Auto Outlook: Ford hourly workers get profit-sharing, Honda exports

By AL SWANSON, UPI Auto Writer
A worker prepares to install an engine into a Ford Explorer at Ford's Chicago Assembly Plant on December 1, 2010 in Chicago. Ford spent nearly $400 million to renovate its Chicago facility to produce the Explorer along with the Ford Taurus and Lincoln MKZ. UPI/Brian Kersey | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/d11e382dc731db9fc25d42119025822a/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
A worker prepares to install an engine into a Ford Explorer at Ford's Chicago Assembly Plant on December 1, 2010 in Chicago. Ford spent nearly $400 million to renovate its Chicago facility to produce the Explorer along with the Ford Taurus and Lincoln MKZ. UPI/Brian Kersey | License Photo

Hourly workers at Ford Motor Co. are sharing in the company's success with nice bonus checks as company profits soar.

The Dearborn, Mich., automaker reported earnings of $7.2 billion in 2013, up 26 percent from 2012, for its most profitable year this century.


Ford's 47,000 U.S. hourly workers represented by the UAW are getting more than $413 million in profit-sharing -- $8,800 per worker -- up around $500 from last year. Ford has hired about 6,000 hourly workers in the last two years after veteran UAW employees gave up raises in hourly pay in exchange for bonuses.

Newer workers get lower pay under a two-tier wage system but get the same bonus check.

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Ford earned $8.8 billion before taxes in North America last year on the strength of F-Series pickup sales and its popular midsize Fusion sedan and Escape compact crossover utility vehicle. That's $1.62 per share; stockholder earnings were 31 cents per share.


Ford earned $3 billion in the fourth quarter of 2013 to pace its fifth straight annual profit. The only major U.S. automaker not to file bankruptcy or seek federal assistance during the Great Recession lost money from 2006 through 2008, and lost $1.6 billion in Europe last year. Ford expects another down year in Europe where it is cutting production and restructuring operations.

Thousands of workers in Europe face layoffs, the Detroit News said.

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Ford plans to introduce 23 new or updated vehicles globally in 2014.

"The company had an outstanding year, earning a profit that was higher than last year's strong performance and one of our best years ever," said Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks in a statement. "Our results were driven by record profits in North America and Asia Pacific Africa, improved results in Europe and another solid year from Ford Credit."

Some 130,000 more hourly workers are expecting record profit-sharing checks at Chrysler and General Motors Co. Chrysler Group, which changed its name to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles last week after the Italian conglomerate acquired complete control, made $1.8 billion in 2013, up 9 percent from 2012.

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Chrysler's net revenue soared to $72 billion thanks to a stellar fourth quarter that brought in net adjusted income of $659 million, up 74 percent from the fourth quarter of 2012. Net revenue was $21 billion in the fourth quarter on strong sales of Jeep and Ram truck vehicles.


U.S. Honda touts "American-made"

The number of American-built vehicles assembled at Honda Motor Co. plants in the United States for export now outnumber vehicles imported from Japan.

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It's the first time that's happened since Honda began operations in the United States more than 30 years ago.

Honda's U.S. operations were a net exporter in 2013 as 108,705 Honda and Acura vehicles worth $2.7 billion were exported; only 88,537 cars and trucks were imported from Japan.

Five years ago, less than 20,000 U.S. made Hondas and Acuras were exported. Honda produced a record 1.78 million vehicles in North America in 2013. U.S. production was up 7.4 percent to 1.31 million vehicles as U.S. factories churned out top-selling Accord, compact Civic and CR-V crossover models.

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Honda said it has invested more than $2.7 billion in its seven North American facilities. Its U.S. auto plants are in Ohio, Indiana and Alabama.

Honda will begin producing the redesigned 2015 Fit at a plant in Celaya, Mexico, next month, its eighth plant in North America.

The trend has spread to other manufacturers, with Ford, GM and Chrysler exporting around 1 billion American-made vehicles for sale in foreign countries in 2012.

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"The achievement of this tremendous milestone is a result of the efforts of tens of thousands of associates in America who develop and produce our vehicles, and those who manage the export of these products to customers in global markets," said Honda North America President and Chief Executive Officer Tetsuo Iwamura.


GM wants more online buyers

More than 1,400 of General Motors' 4,300 U.S. dealers have enrolled in the automaker's time-saving program that lets potential customers shop for and buy a vehicle online.

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GM rolled out Shop-Click-Drive nationally last fall. The company says dealers have sold more than 1,800 vehicles through the program intended to get shoppers into the showroom at least once.

Just five of those sales were completed online.

Shop-Click-Drive allows people to search for vehicles, check options, and apply for financing online. Shoppers can even get an estimate for a trade in without bringing the vehicle in and you can have your new vehicle delivered to your driveway.

Alicia Boler-Davis, GM vice president of quality and customer experience told the National Automobile Dealers Association meeting in New Orleans last week GM would like to get the time a customer spends with a salesperson down to an hour -- about a third of the time shoppers currently take to make a deal in a showroom, the Detroit News reported.

AutoTrader, an Internet vehicle marketplace, says the average car shopper visits two dealerships before buying, down from five dealerships a decade ago. Some dealers offer live online chat so a customer can get his or her questions answered -- and start the paperwork -- before visiting the showroom.


Other websites allow shoppers to track the price and location of a specific vehicle, but to do that you have to give up some information about yourself and create an online profile, the News said.

One site called allows shoppers to place a refundable $500 deposit on a vehicle they like online. Buyers have a week to think about the purchase.


First Porsche was electric

The first Porsche is on display at the company's museum in Stuttgart-Zuffenhasen, Germany -- and surprisingly the historic car has an electric drivetrain.

Ferdinard Porsche's carriage-like Egger-Lohner C.2 Phaeton -- P1 for short -- was built in 1898 and recently was discovered in a warehouse garage in Austria where it had been stored since 1902, the company said.

Porsche was just 22 when he designed the vehicle for carmaker Jacob Lohner, using an octagonal electric motor, batteries and a 12-speed controller. The car has six forward gears, two reverse gears and four gears to slow and brake. Only four were built.

Rated at 3 horsepower, it could go 49 miles on a single charge at a top speed of 21 mph -- not bad considering the range of most modern-day electrics is less than 100 miles. It weighed just less than 3,000 pounds and could carry four passengers.


The P1 won a 24-mile Berlin road race for electrics in 1899, crossing the finish line 18 minutes ahead of the second place vehicle.

Porsche, who started the famous sports car company that bears his name in 1931, also designed the original Volkswagen Beetle and tanks used by the German army in World War II.

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