaints and suspect brakes on Prius hybrids are beginning to depict government bureaucrats charged with ensuring the nation's vehicle safety as slow, indecisive, technically ill-equipped and too willing to give Toyota the benefit of the doubt.

Even worse, the record assembled by congressional investigators describes nearly a decade of sudden-acceleration complaints with Toyota vehicles -- long before the Bush administration paved the way for its successor, Team Obama, to bail out Detroit and grab controlling stakes in rivals General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC.

All of which may explain why everyone from the Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, to the director of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are publicly muscling Toyota: They're playing that time-honored Washington game of "CYA" because the mounting evidence is as damning for the bureaucrats as it appears to be for Toyota.

"Our preliminary assessment is that NHTSA has lacked the expertise needed to address this serious defect and has conducted only cursory and ineffective investigations," Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Menominee, wrote LaHood on Monday in advance of a hearing today before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

"Since 2000, NHTSA has received 2,600 complaints of sudden unintended acceleration, as well as defect petitions requesting investigations. Despite these warnings, NHTSA conducted only one cursory investigation in 2004 into the possibility that defects in electronic controls could be responsible for these incidents."

The key numbers here are a) 2,600 complaints dating back to b) 2000, with the only defect probe being conducted in c) 2004 by an investigator who d) conceded he was "not very knowledgeable" about electronic throttle controls. That should reassure Toyota owners.

Here are a few more numbers, courtesy of committee investigators: Back in 2004, federal regulators produced a chart showing a 400 percent increase in the rate of sudden acceleration complaints in Toyota Camrys equipped with electronic throttle controls compared to the same models with manual throttle controls.

Four more "defect petitions" requesting investigations into sudden acceleration complaints were rejected since the 2004 probe. In late 2007, the nation's largest auto insurer, State Farm, told federal regulators it had detected an increase in sudden acceleration incidents involving Toyota vehicles.

And Toyota, for its part, didn't launch its own study of any potential electronic causes behind the complaints until two months ago. That was long after the death last August of a California state trooper and three members of his family in a runaway Lexus sedan was caught on a chilling audiotape.

Bottom line: There's a whole lot more evidence to explain the pressuring of Toyota by federal regulators than bailout politics, Obama meddling and a chance for the United Auto Workers to settle a score with the mostly anti-union Japanese automaker it loves to hate.

For Toyota, the timing is terrible. The August accident, highlighted by ABC News and others, came barely one month after GM emerged from bankruptcy under effective control of the federal government. Like it or not, Toyota's deepening troubles come as Washington is more attuned to the industry and what its economic contributions mean to the country.

The risk in the evidence isn't Toyota's alone. The hearings threaten to reveal a cozy conviviality between regulators, the regulated and constant negotiation over the rules; to pave the way for tougher, less flexible, more expensive industrywide oversight; to drive a case for expanding NHTSA staff and technical resources.

They also could confirm seething nativist suspicions in Detroit about their federal government's double-standard in favor of Toyota and a pristine image belied, almost daily, by discomfiting reality.


Toyota labeled Obama administration 'not industry friendly'

David Shepardson / Detroit News Washington Bureau
Feb 22, 2010

Washington -- Toyota Motor Corp. officials complained internally last summer that the Obama administration was "not industry friendly" and feared the government might toughen regulatory requirements.

In a July 2009 corporate presentation obtained by The Detroit News today, the company's Washington office asserted that an "activist administration and Congress -- increasing laws and regulation" posed a challenge to the Japanese automaker.

The eight-page presentation was made to Yoshimi Inaba on his second day on the job as head of Toyota's North American operations.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, under President Barack Obama is "not industry friendly," Toyota argued.

"NHTSA's new, more aggressive management includes more attorneys at the agency, even in the leadership of rulemaking and enforcement," Toyota wrote. "The new team has less understanding of engineering issues and are primarily focused on legal issues."

As a result, automakers "anticipate a more challenging regulatory and enforcement environment, with potential for revisiting key regulatory proposals."

Toyota spokeswoman Martha Voss on Monday defended the presentation.

"With any new administration and a new Congress, the political environment changes and affects public policy decisions in the nation's capital. At the time of this internal presentation, the administration and lawmakers had publicly indicated a desire to revisit government regulatory regimes across many industries, from banking and finance to health and automotive," Voss said.

"Any prudent business would take those matters into consideration for planning purposes."

Toyota also said the "massive support for Detroit automakers" was a challenge for the company. The company referred to the $62 billion bailout of General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC as part of the "challenging political environment."

Toyota officials didn't immediately respond to a request for comment this morning.

It said as the company continued to grow there was an "expectation to be a leader."

The documents are among 50,000 pages of material that Toyota's turned over to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

"While the Administration may have changed, the bureaucracy itself has not, and we must ensure that government regulators give every possible consumer concern its due diligence," said Kurt Bardella, a spokesman for Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

In a separate 10-page part of the July 2009 presentation -- first obtained by The Detroit News on Sunday -- Toyota boasted about saving more than $100 million by negotiating for a limited recall in 2007 of just 55,000 floor mats, rather than a more expansive mechanical fix.

The company also noted that it had saved millions on other regulatory issues by delaying them.

In a statement Sunday, Voss said the company's "first priority is the safety of our customers, and to conclude otherwise on the basis of one internal presentation is wrong."


Volume 40, No. 7 –
February 22, 2010


Strong Arbitration Award for Pharma Plus Workers in Ottawa

A recent arbitration award on the issue of wage progressions for 400 CAW members at Pharma Plus stores in Ottawa is a strong victory for workers.

The award means workers will now reach their top wage rate after 36 months of work. It overturns a company interpretation of the 2008 collective agreement that trapped workers in a system that often meant they had to work a lot more than 36 months to reach the top rate. The company attempted to rollback many newer employees months of service on the wage grid.

“This is an important win for workers at these stores. It restores a fair system of pay based on how much experience workers have,” said CAW eastern Ontario area director Harry Ghadban. “The award ensures the wage grid negotiated during our last round of collective bargaining will be properly applied.”

The company is now required to go back and assess the rate of pay for each employee and ensure they are fully compensated based on the existing wage grid and to also provide any back pay owing.

CAW Local 414 represents 400 workers at 21 Pharma Plus drug stores in Ottawa, Ontario including cashiers, clerks, pharmacy technicians, postal clerks.

RSI Awareness Day: February 28 Because Work Shouldn’t Hurt

CAW members and other workers across the country continue to suffer from the debilitating effects of Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSIs) or Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs).

RSIs and MSDs are an invisible epidemic. Approximately 2.3 million Canadians have experienced an RSI serious enough to limit their normal activities, according to a new Statistics Canada study. This marks a significant increase in RSI incidence over the five-year period between 1996 and 2001. According to the survey, the majority of these injuries are caused by work-related activity. The only way to prevent these injuries is to know the risks.

The 11th International Repetitive Strain Injury Awareness Day is February 28. This is a day to build awareness and to continue emphasizing the need for ergonomic regulations, justice and dignity for injured workers and respectful accommodation.

CAW President Ken Lewenza is urging CAW locals to raise RSI awareness, by reproducing the Health and Safety Fact Sheets on shoulders, backs, wrists, arms and standing, found on the Health and Safety section of the CAW National website at: http://www.caw.ca/en/4655.htm

Also available on the CAW website is an RSI Day poster and leaflet. CAW locals are urged to take part in area activities through local labour councils and community organizations on February 28.

Norfolk Hospital Agreement Overwhelmingly Ratified

CAW Local 302 members who work at the Norfolk Hospital in Simcoe, Ontario have voted 92 per cent in favour of a new three-year agreement that ensures they reach pattern with other southern Ontario hospitals.

The new agreement provides wage increases, improved benefits, increases in shift premiums and gains in vacation. Wage increases are two per cent in each year of the contract.

In addition, Registered Practical Nurses (RPNs) receive a bump up to ensure they reach pattern. There are also benefit gains such as chiropractic and physio-therapy coverage for the first time, as well as improvements in bereavement coverage and other benefits.

“The solidarity of the membership helped the bargaining committee achieve a strong agreement which in turn ensures our members will reach the pattern with other southern Ontario hospitals,” said CAW national representative Julie Herron.

Unit chairperson Terry Myers said the contract talks were tough, but as bargaining continued the unit became more united and focused on achieving the best agreement in difficult economic times. “This was the highest ratification result we’ve ever had,” Myers said.

CAW Local 302 represents 234 workers at the Norfolk Hospital including RPNs, personal support workers, cooks, servers and hospital service workers.

Brampton Pension Forum

More than 200 people crowded into the pension forum in Brampton, Ontario on February 4, 2010. The forum was part of a series of events being held across the country, co-ordinated by the Canadian Labour Congress and affiliates, including the CAW. For more information or to find or organize a forum in your area, please visit: http://www.caw.ca/en/7978.htm
Severance Must Be Priority, CAW Urges Labour Minister

CAW President Ken Lewenza met February 11 with newly-appointed Federal Minister of Labour Lisa Raitt to discuss the federal government’s role in protecting workers’ severance pay.

Lewenza asked the minister to put the issue on the agenda of her upcoming meeting with provincial/ territorial ministers of labour on February 20 and 21. The union has had similar discussions with Ontario Minister of Labour Peter Fonseca.

“It makes no sense at all, that workers should face double, even triple jeopardy when they lose their jobs,” Lewenza said.  “Instead, we need to ensure that employers actually pay severance and that bankruptcy laws give priority to the severance owing to workers. Furthermore, our laws should require that severance pay is left in the hands of the worker, not clawed back by EI or taxes,” he said.

The CAW delegation, which met with the Minister in Toronto, included Gerry Farnham, President of CAW Local 195 which was forced to blockade Windsor-area auto parts plants to secure a partial payment of millions owing in severance pay.

The union asked that the federal government put an end to EI rules that require workers to use up their severance pay before they start receiving EI benefits, along with other EI improvements.

The union also proposed that the federal Wage Earner Protection Program maximum of $3,323 per employee be raised and cover a broader range of insolvency situations, and further that outdated federal tax rules be amended as to the amount of severance pay a worker can transfer tax free to an RRSP.

UNICEF and CAW Raise Thousands for Haiti Relief in Toronto

On January 22, the City of Toronto, UNICEF Canada and the CAW-lead Handkerchief Project collaborated on a one-day public awareness event at Union Station in Torontoshowcasing the on-the-ground emergency relief work being done in Haiti, and other countries stricken by natural disasters.

Throughout the day, commuters travelling through Union Station had the opportunity to chat with UNICEF volunteers like Helen Hermenier (pictured here) at an information booth set up in the main lobby. Passers-by were also encouraged to donate to UNICEF’s Haiti disaster relief efforts.

UNICEF Canada raised over $3,000 for Haiti Relief in Toronto.


Ex-Reformers face embarrassment of pension riches

Steven Chase

Ottawa — Monday's Globe and Mail Feb 22, 2010

They rode into Ottawa as freshman MPs decrying the “fat-cat” pensions on offer, and now, many years later, the handful of former Reformers still serving in Parliament have racked up generous retirement packages of their own.

It's an awkward blessing of riches for 11 former Reform Party MPs – including Prime Minister Stephen Harper – as the restraint-minded Tory government ponders cutting public-servant retirement plans to help slay the deficit.

Nearly all former Reformers still in the Commons are in line to receive annual pension payouts of more than $100,000 – stipends that are fully indexed to the cost of living and fully guaranteed by the taxpayers of Canada.

The Conservatives are so far silent on any plans that would see members of Parliament share the pain as they considering curbing perks in the retirement packages of federal bureaucrats.

But the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, an advocacy group that calculated the pension payouts for 11 Reform MPs still in Parliament, said the Tories must lead by example and bring MPs' relatively generous pension schemes closer to the leaner private-sector average.

MPs' pensions were pared back in 1995 and rules were changed so they had to wait until 55 years of age to collect. Furthermore, they were banned from “double-dipping” – collecting a pension while taking another federal job.

But Derek Fildebrandt, national research director for the taxpayers federation, said MP pensions are still better than those of most Canadians.

The traditional defined-benefit pension plans – in which employees are guaranteed a certain payout upon retirement – are dwindling in the private sector as companies cut costs. They are disappearing in favour of defined-contribution plans – in which companies contribute but returns depend on the success of investments.

“If the government is serious about restraint, and including public-servant pensions as part of the plan, they need to demonstrate their commitment by bringing MPs' pensions into line with what most of the private sector has right now,” Mr. Fildebrandt said.

He said it would be only fitting if Mr. Harper and the Conservatives took measures forcing MPs to shoulder part of the burden of restraint because it's the Tory Party that's inherited the populist inclinations of Reformers.

All but one of the former Reform MPs still in Parliament are now Conservatives, a product of their fact that Reform's successor, the Canadian Alliance, merged with the Progressive Conservatives in 2003. The exception is Liberal MP Keith Martin, who switched political teams in 2004.

Mr. Harper, first elected as a Reform MP in 1993, is in line to receive an annual pension payout of $150,244 a year based on his service to Dec. 31, 2010, according to the taxpayers federation's calculations.

His stipend would be larger except for the fact Mr. Harper quit federal politics in 1997 and only returned in 2002.

Treasury Board President Stockwell Day, the cabinet minister that Mr. Harper has tapped to lead the charge on restraint, has hinted that Ottawa itself must make “considerable sacrifices.”

Gold-plated perks

Eleven of the 52 Reform Party MPs who were elected in 1993 are still serving in Parliament. Ten are now Conservatives and one is a Liberal.

Reformers came to Ottawa decrying what they felt were gold-plated perks for MPs - but later signed up for the federal pension plan.

