Will EV production hurt local workforce?

Will EV production hurt local workforce?
Published: Oct. 7, 2022 at 12:23 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - There was one word on everyone’s mind at this year’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit: Electric. Which includes Jeep and the thousands of people from NW Ohio who build them.

“We’re excited about EV too, but we want to be a part of it,” said Bruce Baumhower, president of UAW local 12.

Local 12 represents workers in the Toledo Assembly Complex. Baumhower says he’s concerned about the electric vehicles and their assembly.

“We don’t want it to lay off 3000 people at the Jeep plant because we’re not putting in our traditional engines and our radiators and our exhaust systems and all those different components,” said Baumhower.

That dire concern for the roughly 6000 who work there is because basically it doesn’t take as much to create an electric vehicle.

“The next generation of electric vehicle, the really standalone EVs, are going to be fundamentally designed and engineered differently than the traditional internal combustion vehicle,” said Brett Smith with the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor.

Smith acknowledges there will still be a lot of traditional assembly like seats and instrument panels, but he’s seen some estimates saying EV has 20%-30% percent fewer parts in the drive train.

“It’s a massive change in this industry. The industry is undergoing something revolutionary that it hasn’t experienced in, some would argue, 100 years. It is going to be different,” said Smith.

Neither the Jeep plant nor any of the automakers have announced any actual staff decreases associated with the EV switch.

One thing that could keep workers working if an assembly doesn’t need that many people would be a battery production plant. So far no plants are planned for our region. Something the UAW hopes changes.

“We knew those workers could transition over to the battery plants. We didn’t know that we weren’t going to be in the hunt for one. And we haven’t been,” said Baumhower.

Stellantis, formerly Fiat Chrysler, tells 13abc it has battery plants planned for Indiana and Canada.

General Motors says it will have a joint venture with another company in places like Detroit, Hamtramck, Michigan, along with Warren, Ohio, Lansing and Tennessee.

The White House, meanwhile, isn’t worried.

“I think it’s going to be the exact opposite. The amount of people they’re going to need to manufacture the vehicles and to manufacture the batteries and to find the critical components,” said Mitch Landrieu, the White House Infrastructure Coordinator.

Not everyone is as optimistic. We’ll see the answer in the next few years and decades to come.

“People tell me I don’t need to worry about it. It’s 5-6 years down the road, but we’ve got to start planning for it now. We can’t wait for 5-6 years down the road,” said Baumhower.

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