Automotive News Canada - October 2017 - 8
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CAMI strike gives Unifor
a platform to attack NAFTA
The flaw with EV quotas, aside from the fact that government
can't tell people what to buy in a free market, is that they don't
address the real issue of older polluting vehicles already on
the road. ( P H O T O : G M C A N A D A )
EV sales quotas:
THUS FAR, THE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENTS HAVE BEEN LEFT TO
their own devices to set standards for vehicle emissions, which is
kind of a joke. For the most part, there aren't any standards.
Canada is a patchwork quilt of apathy and lip service, much of
which actually come from the federal government that signed the
Paris Accord, but has done little nationally to uphold it.
As citizens of this little blue marble in space, we should be on
board with any process or law that cuts pollution - as long as it
makes sense - but so far we're not seeing a lot of that. Yes, the
federal government is finally doing something, but, frankly, the notion that electric-vehicle sales quotas can be enforced,
without any real market for the vehicles,
makes us face-palm. The finer points are
discussed in a Page 1 story in this issue, as
well as on Pages 24 and 25, but general
debate centres around government overreaching for no real result. Any law imposing
penalties for automakers not reaching EV
sales targets must been seen as a mere tax grab.
But if the government really wanted to make a positive difference, it would set minimum pollution guidelines across the country
and let the automakers figure out the best business case to get
there. Real progress would also be gained in programs such as
cash for clunkers, which gets older polluting cars off the road while
stimulating the economy with sales of new vehicles. The highest-polluting vehicles are already on our roads and a program to
replace them is just common sense.
The biggest gains are actually up to drivers. If they cut their
commuting miles in half, pollution would also be cut by half.
Where's the incentive and transit infrastructure to do this?
Financial incentives for EVs have put more of them on the road,
but when the Ontario government is six months behind actually
doling out those incentives - according to our story at www.automotivenews.ca - it's obvious that government should stay at
arm's length on anything more complicated, such as mandating EV
sales for automakers, in any way, shape or form. It's on a similar
level as telling people how much they can drive, which would ultimately be the best way to cut pollution, but will never happen.
Indeed there is no one thing that can reduce pollution, but
mandating EV sales is drastic overreach that raises corporate
anguish without actually addressing the problem of pollution.
When it comes
EV sales quotas
the real problem
PUBLISHED WEEKLY BY CRAIN COMMUNICATIONS, INC.
KEITH E. CRAIN, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
K.C. CRAIN, GROUP PUBLISHER
JASON STEIN, PUBLISHER
DAVE VERSICAL, DIRECTOR OF EDITORIAL OPERATIONS, AUTOMOTIVE NEWS GROUP
PUBLISHED MONTHLY BY CRAIN COMMUNICATIONS, INC.
JEFF MELNYCHUK, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, 506.854.5024, JMelnychuk@autonews.com
DAVE GUILFORD, MANAGING EDITOR, 313.446.0321, Dguilford@crain.com
Karen Rentschler, 313.446.6031
GIVE CREDIT WHERE CREDIT
is due. Unifor National
President Jerry Dias made the
most out of his union's strike
at General Motors Canada's
CAMI assembly plant in
Ingersoll, Ont., where the
Chevrolet Equinox is built.
The strike could not have
come at a better time for
Unifor and its outspoken leader.
About 2,500 members
struck the automaker Sept. 17,
six days before negotiators
from Canada, Mexico and the
United States held the third
round of NAFTA 2.0 talks in
Ottawa, about six hours away
from the picket line.
Months before the strike,
Dias had already labelled the
Equinox plant "the poster child"
for everything he feels is wrong
From his perspective, it's
easy to see why. Just this year,
GM moved GMC Terrain production to Mexico from
Ingersoll, resulting in 600 jobs
- and dues-paying members
- lost in Ontario.
So what an opportunity the
job action presented for the
canny negotiator, who is also
advising the Canadian government on NAFTA.
