Ford Finally Beats Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord by Gregory Hilton

It has taken decades, but the United States has finally beaten Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord in the all important reliability category. The data comes from Consumer Reports which gives its highest possible distinction, the Excellent Rating, to the Ford Fusion.
They describe Fusion as a car that performs 60% better than its peers, and will last for 200,000 miles. It is the Motor Trend Car of the Year and its hybrid version won the 2010 North American Car of the Year Award.
The Fusion is built at Ford’s Hermosillo Plant in Mexico because the company encountered union problems when it tried to modernize and become more flexible. In Mexico, Ford has one of the most advanced automated plants in the world, and it is far leaner than any American facility.
It can produce eight different vehicle platforms at the same time on the same line. The problem is that the UAW doesn’t want the most advanced, leanest, flexible, and state-of-the-art plants in the U.S. At the same time, American consumers have not been willing to overpay for UAW built vehicles just so union workers can retire before 50 with generous pensions and benefits.
Because of the UAW, the U.S. Big Three has had to price cars about $2000 higher than the competition. This is primarily due to retiree benefits rather than wages.
In 2006, the average UAW worker with a high school degree earned 57.6% more in wages and benefits compared to the average university professor with a Ph.D. and 52.6% more than the average worker at Toyota, Honda or Nissan.
According to Forbes:
Labor cost per hour, wages and benefits for hourly workers, 2006.
Ford: $70.51 ($141,020 per year)
GM: $73.26 ($146,520 per year)
Chrysler: $75.86 ($151,720 per year)
Toyota, Honda, Nissan (in U.S.): $48.00 ($96,000 per year)
The real issue is not wages but the total labor cost for every vehicle produced. According to AAUP and IES, the average annual compensation for a college professor in 2006 was $92,973 (average salary nationally of $73,207 + 27% benefits). Try to build competitive cars while paying that much more than your competitors. The only thing you can cut to match prices is the cost of components which means lower quality.
Now that union card check has been defeated, the UAW is moving on to its next phase in January and will begin picketing the U.S. dealerships of Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Hyundai, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. They all have non-unionized U.S. plants, and Volkswagen is building a plant in Tennessee.
This will be an uphill campaign for the UAW because the BMW plant in South Carolina and the Mercedes plant in Alabama are located in right-to-work states.
Other plants such as Honda’s factory in Marysville, Ohio, pay wages on a par with those specified in UAW contracts with the Detroit Three auto makers.

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