Below are estimates of the annual pension benefits these former Reformers are eligible for based on service to Dec. 31, 2010. These are predictions as Ottawa does not disclose payouts to individual MPs:

Jim Abbott, MP for Kootenay-Columbia: $108,516

Diana Ablonczy, MP for Calgary-Nose Hill: $126,076

Leon Benoit, MP for Vegreville-Wainwright: $104,778

Garry Breitkreuz, MP for Yorkton-Melville: $118,668

John Cummins, MP for Delta-Richmond East: $118,668

John Duncan, MP for Vancouver Island North: $80,648

Dick Harris, MP for Cariboo-Prince George: $118,668

Stephen Harper, MP for Calgary Southwest: $150,244

Jay Hill, MP for Prince George-Peace River: $142,637

Keith Martin, MP for Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca: $119,159

Chuck Strahl, MP for Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon: $155,733

Source: Canadian Taxpayers Federation


Toyota boasted saving $100-million on recall, documents show

KEN THOMAS - WASHINGTON The Associated Press
Feb 22, 2010

Toyota officials claimed they saved the company $100-million (U.S.) by successfully negotiating with the government on a limited recall of floor mats in some Toyota and Lexus vehicles, according to new documents shared with congressional investigators.

Toyota, in an internal presentation in July 2009 at its Washington office, said it saved $100-million or more by negotiating an “equipment recall” of floor mats involving 55,000 Toyota Camry and Lexus ES350 vehicles in September 2007.

The savings are listed under the title, “Wins for Toyota – Safety Group.” The document cites millions of dollars in other savings by delaying safety regulations, avoiding defect investigations and slowing down other industry requirements.

The documents were turned over to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and obtained by The Associated Press on Sunday. The presentation was first reported by The Detroit News.

A Toyota spokeswoman did not immediately comment.

The documents are expected to be raised in Congress, which is holding two hearings on Toyota's massive recalls this week. The Japanese automaker has called back 8.5 million vehicles in recent months to deal with safety problems involving gas pedals, floor mats and brakes.

The world's largest automaker has been criticized for responding too slowly to complaints of sudden acceleration in its vehicles, threatening to undermine its reputation for quality and safety.

Kurt Bardella, a spokesman for Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the top Republican on the Oversight Committee, said the documents raise questions on “whether Toyota was lobbying for less rigid actions from regulators to protect their bottom line.”

The new documents show the financial benefit of delay. In the presentation, Toyota said a phase-in to new safety regulations for side air bags saved the company $124-million and 50,000 man hours. Delaying a rule for tougher door locks saved $11-million.

On defect regulations, the document boasts that Toyota “avoided investigation” on rusting Tacoma pickup trucks. The National Highway Trafic Safety Administration investigated the case in 2008 but closed it without finding a safety defect. Toyota agreed to buy back certain rusty pickups, inspect other and extend warranties.

The document lists seven “Wins for Toyota & Industry,” including “favorable recall outcomes,” “secured safety rulemaking favorable to Toyota” and “vehicles not in climate legislation.” Another page lists “key safety issues,” including “Sudden acceleration on ES/Camry, Tacoma, LS etc.”

In one passage, the document says Toyota “negotiated ‘equipment' recall on Camry/ES re SA; saved $100M+, w/ no defect found.”


Bigger cars get smaller, more
fuel-efficient engines
Ken Czubay, Ford vice-president of sales and marketing, discusses the automaker's new EcoBoost engine, left, during a preview at the Cleveland auto show Friday, Feb. 27, 2009, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Joann Muller, Forbes.com

Feb. 21

DETROIT — General Motors' $494 million investment in advanced engines, announced Thursday, is a sign of the times: Carmakers are moving away from thirsty V8 and V6 engines toward smaller, more fuel-efficient ones.

Using once-exotic technologies like direct fuel injection and turbocharging, automakers are able to squeeze more power and efficiency out of smaller gasoline engines. Now they're using turbocharged V6 engines in place of normally aspirated V8s, and four-cylinder turbos instead of V6s.

Consumers win twice, says Eric Fedewa, powertrain analyst with CSM Worldwide. "They get great fuel economy and they go really fast."

These smaller engines come with a bigger price tag, though. CSM estimates downsized direct-injection turbo technology improves mileage by about 11 per cent and costs about $1,000 more. The question is whether consumers will pay the extra money when gas prices remain low. CSM figures at $3 gas, it would take more than five years to break even on the technology.

Keep in mind that often, the smaller, souped-up engines are available only at higher trim levels. Ford Motor's new Taurus flagship is a good example: It starts at around $26,000, but if you want Ford's new fuel-saving, turbocharged EcoBoost engine, you'll have to get the all-wheel-drive Taurus SHO, which starts at $38,000.

But everybody's emphasizing smaller engines these days as they scramble to comply with tough new regulations. Hyundai, for instance, won't offer a V6 option on its new Tucson compact crossover or its redesigned Sonata midsize family sedan. Both are only available with four-cylinder engines. But, says Hyundai, they'll get great gas mileage: 31 mpg for Tucson on the highway and 35 for Sonata.

The same is true for GM's new 2011 Buick Regal: If you want to trade up from the standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine (30 mpg, 182 horsepower) you can't get a V6. Instead, your choice is a 2-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine rated at 220 horsepower.

The next Ford Explorer, which goes on sale later this year, will offer a four-cylinder engine for the first time. Ford promises the Ecoboost engine will pack plenty of punch and improve fuel economy by 15 per cent. Even the mighty F-150 pickup will get a more efficient V6 Ecoboost engine (though purists can still opt for the throaty V8 or diesel.)

All these new, smaller engines boost fuel economy by injecting pressurized gas directly into the cylinders rather than mixing it with air in a chamber outside the cylinder. Turbochargers, which were popular in the 1980s, have been improved to eliminate that low-speed slump called turbo lag. Most don't need premium gas anymore, either. At least that'll save some money.

Passes away

The Retirees send out their deepest condolences to the Szostak family. Bob Szostak was the HR Manager at The Ford Bramalea Plant for many years.

Toronto Star Death Notice

SZOSTAK, Robert Michael - It is with great sadness that we announce the sudden passing at home of Bob Szostak at age 74 on Sunday, February 14, 2010 after a courageous, determined 24 year battle with cancer of the larynx. Dearly beloved husband of Jeanette for 53 years. Dearest father of Cindy and Lisa and her husband Ross Hurst. Deeply missed by his most precious grandchildren Emily and Ben Hurst. Fondly remembered by Roman. Predeceased by his parents Max and Helena Szostak and his brother Edward. Our sincerest thanks to the wonderful Dr. Jonathan Irish of Princess Margaret Hospital and his staff for their exceptional care over the many years. At Bob's request, a private family service was held on Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at the Turner & Porter 'Neweduk - Erin Mills' Chapel. Entombment followed at Park Lawn Paradise Mausoleum. Bob has requested, in lieu of flowers or donations, that you 'Be Kind to Someone'




Toyota recalls may close nagging perception gap

American automakers may benefit from quality concerns

Feb 20, 2010

The most lasting consequence of Toyota’s embarrassing recall of 8.5 million vehicles worldwide might be one that benefits Detroit automakers.

Finally, we might see the closing of the perception gap about the quality of Japanese vs. American automobiles.

Even after Detroit automakers have fixed all manner of dysfunction within their companies, they’ve struggled to eliminate the lingering belief in consumers’ minds that Toyotas and Hondas are bulletproof, and that GM, Ford and Chrysler models are, well, inferior.

But the reality — as millions of Toyota owners are now learning — doesn’t quite line up with that once-lofty perception.

Folks are finally learning that Toyota isn’t perfect and that the cars and trucks made by Detroit automakers are a lot better than most people think.

The quality reality

The absolute truth is this: The gap in quality between Japanese and American brands is usually so small that even the experts acknowledge that it is barely relevant.

Take the annual J.D. Power and Associates annual “initial quality study,” for example.

First of all, the “study” is actually a “survey” that asks buyers 228 questions about their new car or truck after 90 days of ownership. Those questions range from problems experienced with critical parts, such as the engine, to pesky issues with, say, the design of navigation systems.

Toyota’s Lexus earned the best score in the survey, with customers reporting 84 problems per 100 vehicles. The worst performer, BMW’s Mini, had 165 problems reported per 100 vehicles. That sure looks like a big difference, but break down that “per 100 vehicles.”

What this study really found was that consumers reported about 1 problem in every Lexus and less than 2 problems in the last-place Mini. That means every brand sold in America had about 1 to 2 problems per vehicle.

And the difference in initial quality per vehicle between the nation’s top three brands, Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota, was 1.03, 1.02 and 1.01, respectively. That means the difference is so small it’s actually measured by the one-hundredths per vehicle.

In an interview Thursday, Dave Sargent, vice president of vehicle research at J.D. Power, acknowledged: “A statistician would say they’re not that different.”

The gap remains wide

Sargent said the best measure of quality issues an owner will experience during the life of a vehicle is J.D. Power’s long-term durability survey. That measures 202 problems after three years of ownership, and there is a little more variation in that one.

The study’s top performer — GM’s Buick brand — had 1.22 problems reported per vehicle. The worse performer, which was Japanese automaker Suzuki, had 2.63 problems per vehicle.

That means, after three years of ownerships, consumers reported between 1 and 3 problems per vehicle.

More specifically, consumers reported 1.85 problems per Chevrolet, 1.59 problems per Ford and 1.29 problems per Toyota.

After three years, then, the difference between a Chevy and a Toyota was about half a problem, or 0.56.

The whole auto industry should give itself a round of applause for these results. And Americans should take note and ask themselves: Does your perception match up with reality?

For too long, it has not.

“In most parts of the country, the perception gap is still pretty wide,” Sargent told me. “When we ask people why they bought a vehicle, a high proportion of people who purchased Japanese products give high perception of quality as a reason why they bought. It’s lower for the domestics.”

Is perception reality?

Unfortunately, for Detroit’s three automakers, perception — not reality — is king when it comes to car-shopping. When consumers browse dealer showrooms, they’re swayed by all sorts of deeply entrenched perceptions that lead them to chose one brand over another.

Ultimately, this perception gap has been quite expensive to all of us living in Michigan, and really, in this country. It has cost Detroit automakers, and their parts suppliers, untold sales, profits and, especially painful now, jobs.

Japanese automakers such as Toyota have largely been the beneficiaries of Detroit’s losses.

As I was watching Toyota’s recent “Commitment” commercial apologizing for not living up to its own standards, I wondered:

Isn’t it about time Americans shake that nagging feeling that a Chevy or a Ford isn’t as good as a Toyota or a Honda?

Because, according to the recent consumer surveys, every automaker makes a few mistakes.


British pension regulator files
$3.4B claim against Nortel

'Aggressive move' sets stage for showdown among international creditors

Sarah Boesveld and Jacquie McNish
Globe and Mail Update Published on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2010

A British pension-funds regulator has filed a claim for 2.1-billion pounds ($3.4-billion) against Nortel Networks, setting the stage for a potential international tug of war between the fallen company’s far-flung creditors.

In a filing to an Ontario court, the U.K. Pensions Regulator set a March 1 deadline for action that could lead to an order against Nortel’s assets.

Canadian pensioners said they had predicted claims from the United States and the United Kingdom would water down funds available to compensate pensioners and those affected by the fund in Canada.

“This aggressive move against the Nortel estate in Canada appears to be an attempt to influence the complex process of dividing up Nortel’s global assets,” said the Nortel Retirees and former employees Protection Canada in a release.

The group’s national chair, Don Sproule, said it plans to challenge the claim in court and urged the federal government to amend bankruptcy laws to give preferred status to employee-related claims in Canada.

Nortel is in the last stages of selling assets to repay creditors who are owed many billions of dollars in unpaid debts and underfunded pensions. So far the company has raised only $3-billion from its asset sales, and the distribution of the proceeds was supposed to be divided among the companies’ creditors who rank equally as unsecured creditors.

By placing a claim on the Nortel estate, it appears the British pension administrator is trying to strengthen its legal rights to claim a bigger share of Nortel’s assets.

The move highlights the fragile position of Nortel’s Canadian pensioners, who do not have the same protections of their counterparts in the United States and Britain. Under Canadian bankruptcy laws pensioners have limited rights when employers land in bankruptcy court with pension deficits.

In contrast, U.S Nortel retirees have had their damaged pensions replenished by a federal pension guaranty fund. Pensioners in the U.K. also have stronger claims in bankruptcy proceedings.

Nortel filed for bankruptcy protection in January, 2009.


Suspicions linger over
acceleration in Toyota Camrys

By Peter Whoriskey and Kimberly Kindy

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Jean Bookout couldn't control her revving car, even after she pulled the emergency brake. It slammed into an embankment beside an Oklahoma interstate, killing her best friend.

Bulent Ezal was about to park his car for lunch when it was propelled over a curb, plowed through two decorative fences and plunged over a 70-foot cliff beside the Pacific Ocean, killing his wife.

Guadalupe Alberto, on the way to the family convenience store, found herself racing at speeds of as much as 75 mph before she slammed her car into a tree. A witness said she appeared terrified as she flew by.

As the first congressional hearings on Toyota get underway Tuesday, one key question will be whether the automaker has fully diagnosed the causes of its runaway cars.

The company says it has discovered the source of the problem in sticky pedals and interfering floor mats, and is fixing them in the millions of cars it has recalled.

But in each of those three fatal episodes, the car involved was a 2005 Toyota Camry, a model that the company has indicated is free of the acceleration defects: It has not been recalled for either the sticky pedal or the floor mat interference.

"This raises a huge red flag," said Clarence Ditlow, director of the Center for Auto Safety.

He and other safety advocates have their own suspicions, aroused by a history of glitchy behavior in the electronics that control Toyota's engines.

"Many unintended accelerations do not appear to be explained by floor mats and sticky pedals," said Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), who is holding the Tuesday hearing on the recalls. "One of the key questions we will ask at the hearing is whether electronic defects could be responsible."

Toyota officials declined to comment on the cases because they are in litigation.

"We never want to see any injuries or fatalities in our vehicles regardless of the circumstances," spokesman Ed Lewis said, "and nothing is more important to us than the safety and reliability of the vehicles our customers drive."

Electronic throttle systems were introduced in Camrys in 2002, replacing the old mechanical connection between the accelerator pedal and the engine, and it is the operation of these sensors and other electronics that has been the focus of many industry watchdogs.