Unifor sent two busloads of
striking members to a NAFTA
protest Sept. 22 in Ottawa, a
day before the third round of
talks began. The purpose? To
show the negotiators exactly
what's at stake.
Dias, atop a stage with tires
and a steering wheel as props,
led the rally.
The union also placed fullpage print ads in Ottawa newspapers Sept. 22, just in time
Unifor National President
Jerry Dias is pulling out all
the stops to let NAFTA negotiators know exactly what's
at stake for the Canadian
auto industry. ( F I L E P H O T O )
for negotiators to catch a
glimpse. The ad called for higher wages in Mexico, something
Dias and others believe would
balance the automotive playing
field and encourage auto
investment in Canada and the
United States rather than
The ad, which pictured that
steering wheel and stack of
tires, read: "'One's own
employees ought to be one's
own best customers,' Henry
"A simple good idea, but
under NAFTA it's just not reality.
"Canadian and U.S. workers
can and do buy the cars they
make. But Mexican workers
can barely afford the steering
wheel and tires."
Dias and his brothers and
sisters didn't miss the chance
to have their point seen and
Whether the message was
received remains to be seen
because automotive rules of
origin have yet to be discussed
by negotiators. But they meet
again in Washington in October,
far away from the sights and
sounds, props and ads of Dias
and his members. He had better hope they left an impression. - ANC
Size matters for safety
THE ELECTRA MECCANICA SOLO IS PART OF A
groundswell of vehicles that could redefine what
we think of as personal transportation.
It's a battery-powered electric vehicle, still a
relatively rare species. It's also a one-seater,
weighs 450 kilograms, measures 3.1 metres long
and 1.34 metres wide, and rides on three
Suffice it to say that Vancouver-based Electra
Meccanica is not looking to catch the wave of
Solo is aimed
at the commutDAVE
er who drives,
well, solo in a
four, five or
more seats. It
offers efficiency, maneuverability and decent range (160 kilometres). And
the price is a rather modest $19,888.
The Solo's counterparts include the Renault
Twizy in Europe and the Elio Motors three-wheeler.
Perhaps even the Smart EV. You might call this
fledgling category TCVs, for tiny commuter vehicles. As personal mobility evolves, there may
indeed be a niche for them.
But there's a tradeoff, and it's one that bedevils other new automotive technologies.
Academics and regulators who monitor changes in the industry call it the "mixed fleet." What
that means is that, as vehicles stay on the roads
for a couple decades on average, any new-age
vehicle is going to share the road for a long time
with big, petrol-powered vehicles.
For instance, if in a few years you're riding in a
self-driving vehicle that scrupulously follows the
speed limits, you will have lead-footed drivers tailgating you or cutting in front of you.
And if you're commuting to work in a TCV (tiny
commuter vehicle, remember?), you in your
450-kilogram ride will be part of a dense, jockeying herd that includes vehicles weighing in at
2,500 kilograms or more.
The problem is that whatever changes come in
government regulations, Newton's Second Law of
Motion - force equals mass times acceleration -
won't change. So if your TCV collides with, oh,
perhaps a Ford Expedition, you're going to be on
the painful end of the force exchange.
This is not to beat up on Electra Meccanica,
which is doing an interesting and innovative thing,
and has given attention to safety. The company's
press materials say the body frame, built with
"aerospace composites," includes front and rear
crumple zones and side-crash structure. On the
other hand, no airbag.
I don't want to get all nanny-state about this.
Vehicle safety laws have inherent contradictions.
There are requirements for reinforced roofs to
provide rollover protection. But there are convertibles. There are requirements for crash structure
and airbags in cars. But you're free to drive a
The choices ultimately rest with consumers, as
they should. But consumers need to be aware
that, for a tiny commuter vehicle, there will be a
safety tradeoff. - ANC
The Solo weighs 450 kilograms, about onethird the weight of a Honda Civic. ( F I L E P H O T O )