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The throw-down between Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne and Volkswagen has heated up in earnest. According to Bloomberg, Fiat and Chrysler are now offering current Volkswagen owners in the US $1,000 rebates to trade in their ride. It's the latest in a series of shots Marchionne has taken at his German rival. As you may recall, the Fiat executive entered into a spat with Volkwagen board chairman Ferdinand Piëch and CEO Martin Winterkorn in October after the duo called for Marchionne's resignation from presidency of the European Automotive Manufacturers Association (AECA). At the time, the Volkswagen executives were quoted as saying Fiat would not survive the European economic downturn.
In response, Marchionne called the German executives "reprehensible," and accused Volkswagen of using a pricing strategy that has created created a "bloodbath" in the EU. Volkswagen has taken to steep discounting to carve out ever-larger slices of market share in Europe, but the company has a much smaller foothold in the US. Marchionne may be trying to hit Volkswagen where the manufacturer is weakest with the new Fiat new incentive program.
Late last week, the Fiat executive was voted to a second term as ACEA president.
The United Auto Workers is in hot water with some of the very workers it is trying to unionize at Volkswagen's Chattanooga assembly plant. According to The Tennessean, eight Volkswagen factory workers have filed complaints against the UAW with the National Labor Relations Board, claiming the union "misled or coerced" them into formally asking for union representation.
The UAW has instituted a major push at the Chattanooga plant to represent the 2,500 hourly laborers that build the VW Passat by using what's called a card-check process. The tactic is opposed by the National Right to Work Legal Defense foundation, the group representing the workers. The card-check process demands that a company recognize a union that obtains the signatures of more than half its workforce, according to The Tennessean. This tactic is in contrast to the more traditional route, which sees employees vote on union representation.
The workers filing the complaint claim that the UAW told them the cards merely called for a secret ballot, rather than an outright demand for union representation. Workers also allege that the UAW has made it overly difficult to reclaim their signed cards, some of which were signed so long ago that they have been rendered invalid. Although the cards can force a company's hand, federal law still allows the company to ask for a secret ballot before yielding to unionized workers.
In case you didn't know, Volkswagen is hell-bent on becoming the largest automaker in the world. The German carmaker has inched closer to that goal, having outsold General Motors in China last quarter for the first time in eight years.
Volkswagen's sales in China, its largest marker, increased by 21 percent last quarter to 704,991 units. Those numbers almost tripled GM's third-quarter growth, and were enough to beat out the American automaker's 664,765 sales. GM, however, still leads in year-to-date sales in China by a slim margin of around 77,000 units. The Asian nation also happens to be GM's largest market, and according to the report in Automotive News, China's car market may grow to be larger than the US, Japan and Germany combined in three years' time.
About the news his company was bested in China by VW last quarter, GM CEO Dan Akerson is quoted saying, "It's not whether you're the biggest car manufacturer. It's whether you want to be the most profitable." It should be noted of these figures that GM includes truck figures, yet excludes Hong Kong and Macau from its Chinese sales numbers, while VW does just the opposite. Through September of this year, Volkswagen had 5 of the 10 best selling vehicles in China. GM boasted three of the cars on that list.