Good morning! It’s Monday, November 13, 2023, and this is The Morning Shift, your daily roundup of the top automotive headlines from around the world, in one place. Here are the important stories you need to know.
1st Gear: More Than 800,000 EVs Registered In U.S. This Year
In recent weeks the industry has been painting a grim picture for the state of electric vehicles in America. Ford announced it was cutting a shift at the plant building its F-150 Lightning truck, GM pushed back its EV targets and even Tesla said it was stalling building a new plant in Mexico. Despite these concerns, EVs are still selling and it now looks like 2023 could be the first year 1 million of them are sold in the U.S.
However while registrations are rising, the rate of their growth remains slower than the rate of new EV launches. A “flood” of new electric models is planned for the coming years, while “consumer acceptance has grown in a more linear fashion,” warned the site.
2nd Gear: BMW Investigates Environmental And Labor Issues At Battery Supplier
To build the sheer quantity of EVs that will have to be sold if we want to replace every gas-powered car on the road, automakers need to get their hands on an awful lot of rare earth metals. Now, BMW has launched an investigation into the supplier of some of these materials after a report uncovered “irregularities” at a cobalt mine it uses.
BMW sources cobalt from a mine in Morocco, which according to Reuters has “...serious violations of environmental and labor protection.” The allegations were uncovered in a report from daily newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung, which unearthed “irregularities that breach labor and environmental laws.” Reuters reports:
“If there is any misconduct, it must be remedied,” the spokesperson said, adding there had been initial allegations in the summer against Managem but the documents provided to BMW had looked credible. Managem’s environmental certificates were up to date, [a spokesperson for BMW] said.
The report said that excessive levels of arsenic were found in water samples and that Managem was not complying with international standards for the protection of workers and taking action against critical trade unions.
BMW currently sources the cobalt essential for its EV batteries from mines in Australia and Morocco. The Moroccan plant that it sources the rare earth metal from is majority-owned by the Moroccan monarchy, according to Reuters, and operates mines across several African countries.
3rd Gear: Hyundai Breaks Ground On Its New Plant
With the rollout of electric models like the Ioniq 5 and Ioniq 6 going pretty well, Hyundai is preparing to expand its EV output with a brand new factory in South Korea. The new site will have the capacity to build 200,000 cars a year and the construction of the site has just begun.
Hyundai’s new EV plant will be built in Ulsan, South Korea, and is set to assemble its first car in 2026, reports Bloomberg. The $1.5 billion plant will be used to build cars for Hyundai and Genesis, with the first model to roll off its line set to be a new luxury SUV from Genesis. According to Bloomberg:
Hyundai will invest 2 trillion won ($1.5 billion) building the plant, which will cover 548,000 square meters of land at a former motor racing circuit. The site is located inside Hyundai’s Ulsan factory complex, which already has annual production capacity of 1.4 million cars.
“Ulsan is surviving because of Hyundai,” Mayor Doo-gyum Kim said at the ceremony. “We love you, Hyundai!”
The Ulsan plant is Hyundai’s latest building project, following a new factory that’s under construction here in the U.S. The Korean automaker is also building an EV plant in Georgia as it chases the tax credits outlined in president Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act.
4th Gear: Ford Workers Reject UAW Deal
The United Auto Workers union went on strike earlier this year fighting for better wages and working conditions for its 400,000 members working across Ford, General Motors and Stellantis plants in America. That strike came to an end in October after the union reached tentative agreements with all three automakers.
Those new deals are now being voted on by union members across America, and workers at two Ford plants have become the first to reject the deal, reports Automotive News. Production workers at Ford’s Louisville assembly and Kentucky truck plants have voted against the UAW’s agreement, as Automotive News explains:
The ratification of the contract was voted down by 55 percent of the production workers while 69 percent of skilled trades workers, which includes maintenance and construction employees, approved the deal, UAW Local 862 said in a Facebook post.
The union did not disclose the overall percentage of the votes in favor or the total number of votes cast.
The deal that was reached between Ford and the UAW secured an 11 percent wage increase for the first year and a total raise of 25 percent across the life of the four and a half year contract. Workers will also get a $5,000 ratification bonus and cost-of-living adjustments.
So far, it appears workers are mostly in support of the deal, with Automotive News reporting that 71 percent of workers have voted in favor of the agreement.
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