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Unifor may establish local union for Toyota's Canadian plants

07/17/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Plants/Manufacturing, Toyota, UAW/Unions, Canada

Toyota Corolla

Union tactics apparently translate across borders, as Canada's Unifor may take inspiration from the United Auto Workers' recent move at the Volkswagen factory in Chattanooga, TN, and establish a local for the Toyota factories in Cambridge and Woodstock.

Unifor last attempted to organize the workers at the two factories, which are responsible for production of the Toyota Corolla (above), RAV4 and Lexus RX back in April, but that vote was eventually delayed. According to that report, 3,000 of the two plants' 7,500 employees signed union cards, but that apparently wasn't enough for Unifor to force a vote.

Because of this, the union is looking at the local approach, like what the UAW is attempting with VW.

"We have union halls in Woodstock and Kitchener-Waterloo; they could elect an executive and run monthly membership meetings," union president Jerry Dias told The Windsor Star. Dias added that the union "continues to sign up new members on a regular basis."

So what would the benefit to employees be if they sign up with the local? According to The Star, while Unifor couldn't act as a bargaining agent for the workers, employees would still be able to take part in other union activities. It's not entirely clear what these include, though, and as the primary mission of a union is to act as a bargaining agent for employees, the idea of a local would appear to leave something on the table.

As for when this plan could come to fruition, Dias says a final decision isn't expected until fall.

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Hyundai recalls 58,000 Elantra Touring models over side-airbag concern

07/08/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Economy, Wagons/Estates, Recalls/TSBs, Hyundai, Canada

2011 Hyundai Elantra Touring

Hyundai is recalling 58,000 Elantra Touring wagons, after it was discovered that a metal support bracket in the headliner could become dislodged when the side-curtain airbag deploys. If this happens, occupants could suffer lacerations.

The affected models were built between December 15, 2009 and May 7, 2012 and cover model years 2010 to 2012. The problem itself was discovered in the follow-up into a 2013 recall of the Elantra Sedan, when a Touring model was found in a salvage yard with a detached headliner, despite using a different type of support than was recalled in the four-door model. No injuries have been associated with this recall.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration bulletin, the remedy for this recall is not unlike that used with the Elantra Sedan - adhesive strips will be applied to the headliner to prevent it from dislodging in the event of a crash.

Of the 58,000 vehicles affected in this recall, 35,000 are located in the United States, while the remaining 23,000 units were sold in Canada. Hyundai is set to begin free repairs by the middle of next month.

Scroll down for the official press release from NHTSA.

Continue reading Hyundai recalls 58,000 Elantra Touring models over side-airbag concern

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Czornobaj found guilty of two motorists' deaths after stopping car to save ducks [w/video]

06/21/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Government/Legal, Safety, Videos, Canada

Emma Czornobaj

Sometimes being an animal lover can get you into serious trouble, especially if you're not thinking of your fellow man. In 2010, Emma Czornobaj stopped her car in the left lane of a Canadian highway south of Montreal to rescue a group of ducklings. However, a motorcyclist riding with his daughter as a passenger crashed into the back of Czornobaj's car while it was stopped, killing them both.

The case went to trial, and the story has dominated Canadian news for some time now. On Friday, Czornobaj was convicted of two counts of criminal negligence causing death and two counts of dangerous driving causing death in a Canadian court. According to the CBC, her explanation in court was that she saw the ducklings along the side of the road without their mother in sight. As an animal lover, she decided to stop her car to rescue the birds and take them home with her.

Her punishment for the deaths isn't yet known, but according to the Montreal Gazette, sentencing is scheduled for August. Czornobaj's lawyer is trying to make sure she gets no jail time because this is a first offense and there was no criminal intent in the fatalities. Regardless of the sentencing outcome, it's a tragedy all around. Scroll down for a video with commentary about the jury's decision.

Continue reading Czornobaj found guilty of two motorists' deaths after stopping car to save ducks [w/video]

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Race Recap: 2014 Canadian Grand Prix makes its money on the back end

06/09/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Motorsports, Infiniti, Mercedes Benz, Ferrari, Canada

Graphic for the 2014 Canadian Formula One Grand Prix.

Momentum. That was the word of the weekend at the last race in Monaco - Nico Rosberg retaking it, Williams getting reacquainted with it and Marussia tasting it for the first time, among other examples. That same, weighted term flew to Canada with the money circus known as Formula One, took all weekend to build and then walloped the front end of the field and the season on Sunday afternoon.

Rosberg carried his Monaco triumph into qualifying, putting his Mercedes AMG Petronas on pole ahead of teammate and reconciled friend Lewis Hamilton. Reigning World Champion Sebastian Vettel finally got the better of Daniel Ricciardo, lining up for Infiniti Red Bull Racing in third ahead of his teammate in sixth, split up by Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa in the Williams. Ferrari, having brought numerous aero updates for this race, didn't get the push it was really looking for, Fernando Alonso happy to get seventh ahead of Kimi Räikkönen, still troubled by his F14T, in tenth. Jean-Eric Vergne secured eighth for Toro Rosso, Jenson Button lining up ninth for a still-struggling McLaren.