Last year, a study by Randy Whitfield, a Maryland researcher, showed that the portion of complaints filed with federal regulators against Toyotas involving "speed control" as much as tripled after the company installed electronic throttles.

Whitfield said his company, Quality Control Systems, which analyzes auto safety data, initiated the research on its own. It was first posted online in October 2008. A companion piece, published this month, was paid for by trial attorneys and victims' families.

The attorneys, victims' families and their consultants say several clues suggest that engine electronics could cause Toyotas to malfunction.

For example, in 2002, the company issued a service bulletin to dealers warning that some Camrys "exhibit a surging" at speeds between 38 and 42 mph.

It called for revisions in the calibration of the "engine control module," the electronics that run the engine.

About the same time, the Camry owner's manual offered a warning that the installation of a mobile two-way radio system "could affect electronic systems" in the car, including the electronic throttle system.

And then in 2007, an investigation by federal regulators found that magnetic interference could cause an increase in engine speed in a Toyota Lexus ES 350.

The investigators seemed to consider the increase small, noting that the increase of 1,000 rpms is similar to engine operation in idle, and focused instead on the threat posed by floor mats interfering with the accelerator. But safety advocates say the increase in the engine speed should have been taken as a warning sign.

In response to the suspicions, Toyota has said it has studied its electronics and found no defects.

In December, Toyota hired an independent firm, Exponent, to investigate the electronic throttles. Its initial report has been filed with Congress.

After tests of six cars and more than 100 new and used engine electronics parts, the firm said their investigators couldn't find the trouble.

But, experts cautioned, reproducing electronic problems can be extraordinarily difficult, especially in limited testing. Vibration can break an electronic connection; weather and wear can alter performance.

"If you are looking for a needle in a haystack and you don't find it, it doesn't mean it wasn't there," said Antony Anderson, an electrical engineer who has specialized in electrical failure investigations.

Federal safety regulators, meanwhile, have repeatedly opted not to pursue deeper investigations.

When officials with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced recently that they would review the potential electronics problems, they made clear their skepticism.

"This is not a defect investigation, because the agency has no reason at this point to believe there are safety defects in these systems," the NHTSA said in a written announcement.

Since Toyota hasn't acknowledged any sudden acceleration defects in the '05 Camry, or in the '06 Camry, which is involved in another fatality, what caused the acceleration may remain a mystery.

In court, manufacturers often blame alleged acceleration problems on the driver, attributing the acceleration to "pedal misapplication," or the driver accidentally hitting the accelerator instead of the brake.

In a 1989 report, the NHTSA asserted that drivers over 60 were far more likely than younger drivers to be involved in such an incident, suggesting that deteriorating reflexes are a contributing factor, too.

In each of the three fatal cases involving '05 Camrys, the driver was older than 70.

But the prolonged duration of the three fatal rides, as well as witness accounts, may make it more difficult to blame driver confusion.

Crashes caused by "pedal misapplication" often unfold in just moments -- before the driver has time to realize the mistake and avert trouble.

But the 2005 Camry cases lasted more than a moment.

In the Oklahoma case in September 2007, for example, the police report notes that one of the Camry's rear tires left a skid mark of 150 feet, apparently as Book-out, then 76, applied the emergency brake. Before dying, her passenger told first responders that the car had sped out of control, said Graham Esdale, the attorney representing plaintiffs in the case.

Ezal, then 73, was braking as he entered the parking lot and had enough time to run over a curb and plow through two decorative fences before the Camry carrying the retired engineer and his wife went off the cliff.

In the Michigan case, Alberto, 77, was driving an estimated 75 mph on a street with a 25 mph speed limit on the way to work at her family's store.

"She had both hands on the steering wheel and her eyes were wide open like she was scared or, you know, terrified," a witness, Dante Hairston said in a sworn statement.

As for the question of the driver's age, statistics from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety show that drivers between 70 and 75 years of age experience police-reported accidents at a slightly higher rate than their middle-aged peers on a per-mile basis. But they are roughly the same as drivers between 25 and 30 years old.

"Mrs. Alberto's accident cannot be explained in terms of what Toyota has offered so far with its claims of driver pedal misapplication, floor mats or sticky pedals," said the family's attorney, Edgar F. Heiskell. "The electronic throttle control took over the throttle."



February 20. 2010

Woman gets $23.4M in suit against Ford for paralyzing crash

Associated Press

Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. -- A California jury has awarded a woman $23.4 million in a civil judgment against Ford Motor Co. for a 2007 freeway accident that left her a quadriplegic.

Cynthia Castillo lost control of her 1997 Ford Explorer when the tread separated from her left-rear tire as she was driving.

Her attorney, Brian Brandt, says the SUV veered off the freeway and rolled three times down an embankment, leaving Castillo's legs and most of her body paralyzed. Brandt says flaws in the vehicle's design cause it to lose control when the tire tread separates.

An attorney for Ford says the accident was caused by a worn-out tire.

A jury returned Thursday with a unanimous verdict in Castillo's favor.


Bankrupt Visteon to argue
for exec bonuses

Feb 19, 2010

Visteon Corp. is due in bankruptcy court on Thursday to take on two contentious issues: a proposed incentive plan for managers, and how retirees will be represented in the case as the supplier tries to unload its pension liabilities onto the federal government.

The Van Buren Township-based auto supplier will ask U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Christopher Sontchi for permission to pay bonuses totaling $5.9 million to $35.4 million to 1,300 salaried employees, depending on how close the supplier comes to meeting its financial targets for 2010.

Of that, between $1 million and $5.9 million would be set aside for 12 of the company’s top executives.

Unions and the U.S. trustee have objected to the incentive plan. The company’s creditor’s committee withdrew its objection earlier this week after Visteon raised the financial targets that would trigger a bonus.

The UAW and IUE-CWA note in their objections that the request for a bonus plan comes after the company terminated health care and life insurance benefits for retirees and said it plans to transfer its pension liabilities to the federal government.

The International Union of Electrical Workers has appealed Sontchi’s decision that will allow Visteon to stop paying health care benefits for 6,650 current and future retirees, as well as their dependents, at the end of March.

The same retirees who will lose their benefits are pushing for representation in the company’s bankruptcy case.

During today’s hearing in a bankruptcy court in Wilmington, Del., Visteon also will argue against Sontchi’s decision to allow retirees to have an official committee — at the company’s expense — in the eight-month-old case.

“We understand the concerns of the pension plan participants. However, we don’t believe there is a legal basis for their appointment to the unsecured creditors committee or for the creation of a separate pension participant committee,” said Visteon spokesman Jim Fisher .

Visteon, citing pension laws, maintains in court documents that retiree interests should be represented through the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.

Retirees have formed an ad hoc committee to represent retirees who face lower pension payments if Visteon is allowed to transfer its pension liabilities to the PBGC.

Visteon retirees “must have the means to protect their interests and have a meaningful voice heard in these proceedings,” the retiree committee said in a court filing last month.

If the pensions are moved to the PBGC, Visteon retirees would lose out on nearly $100 million in benefits, according to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.

Visteon could be nearing the end of its bankruptcy case. Late last year, the supplier filed a reorganization plan that would leave unsecured creditors without any payment.

That plan would give its lenders 96.2% of the company and the rest of the ownership to the PBGC.

However, Visteon is looking at alternative bankruptcy plans and has been granted more time to discuss its plan with potential investors.

A hearing on the company’s bankruptcy plan has been postponed from Feb. 18 to March 16.


Toyota's no-show
CEO loses credibility

Nearly 9 million Toyota Motor Corp. cars and trucks are under recall worldwide, most of them in the United States.

Feb 18, 2010 - Daniel Howes

Nearly 9 million Toyota Motor Corp. cars and trucks are under recall worldwide, most of them in the United States.

Complaints are rising -- some for vehicles whose accelerators stick, some for errant floor mats, some for vehicles that maybe can't stop, still more for rusting frames. Now the company confirms it is looking into steering concerns with its Corolla compact. Which, this being America, means the lawsuits aren't far behind.

Congress, wanting to know what Toyota knew and when, has scheduled hearings. Lawmakers, from Michigan's own John Dingell and California's Henry Waxman to Toyota-state governors, are pontificating. Federal regulators are talking tough even as they fret a paper trail buried in their own archives might implicate them for doing too little for too long.

Yet the CEO whose name is on the building, Akio Toyoda, reiterated again Wednesday in Japan that he has no plans to testify to Congress. He has vague plans to come to the States. And there's little urgency, at least publicly, to convene the Japanese automaker's new cross-regional quality team of top executives.

You must be kidding, Toyoda-san.

That kind of Hamlet routine wouldn't last two news cycles for an automaker whose CEO goes to work every day inside the borders of, say, Michigan. Not for a company that is based here, that employs more than 100,000 Americans, that makes the bulk of its profits here, that builds many of its products here, that considers itself an American manufacturer -- and insists that others do.

Sound familiar? It should, for it was not too long ago that Toyota's folks, their suppliers and their political friends in high places were pushing new labels for the burgeoning foreign-owned auto industry operating in the United States, even as the Detroit Three teetered near an abyss that briefly swallowed two of them.

Why? Because labels matter.

At an auto show gala a few years back, the chairman of a well-known auto supplier based in Ohio kept referring to "the NAMs" -- the New American Manufacturers, he explained, which also could have been called ABD (Anyone but Detroit). There also is the "New Domestics" tag, a galling ruse that suggests some in the business still have trouble with truth-in-labeling laws.

"Toyota has become as thoroughly an American company as the so-called 'domestic' manufacturers -- and the facts back this up," the governors of Kentucky, Indiana, Mississippi and Alabama wrote to members of Congress last week.

It's absurd, all the more so now that Toyota's do-no-wrong image is being sullied by a mushrooming quality scandal being managed, poorly, from Japan. And its CEO appears content to a) let middle American governors do his political advance work while he b) avoids contact with media here or members of Congress -- unless explicitly asked.

How long do you think the CEO of, say, Ford Motor Co. would get away with that routine? Ask Jacques Nasser, the former Ford boss who answered probing questions over the automaker's Explorer SUVs equipped with Firestone tires.

Bottom line: You can't have it both ways, Toyoda-san. Can't claim the mantle of "New American Manufacturer" only to fall back on regional autonomy when the oil sludge hits the proverbial fan. Can't say you're accountable but leave friendly governors and your guy in the States to answer for the company, a dodge that would never work for a Detroit rival.

Nor can Toyota credibly play the role of progressive American company investing deeply in communities and their myriad causes -- which it has, undeniably -- but then let its CEO effectively hole up in Fortress Japan during a crisis.

Unless, that is, one motivation is to imply that critics are being driven not by a growing record of problems with Toyota's cars and trucks and what that means for the buying public, but by crude xenophobia and political payback.

Hints of that, and more, are coming from Toyota's friendly governors. They note "the federal government's obvious conflict of interest because of its huge financial stake in some of Toyota's competitors" -- a fact that would be more convincing if the federal and legal record of Toyota's "sudden acceleration" issues, among others, didn't stretch back into the last Bush administration.

Left unsaid is the suggestion that this mess wouldn't be spreading if the target wasn't a foreign-owned automaker. But that's coming, wherever the evidence leads on the cars and trucks Toyota sold to buyers around the world.


Ford to cut 900 jobs at
Flat Rock assembly plant

Facility will move to a single shift with faster line speed

Alisa Priddle / The Detroit News
Feb 17, 2010

Ford Motor Co. will cut 900 workers at its plant in Flat Rock in July but increase production of the Ford Mustang and Mazda6 assembled there on a single shift.

The plant, which employs 2,280, will be reduced to a single shift July 12. The expectation is most workers will be transferred to other Ford plants, said spokeswoman Marcey Evans.

The AutoAlliance International Inc. plant, which is jointly owned by Mazda Motor Corp., assembled about 102,000 cars in 2009, and the forecast is to increase output this year, Evans said, helped by the new 2011 Mustang.

To do so, line speed will be increased about 35 percent, making the operation more efficient.

The plant had a lot of downtime last year as Mustang sales fell 27 percent and Mazda6 sales were off 34 percent.

Reducing Flat Rock to a single shift should provide more stability for the remaining workers, Evans said.

Steady production also is important to maintain quality, said analyst Joe Phillippi of AutoTrends Consulting Inc. in Short Hills, N.J.

"The assembly process, where humans are involved, is pretty much a ballet and is precisely timed," Phillippi said.

Automakers have tried to eliminate the possibility of errors from the process, but "when production is on again and off again people lose their edge and there is potential for quality problems."

Greater efficiency is important to Ford as it competes with General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC, which were able to shed cost and liability during stints in bankruptcy last year.

Some laid-off Ford workers will be absorbed into the automaker's Chicago assembly plant, which is adding a second shift of 1,200 employees in the third quarter to prepare for the fourth-quarter launch of the all-new Ford Explorer.

Additional workers also will be needed at Michigan Assembly in Wayne this year. The plant had been making the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator full-size SUVs but is being retooled to make the next-generation Ford Focus compact sedan in the fourth quarter.

"We expect the vast majority of employees will be able to go elsewhere and stay with Ford," Evans said.

The warning also gives workers time to contemplate a move, Phillippi said.

Those not offered jobs at other Ford plants will be offered buyouts consistent with the contract.


U.S. points to Toyota recall in 34 deaths since 2000

Washington The Associated Press - Ken Thomas

Feb. 16, 2010

Complaints of deaths connected to sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles have surged in recent weeks, with the alleged toll now at 34 since 2000, according to new consumer data gathered by the U.S. government.

Meanwhile, complaints to a database maintained by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about the popular Toyota Prius hybrid grew by nearly 1,000 in just over a week.

Transport Canada was unable Monday to provide a tally of similar complaints against Toyota.

The federal agency said that it received 1,300 complaints last year on all potential safety issues related to all makes and models of vehicles, but could not offer a breakdown.

“All safety related consumer complaints receive a preliminary investigation and review,” said James Kesie, spokesman for transport minister John Baird.

