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Next up: Fiat Chrysler labor talks that could prove difficult



New York (CNN Business)Labor talks between Fiat Chrysler and the United Auto Workers union get underway in earnest next week. Whether they are as easy as the just concluded talks at Ford or as bloody as those at General Motors that resulted in a six-week strike remains to be seen.

It just reported record third quarter earnings. It has agreed to merge with French automaker PSA Group, maker of Peugeot, a deal that give it the size and financial wherewithal it has been seeking since Fiat and Chrysler first joined forces 10 years ago.
The company has said it doesn’t have any plans to close either US or European plants, and financial analysts and credit rating agencies all agree the company will be stronger if and when the deal is completed.
    In fact rather than closing US plants, as GM (GM) and Ford (F) are doing, Fiat Chrysler (FCAU) is in the process of building a new plant to construct Jeeps in Detroit, which will add nearly 4,000 jobs. And Fiat Chrysler has already added about 5,000 union members to payrolls in the last four years.
    But Fiat Chrysler has been working under a contract that gave it a lower average labor cost than either GM or Ford in recent years, as it used far more recent hires who receive lower pay and less benefits than workers hired before 2007.
    While veteran employees receive about the same pay at all three companies, only 28% of Fiat Chrysler’s hourly production workers were hired before 2007 and thus are getting that top pay. The rest are more recent hires receiving a lower pay and benefits package, or temporary workers who receive an even smaller package.
    That means Fiat Chrysler today has an $8 to $10 an hour labor cost advantage over Ford and GM said Kristin Dziczek, vice president of industry, labor and economics at the Center for Automotive Research, a Michigan think tank.
    The deals at Ford and GM will eliminate the pay gap among permanent workers by the end of those four-year contracts. And those deals also will move more of the temporary workers into permanent status.
    Since GM and Ford had far fewer of those workers than Fiat Chrysler, they could agree to that union demand more easily. It will be far more expensive for Fiat Chrysler to match the deals the union has won from GM and Ford.
    Fiat Chrysler leadership has already made clear it might not agree to the same terms.
    “Obviously each of us, each of the Big Three in Detroit are in different conditions in terms of labor workforce,” CEO Michael Manley told investors last month. “I’m hoping to be able to get to a conclusion of the negotiations and get on with building great cars in the near future, but beyond that, I don’t want to get into speculation of what may work and what may not work here.”
    That comment brought a quick response from the union, which made it clear it expects Fiat Chrysler to step up to the pattern set at GM and Ford, especially since its North American operations is where it is making its money.
    “You cannot brag about your earnings to Wall Street and at the same time ignore the sacrifice of your workforce that put you in that profitable position,” said a statement from the union.
    The merger deal with PSA also poses a negotiating challenge for the company. If it does go through, the new combined company will be bigger than GM. That will reduce its argument that it needs a more affordable deal than the ones at GM and Ford.
    “The argument that ‘We’re the little brother and deserve a [cost saving] deal,’ that’s going to be a tough sell,” said Dziczek.
    Thus Dziczek said there is little chance that Fiat Chrysler will be able to avoid matching the deals at GM and Ford.
    “Fiat Chrysler workers have seen the deal the union got at GM and Ford. They’re not going to settle for significantly less,” she said. Even if union negotiators were to reach such a deal, it wouldn’t get ratified by the UAW members who are getting the lower wages.
      “You can make any deal you want but if it doesn’t get ratified it’s not a contract,” she said. And if the company doesn’t agree to the union demand, it could see its 47,200 UAW members go out on strike, as they did for nearly six weeks at GM.
      “I know it’s cold, I know it’s almost Thanksgiving. But I don’t think that rules out the union using the strike weapon if they can’t get what they need,” Dziczek said.

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      Karmas new electric hinge-winged hypercar concept goes 0 to 60 mph in 1.9 seconds




      Karma Automotive took the wraps off Tuesday of a new electric concept car called the SC2 that produces a heart-thumping 1,100 horsepower and can travel from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 1.9 seconds.

      The concept is a showpiece and an integral part of the Chinese-backed California-based startup’s new strategy to become a technology and design incubator that supplies other automakers.

      Karma Automotive also unveiled Tuesday at Automobility LA, the press and trade days of the LA Auto Show, a performance variant of its Revero GT. The new Revero GTS is similar to the Revero GT, but boasts more performance and several other new interior and tech touches.

