Global Fastener News

EVs Central to Auto Strike

EVs Central to Auto Strike
September 18
10:31 2023

Chrysler worker installs fasteners for side air bags

The limited United Auto Workers union strikes against Detroit carmakers continue after nearly 13,000 workers walked off the job at three plants in Ohio, Michigan and Missouri on September 15.

Following years of record profits by General Motors, Ford Motor and Stellantis (which owns Chrysler, Jeep and Ram), the union is demanding a 40% pay increase over four years. Adjusted for inflation, wages for autoworkers in the United States have fallen 19% since 2008, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

But the talks are about more than pay, according to the New York Times. Workers are trying to defend jobs as manufacturing shifts from internal combustion engines to batteries. Because they have fewer parts, including fasteners, EVs  can be assembled with fewer workers than gasoline vehicles.

“The strike has come as the traditional automakers invest billions to develop electric vehicles while still making most of their money from gasoline-driven cars,” according to the Times. “The negotiations will determine the balance of power between workers and management, possibly for years to come… mak(ing) the strike as much a struggle for the industry’s future as it is about wages, benefits and working conditions.”

Some automotive executives and analysts characterize the evolution to EVs as the biggest technological transformation since Henry Ford introduced his moving assembly line in 1913.

“The transition to EVs is dominating every bit of this discussion,” stated John Casesa, senior managing director at the investment firm Guggenheim Partners who previously headed strategy at Ford Motor. “It’s unspoken. But really, it’s all about positioning the union to have a central role in the new electric industry.”

Facing heavy competition from EV manufacturers Tesla, Toyota and Mercedes Benz — whose U.S. factories are not unionized, the Big 3 have made modest concessions to the U.A.W. but strive to limit wage and benefit increases amid ongoing struggles to make their EV operations profitable.

However, union supporters say it would be wrong to blame workers if Detroit cannot compete with Tesla and other rivals.

“If you look at the breakdown at what it costs to build an E.V., labor is a very small part of the equation,” Ms. Janis of Jobs to Move America said. “This idea that the U.A.W. is going to price Ford, G.M. and Stellantis out of the market is not true.”

Even if the strikes escalate into a full shutdown, market analysts say it could take weeks before suppliers feel the significant effects. Years of supply chain disruptions during the pandemic leave automakers reluctant to cancel or delay orders, while a tight labor market could make suppliers wary about laying off their own workers.

But the U.S. fastener industry would be hurt by an ongoing strike.

“Electric-vehicle production serves as a major growth driver for fasteners in the U.S., as demand for lightweight fasteners grows,” National Fastener Distributors Association president Nick Ruetz told Wards Auto at Fastener Taiwan 2023.

The global EV fasteners market size is projected to reach $11.1 billion by 2030, from $4.2 billion in 2023, at a CAGR of 12.2% during the forecast period. The growth of the market is driven by the increasing production of electric vehicles (EVs), the rising demand for lightweight vehicles, and the growing adoption of advanced safety features.

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