“The level of investigation will depend on a number of factors; those factors are determined based on the findings throughout the process of investigation.”

U.S. Transportation Department spokeswoman Olivia Alair said NHTSA was quickly gathering information to help guide the government's examination of sudden acceleration problems, the Prius braking system and other safety issues.

Toyota has recalled 8.5 million vehicles globally in the past four months because of problems with gas pedals, floor mats and brakes. The government typically receives a surge in complaints following a recall.

In Canada, the Toyota recalls involve more than 270,000 vehicles.

The new complaints reflect the heightened awareness of the massive recalls among the public and underscore a flurry of lawsuits on behalf of drivers alleging deaths and injuries in Toyota crashes. Three congressional hearings are planned on the Toyota recalls.

In the past three weeks, consumers have told the U.S. government about nine crashes involving 13 alleged deaths between 2005 and 2010 due to accelerator problems, according to a NHTSA database. The latest complaints come on top of earlier information from consumers alleging 21 deaths from 2000 to the end of last year.

The database also shows that new complaints skyrocketed over the 2010 Prius gas-electric hybrid, which was recalled last week to replace braking software.

When NHTSA opened its investigation of Prius on Feb. 3, the government had received 124 consumer complaints. Through Feb. 11, the government had a total of 1,120 complaints alleging 34 crashes, six injuries and no deaths.

The government has renewed an investigation into potential electromagnetic problems in vehicles built by Toyota and other manufacturers. Consumer groups have pointed to potential electrical problems while the company has said recalls to fix sticking gas pedals or accelerators that can become jammed will address the problem.

Toyota spokeswoman Martha Voss said the company takes “all customer reports seriously and will, of course, look into new claims.”

Toyota was taking steps to improve quality control and investigate customer complaints more aggressively, Ms. Voss said.

Testing by Toyota, NHTSA and Exponent, an outside consulting firm hired by Toyota, has found no evidence of problems with Toyota's electronics, Toyota vice-president Bob Carter said while attending the National Automobile Dealers Association convention in Orlando, Fla.

“There is no problem with the electronic throttle system in Toyotas,” Mr. Carter said Monday. “There's not anything that can even remotely lead you in that direction.”

Mr. Carter said Exponent was told to tear the components apart to try to find anything wrong and initial tests could find nothing.

Mr. Carter said Toyota has repaired about 500,000 of the 2.3 million vehicles recalled over a potentially sticky gas pedal.

Toyota has received many complaints over vehicle speed control in the 2009 and 2008 model years, according to an Associated Press analysis of government data.

In 2009, Toyota received the most complaints that year — a total of 130 for Toyota, Lexus and Scion vehicles. Ford and its Mercury brand received the second-highest with 14, followed by General Motors and Honda vehicles with nine.

Among Toyota vehicles in the 2009 model year, the Camry led the list of models with 52 complaints, followed by Corolla (17), Tacoma (16) and Prius (13). The AP found eight of the top 10 vehicles with complaints over vehicle speed control were manufactured by Toyota.

In the 2008 model year, Toyota vehicles received 176 complaints of vehicle speed control, followed by Ford with 44 and Chrysler with 25. In that year, Prius had 31 complaints, followed by Tacoma with 28 and Camry with 25.

Since Jan. 27, NHTSA has processed 686 complaints from consumers about problems related to “vehicle speed control” on cars and trucks manufactured by Toyota, nearly all of them submitted through NHTSA's website or by e-mail.


Political Action Report

Doug Berry & Alison White

Demonstrations coordinated for across Canada were organized to protest the proroguing of parliament. Our retirees chapter was represented by Brother Berry and the local was represented by Sister White on January 23rd. 2010 at Conservative MP David Tilsons riding office in downtown Orangevile. Attendance at these demonstrations was far more than expected and Orangeville was no exception. Canadians from all walks of life were out in force to vent their displeasure at Stephen Harpers abuse of power that  this legal apparatus affords him in order to avoid controversy not once but twice within a year. Ignatieff has been quoted as saying that he will be seeking changes to the prorogation option  in order that it can’t be used in such a flagrant manor in the future. We shall see.


The next battle and more dear to our hearts is the fight to improve and guarantee pensions in Canada. To this end I was honoured to attend a pension forum at the Local 112 union hall with Brother Champange and his parents who are currently both retired employees of Nortel. Attendees of note included labour activist extraordinaire Brother John Cartwright, Ken Dryden, liberal MP speaking on behalf of Michael Ignatieff, John McCallum liberal MP, and Wayne Marston NDP MP for Hamilton East-Stoney Creek. The consensus in a nut shell was the importance of doubling the CPP benefit over the next 20 to 30 years. The issue amongst the panelist was the rate of payroll deduction it would take to achieve it. It was said that 96% of Canadians are covered by CPP and its cost to administer is nominal (point five of one percent presumably on the dollar) making it appears to be the best vehicle to attain guaranteed coverage

In Solidarity
Brother Doug Berry


Ford turnaround pays
dividends for dealers

Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News
Feb 15, 2010

Dearborn -- Ford Motor Co. says its turnaround is paying big dividends for its dealers, who it says saw their profits skyrocket in 2009.

According to the automaker, profits for Ford dealers were 15 times higher last year than they were in 2008. Profits at Lincoln-Mercury franchises increased tenfold during the same period.

Now, Ford is launching new initiatives to help its dealers go green, and become even more profitable while doing it.

"We've stopped the downward slide," said Ken Czubay, Ford's head of sales and marketing for the United States.

Ford, Czubay said, is redoubling its efforts to help its dealer body remain profitable -- and go green at the same time.

Today, at the National Automobile Dealers Association's annual convention in Orlando, Ford is expected to announce the formation of a new dealer committee to help the company figure out ways to improve dealer profitability and the customer car-buying experience.

"Our goal is to help our dealers, work with our dealers and learn from our dealers," Czubay said. "Improving dealer profitability is paramount, because without improving their profitability, we can't have a sustainable dealer organization."

Ford also is scheduled to unveil a new, voluntary program aimed at helping its dealers reduce their impact on the environment. For a nominal fee, Ford will send a team of green-building experts to a dealership. They will conduct a comprehensive survey of the site and present the owner with an array of options ranging from simple energy-saving improvements to a complete program for going carbon neutral.

Ford says all of these options will save dealers money in the long run while boosting the company's green credentials with consumers. It comes as the automaker readies the launch of a new generation of battery-powered electric vehicles, hybrids and plug-in hybrids.

While dealers agree that business is improving, some challenge Czubay's impressive figures.

"Business has picked up tremendously, but I find those numbers hard to believe. Things are better, but dealers are still struggling financially," said Michell Van Vorst, executive director of the Ford Dealers Alliance, a dissident dealer organization. "They may be making more money, but it's not on the sale of new cars."

However, even Van Vorst said relations between the company and its dealers are improving.

"They're very grateful for Ford for managing their company much better than their domestic competitors," Van Vorst said, noting that hundreds of General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC dealers lost their franchises after those companies filed for bankruptcy last year. "There's a shift in the way consumers perceive Ford because it didn't file for bankruptcy. That has helped, too."

But even Ford would like to have fewer dealers. Last year, Ford managed to eliminate more than 200 dealerships in the U.S.

"We have a ways to go," Czubay said, referring to Ford's efforts to consolidate its dealer body in several major metropolitan areas.


Ford's European sales
up on new Fiesta


Feb 13, 2010

Ford said today its sales in 19 European markets increased 4.2% in January, although its market share declined slightly.

For the month, Ford sold 105,300 cars and trucks compared with 101,000 in January a year ago.

“January marked the eighth consecutive month of sales volume growth for Ford,” Ingvar Sviggum, Ford of Europe’s vice president of marketing sales and service, said in a statement.

Ford said its market share declined to 8.8% in January, down 0.6% compared with last year. The company said the decline in market share was due to aggressive discounting by competitors in some countries.

In Europe, Ford’s performance continues to be led by its Ford Fiesta and Ford Ka subcompacts. Ford said the Fiesta subcompact was the second-best selling car in Europe in January and said sales increased 34% to 39,200 cars. Sales of the Ka mini-car increased 57% to 8,500 cars.

Ford’s new Fiesta subcompact will go on sale in the United States this summer. Ford has not said it will bring the Ka to North America.



Bill Ford's challenge: Stay lean, hungry and innovative

Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News
Feb 12, 2010

Bill Ford Jr. likes going to work these days.

After years of gloom, employees are smiling again. Ford Motor Co.'s cars and crossovers are winning big awards. And his company, which many had given up for dead just a few years ago, not only survived one of the worst crises in the history of the auto industry, but eschewed a taxpayer bailout, avoided bankruptcy and rebounded back to profitability.

Bill Ford has said little publicly about his role in the turnaround -- until now. In an interview this week with The Detroit News, the great-grandson of Henry Ford spoke about the challenges of keeping the company's lenders, its workers and the rest of the Ford family on board during one of the stormiest periods in the automaker's storied history. He also talked about Ford's latest challenge: keeping the company's newfound confidence from turning into complacency.

"It's something that I think about all the time," he said. "How do we not go back to where we were? How do we stay lean and hungry? And how do we continue to foster innovation? A lot of that does fall to me. I am the institutional memory around here."

While Ford CEO Alan Mulally has justifiably gotten most of the credit for the company's nascent recovery, Bill Ford has not been idle since ceding the CEO job to the former Boeing Co. executive in 2006. As executive chairman, Ford has worked behind the scenes to convince the rest of the Ford family, the automaker's board of directors, its bankers and its workers to give Mulally's plan time to gain traction.

"I felt part of my job was to help free up the management team to manage the company," Ford said. "I've had 30 years here. I know the history and I know the players. I have a relationship with all of them. And I believe I've been able to help the company by balancing all of these interests."

Bill Ford praised board members for staying the course even as they watched Chrysler and General Motors topple into bankruptcy last year.

"They were firm believers in what we were trying to do at a time when most of the external world did not believe we were going to make it through this," he said. "It required a lot of extraordinary communication between the board and the company during that period."

Not that the board accepted Mulally's plan without question. The decision to sell Ford's foreign luxury brands, for instance, was one that required "explanation," Bill Ford said.

But the real issue for most board members was something much more fundamental.

"It was, 'Do we have enough time to pull this off, or are we going to run out of time before we get overwhelmed by the external factors?' " Bill Ford recalled. "That was the big question that dominated since the middle of 2008. It was an incredibly tense period for everybody involved in the company."

Including the Ford family.

Family unity tested

The last three years have tested the family's unity as never before. But as Bill Ford is quick to point out, not a single share of the family's stock was sold.

"Everything that they were reading was doom and gloom for Ford, but we all wanted to hang on and do what we could to make sure the company made it," he said. "Had the family not shown that resolve, I'm not sure the bankers or the (United Auto Workers) would have. It was very important that the family stay together."

That they did speaks to Bill Ford's role as leader of the Ford clan.

"In a time of difficulty, whenever there is a lack of information, that void will be filled with rumor and speculation," he said. "I felt it was my job to minimize that scuttlebutt and to make sure if they had any questions, if they had any confusion or, frankly, if they had any disagreements, that I heard about them and we talked about it."

David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, said that role is one of the most important Bill Ford has played.

"Bill really is that interface between the family and the other leadership of the company," Cole said. "He has maintained the intimacy of the family with the company, and I think that has been very important."

A big issue for many family members has been the lack of dividend payments, suspended shortly after Mulally was hired.

A decade ago, stock dividends provided $130 million in revenue to the family annually. Now that the company is profitable again, Bill Ford called restoring dividends "a high priority."

"It's something we'll take a look at as we're on the road back to investment grade -- which is something that is exceptionally important for this company," he said.

Battling complacency

Still, Bill Ford believes the biggest challenge will be ensuring that Ford does not slide back into old, dysfunctional habits. He has watched the company turn victory into defeat before -- saw the stunning gains delivered by vehicles like the Ford Taurus in the 1980s and the Ford Explorer in the 1990s squandered by a culture of complacency. And he is making it his personal mission to ensure that does not happen again.

"It's a legitimate concern," Cole said. "It's hard to keep the pressure on forever. They need to keep highly focused and not deviate on the plan. It's every company's Achilles heel: Once you get to the point that the immediate danger is over, complacency starts to set in. I really think this is at the root of some of Toyota's problems."

Toyota Motor Corp., renowned for building safe, reliable, top-quality cars and trucks, is being scrutinized after recalling more than 8 million vehicles for problems linked to unintended acceleration.

Complacency has been part of Ford's problems. Bill Ford knows that better than anyone. He is determined to make fundamental changes wrought by Mulally -- putting hard facts ahead of hopes and the company's welfare ahead of personal ambition -- a permanent part of Ford's corporate culture.

"Having seen how Alan did it, how he institutionalized this process, it's going to be my mission to make sure that lives on," Ford said. "I'll be very involved in the succession process. But Alan's not going anywhere. He enjoys it. He's having fun. And he's being hugely successful."


Volume 40, No. 6 – February 12, 2010

Buy America Deal to Have Dire Consequences for Canada

While federal Parliament remains suspended, the Harper government has snuck through a “Buy America” exemption deal with the United States that will do more harm than good for Canadian workers and businesses over the long term, says CAW President Ken Lewenza.

“This is a ridiculous deal negotiated under the radar by the Harper government,” said Lewenza after announcement of the deal on February 5. “It fails to protect Canadian interests, it gives up more than it gets and trades off long term opportunities for possible short term gains.”

The special exemption deal, widely cited as an emergency measure to protect the interests of Canadian companies reportedly shut out of U.S. economic stimulus funds, could effectively remove the rights and powers of government to manage public spending on big ticket construction projects. These projects, Lewenza said, should be used to develop Canada’s economy and keep Canadians working.

Under the deal, Canadian businesses will be given a chance to bid on whatever remains of U.S. federal and state economic stimulus projects up until February 17 (when the project awards will be complete). 

In the meantime, the deal leaves governments vulnerable to the terms and conditions of the World Trade Organization Government Procurement Agreement (GPA), which restricts public purchasing rules.

