Automakers could benefit from the forthcoming change of resident at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue but there might be labour difficulties ahead at non-union plants.
The Tuesday (4 November) night landslide victory that will soon see Democrat Barack Obama in the White House as the first African-American president of the US, and swept many of outgoing Republican president George Bush’s fellow party members out of posts in Congress and the Senate, has likely placed an automaker ally in the top job, early industry observer reports said.
Although there is a chance the outgoing administration could OK an extra $US25bn in aid on top of the $25bn already earmarked to help the automakers develop new, fuel-efficient vehicles, Obama reportedly is committed to such extra aid, which could be used to help finance new healthcare funds. The new president had said, if elected, he would immediately meet both with automakers and the key UAW union.
Commentators have also suggested the incoming president might move fast on a $150bn additional economic stimulus package.
Not likely to be quite so popular, at least with automakers, is a new measure – the Employee Free Choice Act – which has so far made it through the lower House of Representatives and been halted in the Senate. Understandably opposed by business groups who fear intimidation tactics, this, if enacted, would allow workers to form unions by persuading a majority of employees to sign a card in support of a union, rather than through the current secret ballot.
The current rules, among other factors, have long helped keep the UAW out of southern ‘transplant’ vehicle making plants and it will be interesting to see if the UAW revisits its early campaigns to ‘organise’ such factories under its umbrella if the secret-ballot provision is scrapped.
Obama is also reported to be backing a budget of $150bn spread over 10 years to boost development of plug-in hybrid cars and use of ‘renewable’ solar and wind energy.
Healthcare reforms that could reduce the price of drugs could also help automakers and the UAW with healthcare benefit costs, long the bane of Detroit automakers with legions of retirees.
New president duly decided, industry eyes now turn towards Friday when GM and Ford announce third quarter results, and GM and Chrysler owner Cerberus, hopefully, will shed some light on their much-rumoured merger, if this is to take place.