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Auto blogMon, 06 Jan 2014 19:15:00 EST
For a long time, being a line worker for one of the Detroit Three has meant living with an uncertain future. With the health of American automakers on the rise, though, things are also starting to look up for the men and women building the cars. The latest sign that things aren't bad? Big profit-sharing checks.
According to The Detroit News, Ford, General Motors and Chrysler could end up paying over $800 million to 130,000 workers as part of a profit-sharing plan. According to The News, the economic impact of these profits in Michigan alone could exceed $400 million, besting the NFL's Super Bowl, MLB's All-Star Game and the NHL's Winter Classic for their economic impact.
This is the third straight year the Detroit Three have issued profit-sharing checks to UAW employees, and for many workers, the checks are as close as they'll get to a raise, due to the most recent contract between the union and the manufacturers. On average, employees at GM and Ford receive $1 for every $1 million in North American (not just the US) pre-tax profits. Chrysler, meanwhile, gets a similar deal, although the Auburn Hills-based company calculates profit sharing using 85 percent of the brand's global profits.
Ford has come under fire from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for violations regarding asbestos exposure in a company metal stamping plant in Buffalo, NY. OSHA has cited Ford for eight violations in total, according to an Automotive News report, and faces fines of up to $41,800. 537 workers are employed at the stamping facility.
The violations include a pipefitter at the facility being exposed to asbestos-containing material while working on a steam line, other workers exposed to the material without respiratory protection and work areas that were not designed to limited the number of workers in contact with asbestos. Further, areas in which asbestos was present were not properly restricted, and levels of asbestos in the air were not monitored.
According to an unnamed Ford spokesperson in the AN report, the company feels that the OSHA citation is erroneous saying, "We have fully cooperated with the local OSHA officials and we don't believe the citations are warranted." Ford also maintains that it will work with the authorities to resolve the issue.
Pots and kettles, glass houses and stones - that's a little of what we appear to have going on in the European car market. New reports say that that three European automakers have registered their opposition to a loan deal that PSA/Peugeot-Citroën is working on with the French government. Peugeot's finance arm, Banque PSA Finance, is struggling with its debts and has been downgraded by Moody's to its lowest investment-grade classification, one step above junk. This makes it more expensive for a potential buyer to finance a car through Peugeot. The last thing Peugeot needs is more difficulty selling cars in the tough European market, and the situation will only worsen if the bank's credit worthiness takes another hit.
A deal being worked on would have the French government offer €7 billion ($9B U.S.) in bonds to guarantee the bank's loans, which would give the institution some breathing room to manage its debts and lower its interest rates. Outside of that, a group of banks would provide other, non-guaranteed loans to the bank to further help its position. In exchange for state help, though, the government wants seats on Peugeot's board for worker representatives and a government liaison, along with factory and worker guarantees. The Peugeot family would maintain control of the company.
So what we have is government assistance being provided to a car company's finance arm, akin to the way General Motors' GMAC (now Ally Financial) and Chrysler Financial got help in their time of need. What we also have is Ford and Renault, and Germany's State of Lower Saxony, the second-largest shareholder in Volkswagen, voicing their concern about the proposal, because they say it could create an unfair competitive advantage for Peugeot. Everyone in Europe's down market is fighting for every sale, and if Peugeot gets help to keep its auto loan costs down, it figures to help buyers choose Peugeot or Citroën.