Part-time Jobs Don’t Make for Recovery, CAW President says

“The growth in part-time work is absolutely no cause for celebration,” says CAW President Ken Lewenza, in response to unemployment numbers released by Statistics Canada February 5.

“Instead it means that more Canadians are ending up in precarious employment – characterized by irregular hours, little job security, low wages and few benefits – this is really nothing to cheer about.”

The most recent statistics showed a surge in part-time employment of 43,000 new jobs, but no real growth in full-time work. Lewenza called the exclusive growth in part-time employment alarming and warned that it gives Canadians and more importantly, the government, a false sense of security that the economy is improving.

“Workers need full-time, sustainable jobs that they can survive on, instead of having to string together part-time jobs to make ends meet,” said Lewenza. “I believe that’s what these new statistics show. We cannot jump start the economy with only part-time or temporary employment opportunities.”

The latest growth in part-time work coincides with the long-term labour market trend which has seen the number of people in part-time work, but actively looking for full-time employment, skyrocket by a whopping 184 per cent since 1997, according to Statistics Canada’s own data.

“Today, approximately 900,000 Canadians fall into this category of people who are forced to work part-time,” said Lewenza.  

CAW Members Ratify Nova Scotia Health Care Agreements

CAW Local 4600, 4603 and 4606 members working at three health authorities in Nova Scotia have overwhelmingly ratified new collective agreements with wage and benefit improvements.

The 31-month agreements covering 2,300 hospital workers were ratified as follows:
- Cape Breton District Health Authority (health care unit), 79 per cent;
- Cape Breton District Health Authority (service unit), 95 per cent;
- Guysborough Antigonish Strait Richmond District Health Authority, 95 per cent;
- IsaakWaltonKilliamChildrensHospital, 98 per cent; 

Wage increases total 4.9 per cent over the life of the agreement with an additional 2.1 per cent increase for workers such as technologists, dieticians, therapists and others in the health care unit.

Licensed Practical Nurses receive an additional six per cent increase effective September 1.

In addition there are improvements in long term disability, pregnancy and parental leave provisions. The employer has agreed Biomedical Technologists will be voluntarily included into the CAW bargaining unit.

“The bargaining committees’ hard work and commitment to the membership was instrumental in achieving the gains we made,” said CAW national representative Susan Burrows. “There were no concessions.”

CAW Local 4600 President Shauna Wilcox said it was an extremely tough round of bargaining made all the more difficult because of the economic hard times.

“But the solidarity of the membership and the committee’s hard work resulted in some strong gains for our membership.

CAW Local 4603 President Jim Callaghan said “we resisted concession demands and instead achieved many gains for the membership. By working together we’ve moved the agenda forward, despite tough economic times.”

CAW Calls for Probe into Mining Giant Xstrata

The CAW is calling on the federal and provincial governments to thoroughly investigate international mining giant Xstrata, including the reason for closing its Timmins Kidd metallurgical site. 

Should this investigation conclude that Xstrata has little reason to close the Timmins site, both levels of government must force Xstrata to divest their Timmins, Ontario assets, says the CAW.

The closure is slated for May 1, a move the CAW is calling unnecessary.

According to the Investment Canada Act, the federal industry minister retains the power to review the implementation of an investment by a foreign company and determine whether it varies from the original application and still results in a "net benefit" to Canada. If this is not the case, federal Industry Minister Tony Clement can force a company to remedy the situation or even sell some of its assets.

In Ontario, the Mining Act requires that ore and minerals be treated and refined in Canada. Failing to do so allows the minister of natural resources to withdraw the company's mining rights.

The closure of Xstrata's Kidd Mine metallurgical site in Timmins, Ontario could cause the loss of up to 4,428 jobs and $152 million in annual taxes, according to a new study commissioned by the Timmins Economic Development Corporation, conducted by Econometric Research Limited. 

"Northeastern Ontario cannot afford to lose these good, highly productive jobs," said CAW President Ken Lewenza. "Xstrata must not be permitted to exploit the region’s resources and then leave it in dire straits when it's convenient to do so.” 

On February 8, Xstrata announced a $2.8 billion profit for 2009, defying even analysts' expectations.
The report Our Resources Stay Here: Seven Reasons Why the Xstrata Metallurgical Site Must Stay is available at: http://www.caw.ca/en/8442.htm

Settlement Agreement with Nortel

The CAW has signed a $57 million interim settlement agreement with Nortel that will provide continued protection of benefits, pension payments and an advance on severance pay for retirees, active employees, those on long-term disability and terminated employees.

It’s anticipated the settlement agreement will be approved in court on March 3. Here is a summary of the agreement:

Medical and Dental Benefits
- if you are currently receiving a pension, if you are a beneficiary or survivor of a Nortel pensioner or if you are currently in receipt of LTD income, you will continue to receive medical and dental benefits until December 31, 2010;

- life insurance coverage continues until December 31, 2010.

Long-Term Disability Recipients
- Nortel will continue to pay long-term disability income benefits until December 31, 2010;

Pension Benefits
- Nortel will continue to make regular monthly contributions to the pension plan until September 30, 2010;

- the company will also continue to make payments to reduce the pension plan deficit until March 31, 2010;

- Nortel will stop administering the pension plan as of October 1, 2010; 

 - as of October 1, 2010 the Financial Services commission of Ontario will appoint a new administrator of the pension plan.

Termination Pay
- more than $4 million has been set aside for an initial payment of approximately $3,000 to each former employee who had their employment terminated by Nortel and who have not been re-employed by a successor or received severance pay or bonuses. This payment is on account and will reduce final severance pay claims.

In the company's heyday in the mid 1980s, the CAW represented approximately 5,000 Nortel workers at five locations.
More details are available at www.caw.ca/en/5511.htm

CAW Members Ratify Two Collective Agreements at Windsor Regional Hospital

CAW Local 2458 members have ratified one-year collective agreements covering two bargaining units at Windsor Regional Hospital. Both the Service Unit and the Skilled Trades Unit agreements include a 2% wage increase, post 65 benefits for active employees, and skilled trades language gains. 

But most importantly the deals contain job security language that will help to alleviate some of the pain that will accompany the major restructuring when Windsor Regional Hospital closes the doors at its Malden Park long-term care facility in December. This could affect up to 130 bargaining unit jobs.

Service members voted 88 per cent in support and skilled trades 82 per cent.

CAW Local 2458 President Bruce Dickie noted because of the Malden Park closure, the bargaining committee agreed it was in the best interest of their membership and a top priority, to secure an agreement that would assist them through this transition, even if that meant a shorter term.

“The alternative would have been the arbitration process that can often take so long that we quite possibly would not have had an agreement in place before the closure, and that was just not something we were prepared to risk.”

Tullio DiPonti, Financial Secretary of CAW Local 2458 said “Our membership would have certainly preferred the security of a three-year agreement, but completely understood why we could not jeopardize language that will assist those affected by this restructuring.”

CAW represents 700 members at Windsor Regional Hospital. An agreement for the technical unit, representing 125 technologists and technicians remains outstanding. 

GDP: Measuring the Human Side of the Canadian Economic Crisis

Rough Road: Auto-workers at a crossroads

Once a bustling motor-town, Oshawa has been devastated by a crisis that’s thrown Canada’s auto sector into its worst downturn since the Great Depression. As their employment benefits run out, jobless workers confront unprecedented hardship and seek support from a local action centre.

Once employed by General Motors, Brian reflects on all that he’s lost and the rough road ahead. http://gdp.nfb.ca/episode/1439/rough-road

GDP is an interactive online project of the National Film Board.

Comment, check out more stories or find out how to tell yours at: http://gdp.nfb.ca

Canadian Content Rules help Create Jobs in Quebec

In a move rarely seen in North America, a major Chinese railcar manufacturer announced plans to produce subway cars in Canada, creating 1,000 new jobs. The move is part of the company’s effort to meet Canadian-content requirements set by the government of Quebec to win a new multi-billion dollar transit project.
Zhuzhou Electric Locomotive of China, who is currently locked in a bidding war with a Bombardier-Alstom consortium to win a subway car contract from the City of Montreal, announced on February 8 it is prepared to manufacture all 1,050 required cars in Canada, if its bid is successful.

The Chinese railcar giant is conforming to the 60 per cent Canadian-content policy established by the provincial government in 2008. The policy governs all subway car purchases in the province.

“This announcement highlights the effectiveness of Buy Canadian policies as a means to create jobs and encourage new investment in our country,” said CAW President Ken Lewenza. “It proves that companies are prepared to follow local content rules in Canada, if they are put in place.”

The CAW has called on all levels of government to adopt similar policies to ensure a major portion of public spending is used to spur regional and economic development in Canada.

“This is smart economic policy that supports fair trade and good jobs in many industries, from transit to shipbuilding, and it’s time our government got on board with the rest of the world,” Lewenza said.

The CAW has mounted a number of successful Buy Canadian campaigns across the country, at both provincial and municipal levels, resulting in billions of public dollars spent in Canadian communities.

In 2009, the CAW worked with City of Toronto Mayor David Miller and the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) to include Canadian-content provisions in a record-breaking $1.2 billion light rail transit project. Because of this provision, over 200 rail vehicles will be built in Thunder Bay, Ontario creating and preserving thousands of jobs.

CAW Health Care Conference

The CAW Health Care Conference will be held May 7 to 9, 2010 at the Delta Halifax in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The conference theme is Defending our Rights - Preparing for the Future. The conference will include guest speakers, plenary sessions and workshops. Further details regarding workshop selections for pre-registration will be forwarded to CAW health care local union presidents and recording secretaries in the near future. 

The registration fee is $60. Cheques should be sent to CAW Canada, 205 Placer Court, Toronto, On, M2H 3H9, attention Peter Kennedy. Cheques should be made payable to CAW Canada with Health Care Conference in the memo field.

Notes from HAITI…
CAW Members Help Out at Clinic

Three CAW Local 636 members spent a week in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti helping out at an impromptu medical clinic assessing and providing wound and trauma care to hundreds of victims of the devastating January 12 earthquake.

Tanya Bultje, Teresa Cisek and Marlene Magashazi are Personal Support Workers at Woodingford Lodge, which has long-term care facilities in Oxford County, Tillsonburg, Ingersoll and Woodstock, Ontario.

Tanya’s sister runs a home for disadvantaged and special needs children in Port-Au-Prince. Tanya, Teresa and Marlene help at the facility from time to time and immediately headed to Port-Au-Prince after the earthquake hit.

What they found was gut-wrenching with more than 160 people camped in the yard of the house with many people suffering from severe wounds, fractures and other trauma.

Tanya said the three are planning to go back in mid-February to continue helping at the medical clinic and will be joined by a fourth Woodingford Lodge worker, Liz Pais.

“The problems in Haiti are very difficult and complicated and will continue to get worse as more time goes by,” said Tanya. “We must go on providing as much support as possible as the people of Haiti struggle to overcome the immediate crisis and work to rebuild the country over the long term.”

“The local union and the community are tremendously proud of these members who took their time to assist in the relief effort in January and are returning to assist again soon,” said CAW Local 636 President Ross Gerrie.


Ford Canada wary
despite better trends

Greg Keenan

Globe and Mail Feb. 11, 2010

David Mondragon should be rubbing his hands in glee, anticipating a new vehicle blitz from Ford Motor Co. of Canada Ltd. that will broaden its product portfolio and give the auto maker a shot of adrenaline.

Instead, the Ford Canada president is cautious about the company's prospects, despite several trends that are turning sharply in Ford's favour in 2010.

“It's still not an easy path to go, even though we're launching eight new vehicles this year,” he says. “The reality of the marketplace is that 2010 will continue to be difficult. We think the industry is going to hold flat.”

His wariness is unusual in an industry that almost always oozes with optimism, especially at this time of year – the Canadian International Auto Show is about to begin in all its shiny metal glory in Toronto.

The favourable trends represent Ford's most glittering opportunity in decades to boost sales in Canada, win back chunks of market share and generate strong momentum as the industry recovers from the dreadful depths of 2009.

Ford's new vehicles attack key segments of the Canadian market – compact cars, the largest slice of the market; subcompacts, the fifth largest of the market's 17 segments; and crossover utility vehicles, now the second biggest chunk of the market, and growing.

The auto maker is riding momentum from 2009, when it bucked the 11-per-cent slide in industry sales in Canada with a 6-per-cent gain and the biggest increase in market share among the top six selling companies in Canada.

Meanwhile, four of its five competitors for industry leadership are addressing issues that are likely to constrain sales this year: General Motors of Canada Ltd. is still restructuring its dealer network and adjusting to cutting its brand network to four from eight; Chrysler Canada Inc. has few new or redesigned vehicles to offer until later this year, although it did surpass Ford for second place in January sales; Toyota Canada Inc. is dealing with the massive recalls affecting its most popular vehicles and the impact that could have on its reputation for quality and reliability; Honda Canada Inc. is refusing to do battle in the incentive wars or unload its vehicles into the fleet markets to boost sales numbers.

While Mr. Mondragon is not expecting a strong overall market rebound, he does anticipate that Ford will increase market share again this year after picking up 2.5 percentage points of share in 2009, the largest gain in the Canadian market.

Some of that will come from the new Ford Fiesta, the company's first subcompact offering in Canada since the 1990s and part of a one-two punch in small cars that includes the compact Focus. The Canadian premiere of the Focus comes Thursday during media day at the Toronto auto show.

It follows the introduction of the new Ford Edge crossover Wednesday at the Chicago Auto Show. The Edge is assembled in Oakville, Ont., at a factory adjacent to Ford Canada's head office.

Although auto makers don't generate big profits from subcompacts, “it's extremely important because that's the segment [where] you introduce your brand to many customers,” Mr. Mondragon notes.

Fiesta should help Ford in particular in Quebec, where entry-level vehicles dominate the market and offshore manufacturers lead. “It's huge for us because for me it's all incremental sales,” says Peter McLean, president of Circuit Ford Lincoln in northeast Montreal. “It's a niche of the market that we're not competing in since 1994.”

