Defiant UAW Local Now Works with GM
For the better part of three decades, the car plant here was a seemingly endless source of trouble for General Motors.
In the 1970s, the factory’s 7,000 workers were so bitter toward management that thousands of Chevrolet Vegas rolled off the assembly line with slit upholstery and other damage. The hostility eventually led to a 22-day strike in 1972 that cost GM $150 million, and the term “Lordstown syndrome” became shorthand to describe rebellious American factory workers.
Even when no intentional sabotage occurred, many Lordstown-built vehicles were of poor quality. GM had planned to abandon Lordstown, the site of many wildcat strikes, by 2002.
But the plant survived, though dozens of other auto factories did not, and today it is preparing to build a new compact car, the Chevrolet Cruze, that is integral to GM’s hopes of becoming a successful company again.
United Automobile Workers’ leaders in Lordstown, Detroit and other cities where clashes with management were once common said they have since decided that their only chance to survive in a global economy is to work with, not against, their employers.
A Long-Awaited Introduction Draws Some Polite Applause
Google stepped up its attack on the smart phone market on Tuesday, introducing a new touch-screen handset called Nexus One that is widely seen as a rival to Apple’s iPhone.
Google also said that it would sell the Nexus One, which it called a superphone, exclusively through a new online store. Google, which earns the vast majority of its revenue from advertising, said it was dipping its toes in the direct retailing business not to reap profits from the sale of phones but to broaden the availability of handsets running its Android software.
“There is an opportunity to make some margin on the unit sales, but that’s not the objective here,” Andy Rubin, a vice president of engineering in charge of the Android technology, said during a news conference at Google’s headquarters here. “Our primary business is advertising.”
Consumers will be able to buy the Nexus One for $529 unlocked or for $179 with a two-year calling plan from T-Mobile. Google said that the Nexus One would be available on Verizon Wireless in the United States and on Vodafone in Europe later this year. It said it hoped to add other devices and carriers to the direct-to-consumer program in the future.
Some analysts said they were impressed by the speed of the Nexus One and by some of its capabilities. Google has voice-enabled all text boxes in the device, so a user can, for example, compose an e-mail message by speaking into the phone rather than typing. But they expressed disappointment that Google had not done more to shake up the industry by, for example, subsidizing the phone through profits from advertising.
In Car Sales, December Was Mixed
Automakers ended a miserable year with some less bad sales figures, though the Ford Motor Co. was the only one of the three domestic companies to report higher numbers in December.
Ford said its sales in the United States rose 33 percent in December from a year ago, making it the company’s best month since May 2008.
New-vehicle sales in the United States increased 15 percent last month, the industry tracking firm Autodata said Tuesday. But for the year, foreign and domestic automakers combined sold only about 10.4 million vehicles; that was down 21 percent from 2008.
“It was a decent end to a bad movie,” said Jesse Toprak, the vice president for industry trends and insights at TrueCar.com, a site that tracks sales and pricing. “The healing has started, but we’re nowhere near fully healthy yet.”
For all of 2009, Ford’s market share rose to 16.1 percent, from 15 percent in 2008. That ended a streak of declines for the automaker dating to 1995.
“We made very good progress in 2009 amid a very difficult biz environment,” Ken Czubay, Ford’s vice president for U.S. marketing, sales and service, said. But, he continued, “we will not count on momentum to carry the Ford day.”
Threats Lead Food Agency to Curtail Aid in Somalia
After weeks of receiving threats and demands that it dismiss many female employees and pay a “security fee” to an Islamic extremist group, the U.N. World Food Program announced Tuesday that it was suspending food deliveries to 1 million people in southern Somalia indefinitely.
The cutoff, which includes the withdrawal of more than 40 local staff members, will affect roughly one third of the 2.8 million people whom the food program had anticipated feeding in Somalia in January.
“In the past few weeks there has been a harder line of unacceptable demands and conditions set by armed groups in these areas,” said Peter Smerdon, the spokesman for the program, by telephone from Nairobi, Kenya. “We sadly had to make the decision to pull our staff out.”
The demands had been accompanied by a rise in intimidation, threats and harassment, he said.
Various branches of the Shabab, the Islamist militants who control much of southern Somalia, presented local offices of the food program with a list of 11 demands in November. They included paying a $20,000 fee for security every six months, seeking Shabab approval for their projects and replacing all female staff members, except those engaged in health care, with men.