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Consultant: Toyota will spurn Michigan

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Consultant: Toyota will spurn Michigan

UAW dissidents' Delphi protest killed chances for a plant, Cole says


AutoWeek | Published 02/06/06, 1:29 pm et

Toyota Motor Corp. says it still is considering locations in union-heavy Michigan to build a transmission and engine plant.

But one of Michigan's biggest boosters, industry consultant David Cole, says he believes Toyota no longer is serious about the state. Cole says he thinks recent activism by dissident UAW members has effectively killed the deal for Michigan.

"I believe we had a great shot at bringing a Toyota plant here," Cole said from his office at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich. "It's now off the track. Indiana looks like the front-runner for it now."

Cole and his colleagues consult with automakers, including Toyota, and provide various support services to Michigan industry. He says he was convinced a Grand Rapids, Mich., site was Toyota's favorite until UAW dissidents in Detroit made news in January.

The dissidents, without the union's blessing, protested proposed wage and benefit cuts at Delphi Corp.

"It didn't help having UAW dissidents picketing at the Detroit auto show this year while auto executives from around the world watched," Cole fumed. "The message was, here's a union that can't control its own people."

No change

Dan Sieger, a spokesman for Toyota Motor Manufacturing North America Inc. in Erlanger, Ky., wouldn't discuss sites under review. But he says nothing has changed since January, when Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. President Jim Press said Michigan was "very close to the top of the list."

Toyota wants to produce more automatic transmissions and engines in North America but has not said a plant is definite. Ohio also is considered a contender.

Cole will put in a good word for Michigan when he meets with Toyota management next week in New York. But he's pessimistic. He said he already has been quizzed about union attitudes by a senior Japanese Toyota official who said he heard UAW comments vowing not to help U.S. companies work through financial troubles.

"Our union in Japan helps us solve our problems," Cole quoted the Toyota official as saying.

For many, the fact that Toyota would be considering Michigan, the UAW's home and a state where unions represent 21.4 percent of all hourly workers, signals a change in Toyota's North American posture. Toyota has a reputation for building plants in nonunion areas.

It operates three nonunion auto assembly plants and two nonunion engine plants in North America, and its supply chain is largely union-free.

In the heart of Texas

A pickup plant will open this year in Texas, where unions represented only 6.2 percent of hourly workers last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But Sieger says Toyota's reputation for avoiding unions is not based in fact. West Virginia, where Toyota has invested $920 million in an engine and transmission plant, is heavily unionized because of the heavy concentration of coal mining. Last year unions represented 15.5 percent of West Virginia's hourly workers, compared with 6.6 percent in Tennessee, where Toyota has been investing in engine component plants for two years.

In Alabama, where Toyota is expanding an engine plant in Huntsville, unions represented 11.2 percent of hourly workers. And in Indiana, where Toyota produces pickups, SUVs and minivans, unions represented 13.2 percent of hourly workers last year.

The company also has continued to invest in Ontario despite the strength there of the Canadian Auto Workers, the UAW's Canadian counterpart.

Sieger says Toyota also has good relations with the UAW, which represents workers at New United Motor Manufacturing Inc., its Fremont, Calif., car and truck assembly joint venture with General Motors. Toyota also works with the Teamsters at TABC Inc., a Toyota subsidiary in Long Beach, Calif., that performs various manufacturing functions in North America.

Japan and the unions

U.S. and Canadian Japanese-affiliated auto plants with labor union representation

AutoAlliance International Inc. (Mazda-Ford 50/50 ownership)

Flat Rock, Mich. (UAW)

New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. (Toyota-GM 50/50 ownership)

Fremont, Calif. (UAW)

Mitsubishi Motors North America, Manufacturing Division

Normal, Ill. (UAW)

CAMI Automotive Inc. (Suzuki-GM 50/50 ownership)

Ingersoll, Ontario (CAW)

TABC Inc. (Toyota)

Long Beach, Calif. (Teamsters)

Link: http://autoweek.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?...E/60206006/1041

Edited by Variance

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maybe the UAW actually would prefer Toyota stay out of Michigan, so as not to erode the union base there?

I think you are right, GM and Ford already has that covered.

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