The Focus, one size up from Fiesta, is the product of a key change at Ford Motor Co. that was put in place three years implementing what he calls “One Ford” – sharing resources, platforms and components from the global operations of the company. That silo-busting is a stark contrast to the old Ford, in which separate operations in North America, Europe and Asia worked independently and developed distinct platforms and vehicles for each region.

The Focus was designed in Europe and will eventually provide the base for about two million vehicles worldwide, Mr. Mondragon points out.

All told, Fiesta and Focus will compete in the two segments that generated one-third of the 1.46 million vehicles sold in Canada last year.

“They have to hit home runs with them,” says Chris Travell, vice-president of automotive at consulting firm Maritz Canada Inc.

Because Ford has been absent for so long from the subcompact market, Fiesta will generate what are known in the industry as conquest customers or people new to the brand.

Mr. Mondragon says 60 per cent of the people who bought Ford vehicles last year traded in competitors' cars. “We've tracked conquest sales from virtually every brand in the marketplace, even premium luxury brands,” he says. The company aims to hold that conquest rate steady in 2010.

Some of those buyers are people who credit Ford “for not having to reach into the pockets of the taxpayers,” says Geoff Helby, an analyst in the Canadian office of consulting firm J.D. Power and Associates, referring to the bailouts of Chrysler and GM by the U.S., Canadian and Ontario governments.

Even if some buyers aren't shunning Chrysler and GM for that reason, they're drawn to Ford because its financial stability indicates it's a healthy company, said Mr. Helby, who is national sales manager for the firm's Power Information Network, which receives sales data from dealerships of all brands across the country.

The PIN data show that 52 per cent of Ford's sales in December and January–excluding leased vehicles being returned to dealerships–came from trade-ins of other brands, adds Richard Cooper, executive director of Power's Canadian operations.

Some of those other brands are showcasing vehicles that won't arrive for a year or two, Mr. Mondragon says.

“Our product is here today. When customers come in our showroom they're going to see things they won't see at competitive brands.”


More Toyotas probed;
Honda recall grows

Chang-Ran Kim and Soyoung Kim

Tokyo/Detroit Reuters Published on Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2010

Honda Motor Co. said it would recall another 440,000 cars around the world for faulty airbags as rival Toyota Motor Corp. faced further probes over its largest-ever safety crisis.

Honda, Japan's No. 2 auto maker, has now recalled close to 950,000 vehicles for the airbag problems linked to one fatality and a total of 11 injuries in the United States.

While auto recalls are not uncommon and the size of Honda's is not massive, it comes at a sensitive time for the industry.

Auto makers are struggling to draw customers back to showrooms after a brutal downturn during the financial crisis, and Toyota, the world's largest car maker, is facing a storm of criticism over safety issues and its response to them.

In the latest of a string of embarrassing product problems for Toyota, U.S. regulators said they are reviewing dozens of complaints about potential steering problems in newer Toyota Corollas.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it is discussing the matter with Toyota to see if a formal investigation is warranted, a standard procedure when reviewing complaints.

Toyota expanded its largest ever recall on Tuesday, including more than 400,000 of its latest version Prius and other new hybrid models due to braking problems. It also recalled more than 7,300 late model Camrys in the United States for an unrelated braking problem.

That comes on top of some 8.1 million vehicles recalled since September for problems with slipping floormats and sticking accelerator pedals that have been linked to crashes that killed at least 19 people.

A U.S. congressional committee postponed a hearing scheduled for Wednesday to examine the recalls and Toyota's response due to a snowstorm expected to hit Washington.

Toyota president Akio Toyoda said on Tuesday he may travel to the United States next week to tackle criticism that his company moved too slowly on earlier recalls.

Toyota faces potential litigation over the crashes linked to the problem of unintended acceleration as well as class-action lawsuits over the brake problems with the Prius.

The cost of buying protection on Toyota's debt hit a seven-month high this week as its recall by woes widened, but analysts say borrowing costs are not expected to jump substantially.

“Toyota is cash rich,” said Mana Nakazora, head of credit research at BNP Paribas. “The firm can afford to wait for a better time to raise funds than now.”

Toyota, which had cash and cash equivalents of ¥2.13-trillion ($24-billion) at the end of December, has nearly $72-billion in bonds outstanding, according to Reuters data.

Honda chief financial officer Yoichi Hojo told Reuters that the recall of 437,763 vehicles will likely cost it an estimated ¥2-billion to ¥3-billion ($22-million to $33-million).

The moves and costs come on top of a recall first announced in November, 2008, for 4,200 Accord and Civic sedans due to faulty airbag inflators, and expanded last June to cover an additional 510,000 vehicles globally.

The faulty inflators could produce too much pressure and risked rupturing their casings, sending shards towards the driver in an accident.

The airbags are made by the U.S. unit of Japan's Takata Corp., a Honda spokesman said. A spokesman at the supplier said the company was not aware of any defect in airbags it supplies to other auto makers.

Mr. Hojo said Honda will ask Takata for a compensation of some sort and to improve its production line, as the defect originated in the manufacturing process, not in the design approved by Honda.

The latest recall applies to 2001 and 2002 model-year Accord, Civic, Odyssey, CR-V, Pilot and 2002 Acura TL and CL vehicles in the United States, as well as the Inspire, Saber and Lagreat in Japan. All vehicles are made at Honda's U.S. and Canadian plants.

Last month, Honda announced a global recall of about 646,000 cars for a fault with a window switch.

Some analysts said auto makers regularly make recalls, and media reactions to recent cases have been somewhat overblown.

“While the way auto makers handle recalls is important, I think people should be careful not to overreact to every single recall,” said Yoshihiko Tabei, chief analyst at Kazaka Securities.

“Rather, my concern for the auto industry is their earnings for the next financial year, given the absence of the boost they enjoyed from government incentives this year.”

Honda shares closed 1.6 per cent lower in Tokyo market up 0.3 per cent, while shares of Toyota, which lost about a fifth of their value since late January, rose 0.4 per cent.


Next Edge gains 3 engine options

4-cylinder EcoBoost is included for 2011


Feb 10, 2010

The 2011 Ford Edge to be unveiled today at the Chicago Auto Show will show off a variety of new features

A more aggressive front grille and more angular headlamps give the popular crossover a more dynamic face. It also gets a more tech-friendly interior.

But the biggest change for the 2011 Edge is under the hood, with three new engine options.

The Edge has already been a successful vehicle for Ford.

The automaker has sold 331,672 since its introduction in 2006, making it among the most popular midsize crossovers in the U.S.

Ford said the updates to the Edge will give customers a reason to buy another one.

"We're talking about ... significant exterior improvements, an all-new interior, a vehicle that is quieter, and a vehicle that will be more fun to drive," Derrick Kuzak, Ford's group vice president of global product development, said last week.

Customers are to be able to pick from three new engines -- including a four-cylinder, 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine -- when it goes on sale this summer.

Ford introduced six-cylinder EcoBoost engines on several models last year, but the four-cylinder EcoBoost makes its debut in the Edge.

EcoBoost combines direct-injection technology and turbocharging to improve fuel economy without sacrificing power.

In addition to the small EcoBoost engine, Ford is offering a 3.5-liter V6 engine with 285 horsepower and 253 pound-feet of torque on the Edge. For the Edge Sport, Ford is offering a 3.7-liter V6 engine with 305 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque.

The Edge also will be the first vehicle to feature Ford's new MyFord Touch technology, which replaces traditional knobs and switches with a five-way controller on the steering wheel as well as a touch screen.

MyFord manages all climate, navigation, entertainment and communication functions.

In the past, what the automotive industry refers to as mid-cycle freshening typically resulted in minor styling changes. But last year, when Ford updated its Fusion midsize car, critics gushed about the changes, U.S. sales increased 22% and the vehicle won several major awards.

Kuzak said the Edge is another example "of our new approach to freshenings."

Ford ready to take wraps
off Transit Connect Electric

Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News
Feb 10, 2010

Dearborn --Ford Motor Co. is scheduled to unveil the Ford Transit Connect Electric on Wednesday at the Chicago Auto Show. It's the first in a series of battery-powered vehicles from the Dearborn automaker.

As The Detroit News first reported last week, the new version of Ford's compact commercial van will be powered by a high-voltage electric motor that takes its power from a battery pack charged by being plugged into a 120- or 240-volt outlet. The company says it has a top speed of 75 miles per hour and a range of 80 miles on a full charge.

The Transit Connect Electric will be available later this year to commercial fleet customers.

Analyst Erich Merkle of Autoconomy.com in Grand Rapids said that is the right market for the all-electric van.

"It's perfect for transporting cargo around urban settings," he said, noting that commercial vehicles often follow fixed routes and can easily return to their garage for recharging.

"It's most viable for business applications. Electric vehicles really aren't viable right now for consumers looking for everyday transportation."

Derrick Kuzak, Ford's global head of product development, said the company already is in discussions with a number of commercial fleet customers that are interested in the new electric van.

"It's the first of our next set of electrified vehicles," he said, noting that the Transit Connect Electric will be followed next year by the Ford Focus Electric, a battery-powered version of the company's new compact. In 2012, Ford is scheduled to begin shipping a next-generation hybrid and a plug-in hybrid built off the same platform.

Though the Transit Connect is built in Turkey, all of those vehicles will be assembled at Ford's Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne.

Azure Dynamics Inc. of Oak Park will make the electric powertrain for the van. The company already manufactures hybrid electric and electric drive technology for shuttle buses and commercial trucks, some of which are based on Ford platforms.

"For us, it's an important evolution of our existing relationship with Ford," said CEO Scott Harrison, who promised the new powertrain will be built in Michigan. "We see a growing demand from all segments."

He said telecommunications companies, utilities and delivery services are among those clamoring for electric commercial vehicles.

The lithium-ion battery pack will be produced by Johnson Controls-Saft.

Ford also is scheduled to debut a Transit Connect taxi for livery customers. It incorporates a special version of Ford's Sync system that will allow passengers to access news, sports scores, weather and other information from the back seat of the van, which features more leg room than the regular model. The same system also will allow riders to pay with a credit card.

The Transit Connect taxi will be powered either by compressed natural gas or liquid propane.

"That approach makes a lot of sense in an urban environment," Merkle said. "It's also easy to exit and enter. In many ways, it's going to be better than the Crown Victoria."


Ford offers to fix Fusion, Milan Hybrid brakes

Feb 9, 2010

Ford today announced that it is offering to repair 17,600 Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan hybrids that might give drivers the impression that the brakes have failed as they attempt to stop or slow the vehicle.

The Dearborn automaker said in a statement that the braking problem occurs as the car switches from a regenerative braking system to conventional hydraulic braking.

Ford spokesman Said Deep said the vehicles maintain full braking capability, but “some people may perceive that condition as a loss of brakes.”

The company has developed a software fix that changes the pedal feel so it doesn’t drop, Deep said. That software change is already on all vehicles produced since Oct. 17.

Consumer Reports said today an engineer who was testing a Ford Fusion Hybrid thought the brakes failed as he was testing the vehicle and zoomed through a stop sign.

“It didn’t actually fail,” said David Champion, director of automobile testing for Consumer Reports. “What happened was the pedal dropped and the driver thought the pedal failed.”

Champion said he views the brake defect as scary and serious but noted that Consumer Reports has praised the overall quality and safety of the Fusion Hybrid.

Ford said it plans to send customers with affected vehicles a notice in the mail and said owners with those vehicles can have the vehicle software reprogrammed by dealers at no charge.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was initially notified of the issue last year, Deep said, but the agency has only received one customer complaint.

Deep said Ford decided to announce its customer satisfaction program today because the company has been receiving complaints from customers and because of questions raised by Consumer Reports.

News of the program comes amid heightened attention to safety to recalls involving Toyota vehicles for unintended acceleration issues and a formal probe by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration into braking complaints on 37,000 Toyota Prius hybrids.


Volume 40, No. 5 – February 5, 2010

CAW Local 598 Members Ratify Xstrata Agreement

CAW/Mine Mill Local 598 members at Xstrata Nickel in Sudbury, Ontario have overwhelmingly ratified a new three-year collective agreement that rejects company demands for concessions and ensures greater job security for workers.

CAW members voted 93 per cent in favour of the new agreement. The CAW represents 580 active members and 500 workers who are laid off.

“Our priorities included the elimination of numerous company demands for concessions, while also making gains in the areas of job security and pensions,” said Jerry Dias, assistant to the CAW President. “With the support of the membership we achieved those objectives after tough around-the- clock bargaining.”

The new agreement includes a $2,500 signing bonus for active and laid off workers, a retirement incentive of $10,000 for eligible employees who voluntarily elect to retire with an unreduced pension during the life of the agreement, and the re-opening of the Fraser Copper Mine creating 140 jobs.

Other gains include a $150 per month pension gain for those with 30 years service or more, spousal life insurance of $10,000 and a number of other benefit gains. There is a wage increase in the third year and COLA is maintained.

Company demands for temporary recalls and temporary workers were rejected. “All members returning to work will have the same rights as any other member and their recall rights will be renewed,” said CAW/Mine Mill Local 598 President Richard Paquin.

He stressed that the new agreement protects and improves the pension plan. “Our membership has remained united throughout this journey and has to be commended for staying united,” Paquin said.

CAW’s Nash Gets NDP Nomination

Hundreds of supporters of Peggy Nash crowded into a Toronto high school auditorium to nominate her as the NDP federal candidate for the Parkdale-High Park riding, the riding she represented as a Member of Parliament from 2006-2008. 

“This country needs her leadership in the House,” said NDP Leader Jack Layton at the January 28 meeting. “Peggy was raising the crisis in manufacturing in the House three years ago. This was at a time when MPs were derided by the Conservative government for speaking up on behalf of those who were losing their jobs. She was pushing for a manufacturing strategy, a green manufacturing strategy.” Layton said that had the government heeded Nash’s advice then, our economy would be in much better shape today.