When the lights went out, Mercedes, Williams and Marussia would all find out how quickly momentum can short circuit or disappear in a sparkly ball of high-speed contact, spilled fluids and tire barriers.

Continue reading Race Recap: 2014 Canadian Grand Prix makes its money on the back end

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Canadian Grand Prix guaranteed for another ten years

06/09/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Motorsports, Earnings/Financials, Canada

Canadian Grand Prix

Formula One racing comes and goes from the United States, meandering as it has between locations like Austin, Indianapolis, Phoenix and Watkins Glen. But the one stalwart of grand prix racing on this continent has been the Canadian Grand Prix. Held with only three exceptions (in 1975, 1987 and 2009) since 1961, North American racing fans can (almost) always count on the Canadian Grand Prix to provide them with their F1 action. And that's not about to change any time soon.

According to Autosport, the embattled and controversial Bernie Ecclestone has signed a new deal with the promoters of the Canadian Grand Prix to keep it on the calendar for a further ten years. The deal is said to be worth £100 million and is reportedly backed by government authorities. The Montreal municipal, Quebec provincial and Canadian federal governments have all been major supporters of the event in the past.

As a result, the Canadian Grand Prix will remain a guaranteed fixture on the F1 calendar through 2024, but not without its conditions: as part of the agreement, organizers will have to invest around $25-40 million on a new pit lane and medical complex to update the existing structure in time for the 2017 race. In return, the race promoters will retain a larger share of the ticket sales, the lion's share of which are understood to typically go to Ecclestone's Formula One Management.

The first home of the Canadian Grand Prix was at Mosport Park in Ontario, which traded off a couple of times with the Circuit Mont-Tremblant currently owned by billionaire Ferrari collector Lawrence Stroll and situated a couple of hours outside of Montreal. The race moved in 1978 to Montreal's Île Notre-Dame, which was renamed after the late hometown hero Gilles Villeneuve following his death in 1982.

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Canadian government investigating whether GM Canada delayed recalls

05/24/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Government/Legal, Recalls/TSBs, Safety, GM, Canada

General Views of General Motors Co. Oshawa Assembly Plant

The General Motors recall scandal might be hopping borders in the near future. The Canadian government's Transport Minister, Lisa Raitt, is pushing for an investigation into when GM Canada knew about the ignition switch problem and the necessary recall.

"Having seen what has developed in the United States I've gone back to my officials to go back to GM Canada and ask them when did they find out. Did they find out at the same time as GM in the U.S. told the world or did they know earlier than that?" said Raitt to Reuters in a conference call. If the Canadian arm of the company knew about the problem before the recall and didn't do anything, it could be in violation of the nation's laws. Raitt was clear that the investigation into GM Canada must be completed first, before she would decide to prosecute the company.

However, we can add this onto the pile of official investigations into GM. Multiple US agencies are already looking into it, and the fines are mounting as well. The business is already facing a $35 million payment to the US government for delaying the ignition switch recall and also receiving more oversight from the feds. In addition to that, the company has about $10 billion in 79 switch-related lawsuits to deal with.

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2015 Nissan Micra

05/19/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Economy, Hatchbacks, Nissan, Driving, Canada

2015 Nissan Micra

Several years ago, poutine started showing up on the menus of a number of Detroit-area restaurants. For those unfamiliar with the Canadian specialty, it involves serving up french fries, gravy and cheese curds all in one artery-clogging heap. It's not really my thing, but the comfort-food dish has caught hold here in The D, and many absolutely swear by it. In a country where we happily serve Double Down sandwiches, and where competitive eating qualifies as sport, it's hard to believe le poutine isn't spreading like wildfire.

Given Detroit's proximity to Canada, it's not surprising that this culinary creation has managed to find its way across the border. The same thing goes for cars - we Detroiters are routinely privy to lots of Great White North imports. No, we can't buy not-for-US vehicles like the Nissan X-Trail, Mercedes-Benz B-Class (at least, the gasoline version), or now-discontinued products like the Honda Civic-based Acura CSX or EL before it. But Ontario-plated examples of these cars can be seen all the time here in southeast Michigan - it's a far more common occurrence than you might think.

These days, it's rare that an automaker will introduce a model to Canada without offering it up in the United States - especially a car that stands to do big things for a company's presence in North America. But with this 2015 Nissan Micra, that's exactly what's happened; Nissan's US arm has repeatedly stated that there are no plans to offer the car in Yankeeland. Why is the Micra so important? This five-door hatchback enters Canada with the coveted title of being the most affordable new car in the country: just $9,998 Canadian (CAD) to start. In fact, the Micra launches to our north just as the larger, four-door Versa Sedan is phased out in Canada - a vehicle that holds the lowest-cost title here in the US, at $11,990 USD.

To see what all the budget-friendly fuss is about, I headed to Montreal to sample Nissan's latest offering. Is this subcompact hatch better left as a Canada-only special, or should we Americans be allowed to have our poutine and eat it, too? Read on to find out.