      Meanwhile, the SC2 — with its eye-popping looks and performance specs — is meant to be show what Karma can do, not necessarily what it will do.

      Karma CEO Lance Zhou called the SC2 a “signpost” to the company’s future as a technology-driven brand. It also previews the company’s future design language.

      “Our open platform serves as a test bed for new technologies and partnerships, where we are to provide engineering, design, technology and customization resources others,” Zhao said.

      The nuts and bolts

      The battery-electric concept has front and rear mounted twin electric motors that deliver 800 kW peak power, with 10,500 pound-feet wheel torque and 350 miles of pure electric range. The I-shaped 120 kilowatt-hour battery is housed in the center tunnel beneath the dashboard and seats.

      The vehicle has carbon ceramic breaks, a push-rod operated racing suspension and a Karma torque vectoring gearbox.

      The hinge-winged doors aren’t the only flashy or tech-forward features. The concept has long-range radars, cameras, and FMCW lidar sensors in a nod towards an autonomous driving future.


      Drivers will theoretically (this is a concept after all) enter the vehicle through fingerprint and facial recognition sensors. Inside the vehicle, there are biometric seats and 3D audio to create individual sound zones for driver and passenger. Electro chromatic glass shifts from clear to opaque for privacy and light sensitivity.

      Reliving the drive

      Karma also showed a feature that lets drivers re-live their street-racing adventures through a simulation. A triple high definition camera under the windshield and frequency-modulated
      continuous wave lidar sensors capture of the car in motion. At the same time, software captures in real-time all of the turns, braking and acceleration of driving.

      After the drive, an adaptive laser projector replays the journey while the vehicle is parked. A mounted smartphone acts as the cabin’s rear-view mirror and turns it into a driving simulator where the user can re-experience their drive and fine-tune their skills.

      And of course, drivers can then share that experience with others or stream drivers’ routes from
      around the world within their own vehicles.

      SC2’s technology can be integrated into a variety of future vehicles, according to Andreas Thurner, Karma’s vp of global design and architecture.

      And that’s the whole point of this exercise. It’s unlikely that the SC2 will ever be made as a production vehicle. But the tech and design features in it could live on.

      Karma Automotive’s roots began with Fisker Automotive, the startup led by Henrik Fisker that ended in bankruptcy in 2013. China’s Wanxiang Group purchased what was left of Fisker in 2014 and Karma Automotive was born.

      Karma hasn’t had the smoothest of resurrections. The company’s first effort, known as the Revero, wasn’t received warmly. The Revero GT has been an improved effort. However, that hasn’t relieved the pressure.

      The company laid off about 200 workers this month from its Irvine, Calif. headquarters following a restructuring that will focus on licensing its technology to other carmakers. The company’s assembly plant is in Moreno Valley, Calif.

      This new incubator effort is an effort to bring some stability to the company and help it offset the capitally intensive business of designing and producing its own cars.

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      Karma Automotive unveils its faster next act, the Revero GTS




      Karma Automotive’s second act is a gasoline-electric luxury vehicle that aims to deliver more performance and tech inside a sleek and sporty $149,950 package.

      The 2020 Revero GTS unveiled Tuesday during AutoMobility LA, the press and trade days of LA Auto Show, shares some of the same bits as its sibling Revero GT. Both vehicles use a gasoline-electric powertrain — a BMW engine powers a generator that charges the 28 kilowatt-hour nickel manganese cobalt lithium-ion battery. Like the GT, the battery supplies the GTS with 80 miles of electric driving. Both vehicles have a total 360-mile range when they’re fully charged and fueled with gas.

      And both have some of the same operational features, including three driving modes and launch control that allows drivers to unlock all the power and torque inside and “launch” the vehicle down the road. The three drive modes are “stealth,” for pure-electric driving, a range extender mode called “sustain,” and sport, which combines the output from the battery pack and the generator for maximum driving performance.

      The specs

      The GTS does have a lot of extra though and costs about $15,000 more than the GT. The GTS has a new body, including a redesigned hood, doors, deck lid, body sides and side mirrors. It’s also faster off the line and can travel from 0 to 60 miles per hour in an estimated 3.9 seconds compared to the 4.5 seconds in the GT. The GTS comes with electronic torque vectoring, refined power steering. It also has a higher electronically-limited top speed of 130 miles per hour versus the GT’s 125 mph.

      The GTS’ twin electric motors and all-electric powertrain produce 536 horsepower and 635 pound-feet of torque, which should deliver a responsive and exciting enough drive. Although we’ll have to wait and experience it for ourselves.