Although there is no election on the horizon, Layton pledged that getting Nash elected would be a priority for the party. The incumbent is Liberal MP Gerard Kennedy, a one time party leader candidate and former Ontario MPP. Kennedy has raised the ire of many residents who complain about not having seen him since the last election.

Nash, a lifelong resident of Parkdale-High Park and community activist, was lauded for her commitment to social justice issues, working hard with groups ranging from Students for a Free Tibet to Equal Voice and various environmental organizations.

In her nomination acceptance speech Nash spoke about her deep shame, shared by many Canadians, at how our country has fallen in the eyes of the world during the tenure of Stephen Harper. “I was deeply embarrassed and infuriated that our country was voted the most notorious fossil during the Copenhagen UN climate change negotiations,” said Nash. 

Nash also talked about the necessity of breaking through the cynicism many Canadians feel about politics and our government to create a real democracy of local and national engagement. “Let’s work together to create a new democracy where your MP is the voice of the community, for the community!”

Protesters Take Over N.S. Government Office to Save Ferry

Demonstrators took over a Nova Scotia government office on February 4 following a spirited rally calling on the Nova Scotia government to reverse its decision to end the high-speed ferry service between Yarmouth, N.S., Portland and Bar Harbor, Maine.

The group of approximately 250 people, including CAW members and staff, eventually left the building peacefully.

Politicians of all stripes, except for the NDP, attended the rally outside and spoke in favour of keeping the ferry service, including Yarmouth Mayor Phil Mooney. CAW President Ken Lewenza also spoke at the rally and pressed the need to reverse the decision which was made suddenly and without consultation.

“The short-term and long-term effects of this decision are devastating to every industry – from tourism to shipbuilding,” said Lewenza. The end of the ferry service means a loss of 100 direct jobs and 500-600 spin-off jobs. Lewenza said that the Yarmouth to Maine route is the only crossing that isn’t supported by the federal government and this situation must be fixed for the long term viability of the communities that rely on the ferry service.”

To hear more about why Nova Scotians need the Yarmouth ferry, please visit: http://www.youtube.com/user/rescueourferry#p/a/f/1/X2iaFxs41YQ

OFL Launches Communities That Work Campaign

Unions in Ontario are pressing Premier Dalton McGuinty to make next month's budget a 'good jobs' budget with a campaign calling on the government to protect public services, create green jobs and support precarious workers, among other demands.

"The top priority for the Ontario government must be to preserve and create good jobs," says Ontario Federation of Labour President Sid Ryan. "That's how we'll pay down the deficit and speed up and consolidate the economic recovery. It's the only sustainable way to really help the government's bottom line.

"Billions of dollars have been spent on infrastructure to stimulate the economy," said Ryan.  "We don't want to see that progress reversed in this budget by cuts or sell-offs.”

On February 1, the OFL launched its "Communities That Work" campaign, taking to the airwaves in a province-wide blitz of radio ads to deliver the message.

"This is an important campaign and I encourage all Ontario CAW members to get involved in their communities," said CAW President Ken Lewenza. The CAW recently began the process of re- affiliating with the OFL and the campaign is the first major initiative since then.

For more information or to find out how to get involved, please visit: http://www.communitiesthatwork.ca/

Unemployed Running Out of Benefits Before Finding Jobs

A new report reveals that hundreds of thousands of unemployed Canadians may run out of Employment Insurance benefits before they can find a new job.
The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report indicates that 500,000 Canadians who launched EI claims last year could have benefits run out with no job prospect on the horizon.

The report, which was written by Canadian Labour Congress chief economist Andrew Jackson, highlights that 120,000 more unemployed Canadians could not collect benefits as of October 2009, compared to October of the year before, prior to the recession.

"We can expect that the total number of new regular claims in 2009 will (have) hit about two million," Jackson said. "If the exhaustion rate were to remain the same as in 2006-07, we could eventually see some 500,000 plus exhausted claims in late 2009 and into 2010."

Although the report credited the government for extending benefits by five more weeks, it said these changes were not enough to handle the additional demands caused by the recession.

Even with EI system improvements, only about half of those unemployed across Canada were collecting benefits as of last October. In Ontario, which has been hard hit by the recession, the number collecting benefits is about 41 per cent, Jackson said.

TTC Chair Gets CAW Endorsement for Mayor

Toronto mayoral candidate and Toronto Transit Commission Chair Adam Giambrone addresses supporters at the launch of his campaign in Toronto’s Little Italy, February 1, 2010. Giambrone has received the endorsement of CAW President Ken Lewenza for his progressive vision of the city’s future, including strengthening public transit.
McMaster Establishes Canada’s First Labour Studies School

Hamilton’s McMaster University will be the first Canadian university to run a fully autonomous labour studies school, following an announcement made on campus January 26.

McMaster pioneered the development of university labour studies programs in Canada, establishing the first in 1976.

Since then, labour studies programs focusing on issues of work, trade unions, globalization, equity and labour market restructuring have been formed in universities across the country – usually under the umbrella of the social and political sciences departments.
Expanding the scope of the program into its own school at McMaster, will offer professors and program administrators more flexibility in determining curriculum, programs and enhanced graduate study opportunities for students.

This move is significant because it comes at a time when Canadian business schools have become common place among post-secondary institutions, said CAW Work Organization and Training Director David Robertson.

“Hopefully this ground-breaking work at McMaster will strengthen Canadian labour studies programs elsewhere in the country in the face of these current academic trends,” Robertson said. 

McMaster University has maintained a long-standing relationship with the CAW, partnering on a landmark non-degree labour studies certificate that was launched over 10 years ago. Each year over 200 students participate in after-hours labour courses focused on everything from politics to the environment, and labour history to the economy. 

Notes from Haiti…
CAW Members Support Rescue Mission of Haitian Orphans

CAW Local 2002 members Edie Kaye and Elizabetta Long took part in a rescue mission that brought orphaned Haitian children to their new families in Canada.

The mission lead by Air Canada, and dubbed “Operation Stork”, helped unite 154 orphaned children with their adopted families.

“There were concerns that the adoption process was tied up in various levels of bureaucracy, which worried many of the new parents,” said Kaye, a workplace representative at the Air Canada Reservations office in Saint John, New Brunswick.

“Air Canada offered to expedite the process by flying these children to Canada. I feel so fortunate that I was able to take part in this initiative.”

Both Kaye and Long work as Customer Sales and Service Agents for Air Canada and were among the many CAW members who volunteered their time to assist the Haitian children during their flights to Canada. Three Air Canada flights were sent to Haiti from January 23 to January 30 as part of Operation Stork. 

The CAW has set a goal of raising $250,000 for Haitian relief efforts.

CAW Welcomes New Members

►        Nutritional Management Services, St. Thomas, ON – 22 members in CAW Local 2168;

►        Waterloo Regional Homes for Mental Health Inc., Kitchener, ON – 31 members in CAW Local 1106;

►        Mcintosh Limousine Service Ltd.,/Air Cab Limousine Services (1985) Limited and Aaroport Limousine Services Ltd., Toronto, ON – 210 members in CAW Local 252;

Education Update! 
New!  One-Day Grievance Handling & Workplace Leadership – Basic

Would you like to know how shop stewards or committeepersons investigate grievances, present them to management and write them up properly?

Would you like to learn how by practicing these essential steps using actual workplace situations and contract language?

Have you considered running for this position? Or are you simply interested in learning more about how the union handles workplace issues?

If yes, this one-day introductory course is for you.

This course was produced by the CAW Education Department. For information on how to register or how to book this course in your area, check the CAW web page at www.caw.ca/education., or contact the CAW Education Department at educate@caw.ca.

Stop Bill C-391 –Save the National Gun Registry!

The CAW is ramping up efforts to ensure that Bill C-391 (the bill to scrap the federal long-gun registry) does not become law.  To find out how to lobby your MP, please contact http://www.caw.ca/en/8182.htm

For more information, also visit: http://www.caw.ca/en/8182.htm


Toyota struggles to
stop runaway crisis

'Sudden acceleration' issues create gauntlet of troubles

Daniel Howes Feb 4, 2010

Remarkable doesn't begin to describe what's happening to Toyota Motor Corp.

Its reputation for delivering safe, reliable, quality-engineered vehicles is in tatters. Governments from Tokyo to Washington, clearly on the muscle, are pressuring the automaker to act openly and quickly. Toyota's executives, corporate culture and dealer body, each touted by apologists for their ability to do no wrong, are struggling to manage a crisis that is expanding faster than they can keep up.

And now the Japanese juggernaut's trend-setting Prius, the gas-electric hybrid that burnished the company's green image with the Hollywood set, Silicon Valley hotshots and the coastal political elite, is under investigation on two continents for braking problems.

With so much happening so fast -- expanding recalls, new investigations, a startling mea culpafrom a top Toyota engineer, the U.S. government's aggressive posture -- the automaker is speeding toward a potentially fraught crossroads: How long have they known and why didn't they do something about it sooner?

The implications of this "sudden acceleration" morass are likely to be profound for Toyota, its corporate reputation and its standing in the global auto business. For Detroit? Huge for a town whose auto industry is just getting off its collective knees as its arch-rival appears to be getting mired ever deeper in a double-whammy of suspect credibility and dodgy quality.

Bad enough is the official stuff of recalls, government oversight and congressional hearings, market share loss and declining residual values of everything from Camry and Corolla sedans to Tundra pickups and Highlander crossovers.

Even worse: Influential shapers of public opinion -- comedians from Jon Stewart to David Letterman -- are joining the metastasizing fray. Exhibit No. 1 is a segment on Stewart's "The Daily Show," aired Tuesday on Comedy Central, dubbed "Toyotathon of Death."

"Boys, we're back in the game," he said, framed by logos of General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC. "All we had to do was have the leading competition become a deathtrap. I guess the point is, if you're driving a Toyota, you most likely can't stop."

Not good. Stripped of the engineering-ese proffered by Toyota's chief quality officer, Shinichi Sasaki, and customer-service doublespeak from Jim Lentz, president of Toyota Motor Sales USA, Stewart pretty much nails it: Mounting cases of sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles and complaints of suspect brakes in the 2010 Prius hybrids are all about one thing -- can you stop your Toyota?

That the question can legitimately be asked, whether by a cable-channel comic or a congressional committee, suggests just how serious this predicament is for Toyota. After all, this is the reputed gold standard, the industry benchmark that exploited the opening offered by the self-inflicted stumble and fall of Detroit to bid for the title of world's largest automaker.

Until it stumbled itself, forced to slow production at six North American plants, to stop sales of eight models and to endure a media gantlet probably just getting warmed up. So much for the free ride that can come with gangbuster business results.

Now, they've got camera crews showing CEO Akio Toyoda, scion of the founding family, ducking comment. Lentz, the ranking American executive, is openly contradicted by the secretary of transportation. Comics are trashing the brand; media coverage is gathering steam; dealers are contending with frustrated customers.

And an influential Silicon Valley techie, Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Wozniak, is publicly saying he's been trying to bring concerns about his Prius to the attention of Toyota and the feds but got brushed aside.

"I don't know a way to get heard," he said Monday at the Discovery Forum in San Francisco. "This new model has an accelerator that goes wild, but only under cruise control. I can repeat it over and over again, safely. It's in the software."

This story is approaching a tipping point, morphing from the bungling of a massive automotive recall into a cultural phenomenon with enormous commercial implications for Toyota and the auto industry. Also brewing: a battle with decidedly political overtones.

It's not insignificant that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is pushing back on Toyota, hard. Or that former heads of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are using on-the-record comments to drive home the point that concerns with Toyota models suddenly accelerating are longstanding and that Toyota has been slow to address them.

Or that, like it or not, the feds are sounding aggressive when the Treasury Department owns a controlling stake in Toyota rival GM, and Toyota's nemesis -- Team Obama's ally, the United Auto Workers -- holds a majority stake in Chrysler through the union's health care trust fund.

Remarkable? That's not even the half of it.


Ford Taurus SHO's chunky looks belie powerful capabilities
Ford Taurus

Scott Burgess - Det News
Feb 4, 2010

The 2010 Taurus SHO is so American it should be sold only in red, white and blue.

It's slightly overweight, has more high-tech gadgets strapped to its hip than a Japanese tourist and touts its green street cred with a 365-horsepower turbocharged direct-injection V-6.

SHO, which stands for Super High Output, is a fantastic car, though it never felt like the complete package.

Now, I'm not poking fun at Americans or the Taurus SHO, for that matter. I'm merely acknowledging out loud what we all quietly know.

Subtle has never been the American way. We are a people who say "look at me" as often as we can. We dance in the end zone, then tweet about it in case someone didn't see it. We're brash, we break stuff and then snarl about it. Just watch the Super Bowl on Sunday and count how many times players quietly return to their position after a big play.

The Taurus SHO should be taking notes.

It tries too hard to act normal, when it should grab a little more attitude. This is 2010, not 1932 -- though there are similarities.

If you've got direct-injection and two turbos attached to your 3.5-liter V-6, let people know it. Turn off the electronic stability control and smoke all four tires in that standard all-wheel-drive. Wave an arm out the window, signal a first down and see if 350 pound-feet of torque can dislocate a shoulder.

A little smack talk, please. Anything less would just be un-American.

The performance brother to Ford's flagship, the SHO holds a special place for the Blue Oval. It was introduced in 1989 as a limited-production vehicle; though after selling 15,000 the first year, Ford kept it around for 10 more.

Wolf in sheep's clothing
The new model maintains the Taurus SHO tradition of understated looks. The car was specifically designed to resemble a sleeper but act like a racer, according to Ford.

The suspension and steering are dialed in perfectly for such a big sedan -- the original Taurus SHO was built as a midsize car. The new SHO sports big slabs of sheet metal and high beltline.

The optional SHO Performance Package provides an even tighter ride, practically eliminating body roll through hard corners and comes with bigger brakes, which this car could use on the regular version, too. There's even a sports mode that will clamp down the ride.

The electric power-assist steering feels well-weighted through turns. Even on more subdued driving on the highway, the Taurus SHO provides a solid, quiet, smooth ride.