Continue reading 2015 Nissan Micra

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Nissan Canada kills Cube, is US next?

05/12/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Car Buying, Economy, Plants/Manufacturing, Hatchbacks, Nissan, Canada

2009 Nissan Cube

Canadians, say goodbye to the quirky Nissan Cube. In fact, it's too late; it's already gone. The question now becomes whether the boxy model gets the axe in the US as well.

Nissan didn't exactly publicize the Cube's Canadian retirement. An Autos.ca reader noticed that the vehicle was no longer listed on the automaker's official site in the Great White North. He tweeted the company about it and was told, "Yes, the Nissan Cube has been discontinued in Canada."

The news certainly makes you wonder what the future for the model is in the US. The Cube isn't exactly a hot seller here, either. According to Nissan's last sales results, it sold just 356 units in April, down 23.9 percent from a year ago, and 1,604 vehicles from January to April, down 33.7 percent. Annual sales were as high as 23,000 units in 2010, but they started dipping as early as 2011.

Nissan North America Director of Communications, Dan Bedore, tells Autoblog: "Nissan is committed to providing Canadians with exactly the right car to fit their lifestyle. At this time, customers are finding their needs are met with the other great small cars in our lineup like Micra, Versa Note, Sentra and Juke and we are putting our focus behind these vehicle nameplates."

And what of US sales? Says Bedore, "In the US, the 2014 model is in showrooms, now. We have no comment on Cube sales in the US beyond the current model year." Suffice it to say that despite the official "No Comment" from Nissan, we don't expect to see any Cube models in US showrooms for 2015 - this, despite the fact that the model is expected to get a facelift soon for other markets.

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How fracking is causing Chrysler minivans to sit on Detroit's riverfront

04/26/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Car Buying, Minivans/MPVs, Plants/Manufacturing, Chrysler, Dodge, Canada

Dodge Grand Caravan

It's fascinating the way that one change to a complex system can have all sorts of unintended consequences. For instance, there are hundreds of new Chrysler Town and County and Dodge Grand Caravan minivans built in Windsor, Ontario, sitting in lots on the Detroit waterfront because of the energy boom in the Bakken oil field in the northern US and parts of Canada.

The huge amount of crude oil coming from these sites mostly use freight trains for transport, and that supply boom has resulted in a shortage of railcars to carry other goods. According to The Windsor Star, North American crude oil transport by train has gone from 9,500 carloads in 2008 to 434,032 carloads in 2013. Making matters worse, some North American rail infrastructure is still damaged because of this year's harsh winter, and that's slowing things down even further.

Chrysler admits to The Star that it has had some delivery delays due to the freight train shortage. In the meantime, it's using more trucks to deliver its vehicles. Trucking is a far less economical solution, partially because a train can carry so many more units at one time, but alternatives are slim. The Windsor plant alone has a deal for 33 trucks to distribute the minivans around Canada and the Midwestern US.

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Ontario looks to liquidate its holdings in General Motors

04/14/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Government/Legal, GM, Earnings/Financials, Canada

General Views of General Motors Co. Oshawa Assembly Plant

The late-80s and early-90s saw the Canadian government divest itself from some of its largest state-owned businesses (known in Commonwealth countries as Crown Corporations) - particularly when it came to transport and energy companies. In a sweeping implementation of Thatcherism led by Conservative premier Brian Mulroney, Ottawa privatized aerospace companies Canadair and de Havilland in 1986, sold off Air Canada in 1988, liquidated its majority stake in Petro-Canada in 1991 and finished selling off its shares in CN (the Canadian National Railway Company) in 1995. But after General Motors emerged from bankruptcy in 2010, the Canadian federal and Ontario provincial governments (and, when it comes down to it, Queen Elizabeth II) found themselves among the largest shareholders in one of the biggest automakers in the world. And so they remain today, but that's all about to change.

In a public address on Friday, Finance Minister Charles Sousa announced the implementation of a new policy that would see the Ontario provincial government sell off a large portfolio of assets. On the docket are such state-owned assets as the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (which has a monopoly over alcohol sale across the country's second-largest and most populous province), utility companies Hydro One and Ontario Power Generation, some valuable pieces of real estate... and the province's shares in GM.

According to Bloomberg, the provincial government is convening a panel to determine how best to sell off the assets, to be chaired by TD bank chief Ed Clark and populated by such notables as former provincial finance minister Janet Ecker and former Canada Pension Plan Investment Board chief David Denison. Funds raised by the sale of these assets will be reinvested in infrastructure and not applied towards the provincial debt that is fast approaching $300 billion (in Canadian dollars).

Back in August we reported that the Canadian federal government was also planning to sell its stake in GM, but today the government-owned Canada Development Investment Corporation remains the company's second-largest shareholder with over 110 million shares, behind the UAW healthcare trust with precisely 140 million shares. The Canadian governments may, however, want to wait for GM's stock prices to recover in the wake of the recall scandal before it begins offloading.

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