      The new vehicle has advanced driver assistance features like blind spot and cross traffic detection as well as audio technology developed in house and active noise cancelling. The infotainment system has also been improved on the GTS and includes haptic tactile switches a new touchscreen and user interface processor as well as a center console with improved storage.

      Karma Automotive says it will begin production of the GTS in first quarter of 2020. First deliveries of the Revero GT expected during the fourth quarter of 2019.

      The new business plan

      The Karma Revero GT was the first fully conceived product to come out of a company that launched from the remnants of Fisker Automotive, the startup led by Henrik Fisker that ended in bankruptcy in 2013. China’s Wanxiang Group purchased what was left of Fisker in 2014 and Karma Automotive was born.

      It hasn’t been all smooth sailing though. The company’s first effort, known as the Revero, wasn’t received warmly. The Revero GT has been an improved effort. However, that hasn’t relieved the pressure.

      The company laid off about 200 workers this month from its Irvine, Calif. headquarters following a restructuring that will focus on licensing its technology to other carmakers. The company’s assembly plant is in Moreno Valley, Calif.

      Karma’s efforts to pack more tech and performance in the GTS makes sense considering the company’s new business strategy to open its engineering, design, customization and manufacturing resources to other companies. It also explains Karma’s other reveal Tuesday, an all-electric concept vehicle called the SC2 that delivers a stunning 1,100 horsepower and 10,500 lb.-ft. of torque and can achieve 0 to 60 mph in less than 1.9 seconds.

      In other words, the GTS is a model of what Karma can do. And it explains some of Karma’s decisions to design and produce more of the vehicle’s components in house. Karma has developed its own inverters to maximize and maintain full software control for fast over-the-air updates as well as a proprietary 7.1-channel 570-watt Soloscape audio system, according to Todd George, the company’s VP of Engineering. The inverters convert DC current from the battery  pack to power the AC drive motors, and to also capture AC power from the regenerative braking system to recharge the battery pack.

      It’s a business angle that Karma hopes will give it the immediate and long-term capital it needs to stay afloat. Karma is backed and owned by Wanxiang, the massive Chinese auto parts supplier. But it will eventually need to stand on its own.

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      The Station: Canoo hits the road, Coup shutters and Samsung shifts




      Welcome back to The Station, the go-to newsletter for keeping up to date on what the heck is going on in the world of transportation. I’m your host, Kirsten Korosec, senior transportation reporter at TechCrunch.

      Portions of the newsletter are published as an article on the main site after it has been emailed to subscribers (that’s what you’re reading now). The Station is emailed every Saturday morning. To get everything, you have to sign up. And it’s free. To subscribe, go to our newsletters page and click on The Station.

      We love tips and feedback. Please reach out anytime and tell us what you love and don’t love so much. Email me at to share thoughts, opinions or tips or send a direct message to @kirstenkorosec.



      Shared mopeds might be popular, but that doesn’t mean companies operating these services are guaranteed to succeed. This week, TechCrunch reporter Romain Dillet reported that Coup, a wholly owned subsidiary of Bosch that operates an electric moped scooter-sharing service in Berlin, Paris and Madrid, is shutting down.

      The closure might surprise some, considering Coup has brand recognition and, according to the company, a loyal customer base that uses its services. That’s not enough to be a profitable enterprise. Coup said that operating the service is “economically unsustainable” in the long term.

      Meanwhile, TechCrunch reporter Manish Singh learned from two sources familiar with the deal that Bangalore-based startup Bounce has raised about $150 million as part of an ongoing financing round led by existing investors Eduardo Saverin’s B Capital and Accel Partners India. Bounce, formerly known as Metro Bikes, operates more than 17,000 electric and gasoline scooters in three dozen cities in India.

      The new round values the startup “well over $500 million,” the people said, requesting anonymity. This is a significant increase since the year-old startup’s Series C financing round, which closed in June, when it was worth a little more than $200 million.

      Bounce, which is known for its cheap rental costs, along with competitors Vugo and Yulu, is trying to carve market share away from ride-hailing companies like Uber . The big attraction isn’t necessarily price, either. Traffic congestion is prompting people to turn to two wheels, giving Bounce and others a boost.

      Subscriptions are so hot right now


      Remember Canoo, the Los Angeles startup that revealed a minibus-type electric vehicle a few months back? We have an update. In short, the company’s rapid ramp continues to accelerate despite some legal headwinds.