It may have tons of power at the ready, but for the most part you forget you're in a monster machine when you're driving. It feels a little heavy on the road -- it weighs 4,368 pounds -- but in a well-built sort of way; call it Super Husky Optimization. Hitting 90 mph in this car is as easy as breathing.

Its gas mileage, however, suffers from all of that weight and power. While the EPA has come out and said the SHO can hit 17 miles per gallon in city driving and 25 mpg on the highway, my unofficial testing put my combined mileage around 15 mpg. In fairness to Ford, I was not driving the SHO like an EPA tester. I tended to emphasize the "Boost" part of this particular engine's name more than the "Eco" prefix.

This car has all of the attributes of something special. Most people won't know that when you drive up, though.

There are few differences between the SHO and regular Taurus exteriors. Designers gave it specially painted rims and 19- or 20-inch high performance tires, a deck lid spoiler, two chrome exhaust tips and new grille. There are also different parking lamp bezels and some SHO badges sprinkled about the car. But a quick glance won't reveal much.

The SHO should pop a little more when it drives by. Might I suggest glitter and a giant hood scoop?

Attitude shift
If people can't tell the SHO is extraordinary, this could lead to years of therapy and self-esteem issues -- which would lock in the car's Americanism. Nowadays everyone is special; the Taurus SHO should embrace it.

That old-school attitude of speak softly and whack people with a big stick just can't work in our narcissistic modern times.

The SHO needs to shout more from the tops of parking garages that it's got paddle shifters, a silky smooth six-speed automatic transmission with downshifting rev matches and can outperform just about any mainstream large sedan on the road. After all, it's true.

What's also true is the interior. While nearly identical to the regular Taurus, the SHO felt less impressive. Like its exterior, there are subtle differences, such as the aluminum pedals and leather-trimmed seats with Miko suede inserts.

Some of the silver trim, especially around the instrument cluster and on the passenger side, felt and looked cheap. It's a strange phenomenon: When you peer into the cabin it looks great; when you sit in it, it doesn't.

SHOing promise
But there's no denying the comfort it provides. The roominess makes it an excellent choice for someone who has to carry around five American-size adults.

Technology-wise, the Taurus SHO offers a buffet of gizmos and gadgets. From the upgraded Sync to blind-spot detection, this Taurus SHO lets drivers keep their eyes on the road.

There's also adaptive cruise control, which adjusts the car's speed to those in front of it; Ford's capless fuel cap -- it's a fuel cap with a hole in it; and lots of other features that do everything from swivel the headlights, watch for traffic as you back up and rub your derriere as you drive.

If that's not showing off, I don't know what is. And that's what I like to see: brazen confidence ready to take on the world. Don't hide under the Taurus name, be yourself, be the king of the road.

Go on, SHO me.


Toyota hit by Prius brake complaints
Employees at Toyota Motor Corp's Tsutsumi plant work at a Prius hybrid assembly line in Toyota, central Japan. Toyota said its North American and Japanese dealers had received several dozen complaints over what drivers characterised as insufficient braking on the new Prius hybrid when driving over bumpy or frozen roads. REUTERS/Toyota Motor Corp/Handout REUTERS

Defective brakes come amid massive global recall over
faulty accelerators in other models; shares plunge

Toyota Motor Corp.has been hit by over 100 complaints in the U.S. and Japan about brake problems with the popular Prius hybrid, the latest in a spate of quality troubles for the automaker as it grapples with massive global recalls.

The Japanese company's sales are being battered in the U.S. – Toyota's biggest market – after recalls of top-selling models to fix a gas pedal that can stick in the depressed position.

The new Prius gas-electric hybrid, which went on sale in Japan and the U.S. in May 2009, is not part of the recalls that extend to Europe and China, covering nearly 4.5 million vehicles.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has received about 100 complaints involving the brakes of the Prius new model. Two involved crashes resulting in injuries.

Japan's transport ministry said Wednesday it has also received 14 complaints since July last year about brake problems with Toyota's new Prius hybrid.

The 14 complaints included an accident in July 2009, in which a Prius crashed head on into another car at an intersection. Transport ministry official Masaya Ota said two people were slightly injured in the accident.

“The Prius driver in the accident told police that a brake did not work,” Ota said. “Other Prius drivers also complained brakes were not so sharp.” The complaints in Japan involve the new Prius model, and the vehicles were all made in Japan, he said.

The ministry ordered Toyota, the world's No. 1 automaker, to investigate the complaints. The other 13 cases happened from December to January 2010. Ota said the ministry has yet to receive a formal report on the complaints from Toyota.

Toyota spokeswoman Ririko Takeuchi said the company has received reports about the Prius complaints in North America and in Japan and was now looking into the matter.

Toyota shares plunged 5.7 per cent to 3,400 yen ($38) with jittery investors dumping stocks in the wake of the Prius woes in the U.S. and Japan. The benchmark Nikkei stock index edged up just 0.3 per cent to 10,404.33 as the drop in Toyota dampened sentiment.

“Investors were worried the latest trouble involving the Prius could get bigger. The problem could pose a bigger question on Toyota's quality and safety,” said Kazuhiro Takahashi, market analyst at Daiwa Securities SMBC Co. Ltd.

The Japanese automaker is facing growing criticism that it has not done enough to ensure the safety of its vehicles.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told The Associated Press Tuesday that federal officials had to alert Toyota to the seriousness of the safety issues that eventually led to the recalls.

“They should have taken it seriously from the very beginning when we first started discussing it with them,” he said. “Maybe they were a little safety deaf.”

Mr. LaHood also said the U.S. government was considering civil penalties for Toyota for having dragged its feet on safety concerns.

Toyota executive vice president Shinichi Sasaki acknowledged Tuesday in a Nagoya, Japan, news conference that it took prodding from NHTSA officials for the company to decide on the U.S. recall.

Toyota has long prided itself on sterling vehicle quality and assembly line methods that empowered workers to ensure faultless production.

The latest recall, announced Jan. 21, over sticky gas pedals affects 2.3 million vehicles in the U.S. alone.

Any serious problems emerging in the Prius, Toyota's flagship green car model, is certain to further tarnish its brand.

The Prius, now in its third generation since its 1997 introduction, is the best-selling gas-electric hybrid in the world, racking up a cumulative 1.6 million units sold so far, according to Toyota.

Hybrids, by going back and forth between a gasoline engine and electric motor, tend to offer better mileage in slow-speed and stop-and-go driving that's common in crowded cities.


Ford to unveil all-electric Transit van at Chicago show

Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News
Feb 3, 2010

Ford Motor Co. says it will unveil a new, all-electric version of its Ford Transit Connect commercial van next week at the Chicago Auto Show.

The battery-powered van, which will be available to fleet customers later this year, is the first in a series of electric vehicles the Dearborn automaker has promised to bring to market over the next couple of years.

"Ford Transit Connect Electric is an urban, zero emission, light commercial van that serves the environment as well as its owners," Ford said. "Instead of an internal combustion engine, the Transit Connect Electric uses a high-voltage electric motor that takes its power from a battery pack charged by plugging into a 120- or 240-volt outlet and uses not a single drop of gas."

Ford plans to introduce a battery-powered version of its new Ford Focus to retail customers next year.


February 02. 2010

Chicago Auto Show

Ford to show off greener Edge
Ford Motor Co. to unveil the 2011 Ford Edge at the Chicago Auto Show. (Brian Williams for Brenda Priddy & Co.)

Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News

Next week, Ford Motor Co. will unveil the 2011 Ford Edge at the Chicago Auto Show -- its latest product freshening and the first to feature a new, four-cylinder version of its fuel-saving EcoBoost engine.

The latest version of Ford's popular midsize crossover also will be the first to feature the company's new MyFord Touch system, which replaces most of the traditional analog gauges, switches and knobs with full-color computer screens and touch-sensitive buttons.

The body of the Edge is new from the windshield forward, but the biggest change is under the hood. In addition to the current 3.5-liter V-6, the 2011 model will offer a 2.0-liter four-cylinder EcoBoost that delivers the same power as a 3.0-liter V-6 with significantly better fuel economy, according to sources familiar with Ford's plans.

"It's a pretty heavy face-lift. It's more than what you'd normally do with a mid-cycle freshening," said analyst Jim Hall of 2953 Analytics LLP in Birmingham who has seen the new Edge. "Usually, automakers just change up some of the plastic."

He said the new front-end is more reflective of Ford's European styling, which is rapidly migrating to most of its U.S. products as the company consolidates its global lineup.

The money saved by that consolidation is what makes major mid-cycle changes like this possible, said analyst Erich Merkle of Autoconomy.com in Grand Rapids.

"They're making the investment in the product, and it shows," he said. "They're making their product cadence a lot faster than anyone else in the industry."

Manufactured at Ford's Oakville Assembly Plant in Ontario, the Edge was seen as a critical vehicle for Ford when it was launched in late 2006 as a 2007 model. Since then, it has become the best-selling vehicle in the midsize crossover segment.

Ford would not comment on the new Edge or on its plans for the Chicago show.

Merkle said the new Edge also will be quieter and more comfortable than the current model.

"Everything you can see, feel and touch will be noticeably better than its predecessor's," he said. "But the underlying architecture will remain the same. It's a good strategy."


U.S. raised Toyota gas
pedal issue in '07

Ex-NHTSA official: Carmaker insisted 'it was the floor mats'

David Shepardson and Christine Tierney / The Detroit News
February 1, 2010

A former top U.S. safety official said federal investigators raised concerns to Toyota Motor Corp. about the gas pedals in its vehicles as far back as 2007 but were told they weren't the problem.

At the time, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Japanese automaker were investigating hundreds of reports of unintended acceleration of Toyota vehicles.

"Toyota was certain it was the floor mats," Nicole Nason, NHTSA administrator from 2006 until late 2008, said in an interview.

"If Toyota misled the federal government, they should be severely punished," Nason said. She said it was "extremely coincidental" that Toyota has issued two separate recalls involving the pedals of models NHTSA was investigating in 2007.

As Toyota's handling of this issue comes under increasing scrutiny, the company is trying to reassure its dealers, customers and the public.

Toyota is expected to outline to dealers today how it plans to check and repair the pedals of 2.3 million vehicles it recalled Jan. 21.

In addition, Jim Lentz, president of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., is scheduled to appear on NBC's "Today" show this morning and other programs to explain the automaker's plan to fix the problem.

Toyota also bought ads in major newspapers Sunday and today to stress that dealers were first in line to receive new pedals so that they could work on customers' recalled vehicles.

"A temporary pause. To put you first," the ads say. They go on to explain that Toyota is halting production this week of the eight Toyota-brand recalled models "because it's the right thing to do for our customers."

The production halt, announced last week, will allow the company to ship more new pedals to dealers so they can service their customers' vehicles and repair cars in stock.

The recall to fix pedals that can get stuck or fail to spring back properly follows a huge recall in September to address the risk of unintended acceleration linked to floor mats. That recall, Toyota's largest ever in the United States, was expanded last week to more than 5.3 million vehicles.

Toyota says the two recalls are unrelated. It has attributed reports of unintended acceleration that go back many years to loose floor mats and other materials that could entrap the pedals.

Toyota officials say the company identified the problem of the sticking pedals produced by one supplier, Elkhart, Ind.-based CTS Corp., as they were reviewing reports of unintended acceleration in vehicles that didn't have mats.

Nason said NHTSA investigators asked in 2007 whether the pedals might be part of the problem during the agency's questioning about mats that were interfering with the pedals. Toyota issued a small recall of Lexus and Toyota cars in 2007 to replace all-weather mats.

NHTSA said in an April 2008 report that it sent surveys to nearly 2,000 owners of 2007 Lexus ES350 sedans and nearly 10 percent -- or 59 out of 600 that responded -- reported they had "experienced unintended acceleration," but only 35 of those said they had all-weather floor mats.

But in 2007 and 2008, the automaker repeatedly told NHTSA that no fixes to the pedals -- or anything else beyond the floor mats -- was necessary.

Nason said NHTSA's interaction with Toyota in 2007 raises questions about how much regulators have to rely on what automakers tell them.

"It goes to the larger question of trust between the agency and the automaker," Nason said. She said NHTSA took appropriate action in 2007 based on what the agency knew. "I don't think it was necessary for us to force them to do more because they presented us with a problem and a solution."

Toyota maintained that loose or ill-fitting mats were the problem until November, drawing a public rebuke at that point from the federal safety agency for saying the mats were the only issue.

Two committees in Congress are investigating how NHTSA and Toyota handled the reports of unintended acceleration. They will hold hearings this month. The last thing Toyota needs is weeks of drawn-out investigations, hearings and potentially conflicting accounts with NHTSA, said Jeffrey Caponigro, president of Caponigro Public Relations Inc., which has offices in Southfield and Tampa, Fla.

"That will just continue to remind people about the quality issues of Toyota," said Caponigro, who has advised automakers in crisis management.

Toyota officials were not available to respond to Nason's comments. But the company has said its investigations of floor mat and pedal issues in 2007 and 2008 were proper.

In a report sent to NHTSA on Jan. 21, Toyota said that in 2007 it received reports of pedals in Tundra trucks that felt rough or were slow to return to the idle position. Toyota identified a material in the pedal that could swell under humid conditions. It had its supplier use a different material but said it "considered it to be a drivability issue unrelated to safety."

Late in 2008, Toyota said it received information from its European operations about sticking pedals. It said it began a detailed investigation in March 2009.

Last week, Toyota discussed potential fixes for the pedals with NHTSA executives.

The federal safety agency is not required to formally approve a remedy but automakers involved in big recalls tend to consult with NHTSA officials. While NHTSA doesn't approve recall fixes, it has the power to object if its engineers don't think it solves the problem.

A senior Transportation Department official told The Detroit News late Saturday that Toyota had presented it with a fix, and it did not object.

Dealers expect to hear details of the remedies today and to start receiving parts later this week. It appears that most of the recalled vehicles will have the pedals repaired, while others will have them replaced.








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