      Canoo is taking an interesting approach to EVs. It aims to offer a “subscription only” electric vehicle in the U.S. and China.

      The company began life as Evelozcity in late 2017 after ex-BMW executives Stefan Krause and Ulrich Kranz left Faraday Future amid an internal power struggle. Evelozcity rebranded as Canoo in spring 2019 and unveiled its prototype electric vehicle several months later.

      Now, the company is beta testing its EV on public roads. Canoo tells me that its focus is to validate the powertrain, steer-by-wire system, battery, chassis and body structure.

      Canoo is building a fleet of more than 30 beta vehicles for various types of testing. The bulk of the beta testing is expected to take place over the next six months in various locations, including near Canoo’s Torrance, Calif. headquarters, Toyota’s Arizona proving grounds and on public roads in Ohio.

      Canoo said it’s also conducting hot and cold testing, as well as focusing on the advanced driver assistance system in various locations.


      A subscription reboot

      Automakers including Audi, Porsche and Volkswagen have been testing subscription programs with mixed success. Now, one failed pilot is coming back.

      At an event in Los Angeles, GM’s Chief Marketing Officer Deborah Wahl said the subscription service Book by Cadillac will return next year. GM’s luxury brand Cadillac will pilot the next-generation of the subscription service in San Francisco starting in the first quarter of 2020.

      “We learned a lot from the first pilot… first, it verified that there is no longer a one-size-fits-all solution to personal transportation,” Wahl said at the event. “Second, we learned that the BOOK model is enormously effective as a conquest mechanism: 70% of BOOK subscribers were new to Cadillac.”

      Moving forward, Cadillac plans to integrate the subscription service into the retail dealer network, Wahl said.

      A little bird


      We hear a lot. But we’re not selfish. Let’s share.

      Samsung appears to be yet another company stepping back from a pursuit of full autonomy and refocusing efforts and investments toward advanced driver assistance technology. At least for now.

      Several years ago, Samsung was all in on autonomous vehicle technology. At CES in 2018, the company introduced its new Samsung DRVLINE platform — an “open, modular, and scalable hardware and software-based platform” for the autonomous driving market. But Samsung is changing up its strategy.

      The DRVLINE/Smart Machines team based out of its Samsung Strategy and Innovation Center has been shuttered, a source with direct knowledge of the events told me. This move also includes closing offices in Germany.

      Let’s get wonky


      The U.S. Federal Communications Commission is keen to change how the 5.9 GHz band is used, and that matters for connected car technology and the eventual deployment of autonomous vehicles.

      For the unfamiliar, the 5.9 GHz band has been reserved for the past two decades to be used by the Dedicated Short Range Communications, a service in the Intelligent Transportation System that was designed to enable vehicle communication. (ITS is a joint operation that overlaps five offices under the Department of Transportation.)

      In the FCC’s view, the DSRC service has evolved slowly and has not been widely deployed. The commission issued this month a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to take, what it calls “a fresh and comprehensive look” at the 5.9 GHz band rules and propose changes to how the spectrum is used.

      The upshot: The FCC wants to carve up the band. The commission proposed dedicating the upper 30 megahertz of the 5.9 GHz band to meet current and future needs for transportation and vehicle safety-related communications, while repurposing the lower 45 megahertz of the band for unlicensed operations, like Wi-Fi.

      Perhaps the most interesting piece of this proposed change is the FCC’s views on DSRC and what sounds like a strong endorsement for Cellular Vehicle to Everything (C-V2X). The FCC wants to revise the rules and give C-V2X the upper 20 megahertz of the band reserved for vehicle communications. The commission plans to seek comment on whether this segment of the spectrum should be reserved for DSRC or C-V2X systems.

      C-V2X, which the 5G Automotive Association supports, would use standard cellular protocols to provide direct communications between vehicles, as well as infrastructure like traffic signals. But here’s the thing: C-V2X is incompatible with DSRC-based operations.

      It’s pretty clear which way the FCC is leaning. In a speech November 20, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said he believes the government “should encourage the expansion and evolution of this new vehicle-safety technology.” Pai insists that the FCC is not “closing the door” on DSRC, but instead allowing for both.

      “So moving forward, let’s resist the notion that we have to choose between automotive safety and Wi-Fi,” Pai said in his speech. “My proposal would do far more for both automotive safety and Wi-Fi than the status quo.”

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