Also, Detroit 3 assembly plants are running above 90 percent of capacity so there isn't much room for new workers, Cole said.
And many future product plans through 2018 have already been announced. A notable exception is what will be produced at Ford's Michigan Assembly plant outside Detroit. Ford announced on the eve of the negotiations that it will move the next-generation Focus compact and C-Max out of Michigan in 2018. The UAW said production could move outside the United States.
A product commitment for Michigan Assembly could be ironed out in these negotiations, Cole said. Ford has its ceremonial handshake with the UAW Thursday, July 23.
At this week's UAW handshake ceremony, GM CEO Mary Barra went out of her way to assure the union that GM has no plans to move production of its subcompact Chevrolet Sonic out of its Orion Assembly plant in Michigan.
In fact, GM has announced $5.4 billion in new U.S. plant investment over the next three years, much of which has already been detailed by factory. In other words, GM has already laid out its future product plans outside the UAW negotiations.
CEO Sergio Marchionne said this week that Fiat Chrysler is open to bringing additional jobs in-house that are now being done by suppliers.
But the number of jobs for sequencing parts arriving from suppliers, subassembly and, perhaps, maintenance are modest, said Art Schwartz, a former GM labor negotiator and president of Labor and Economics Associates in Ann Arbor, Mich. "Companies can't promise jobs growth independent of industry growth," Schwartz said.
At this week's ceremonial handshake to kick off negotiation with the UAW, Marchionne said FCA US would attack the pay disparity between long-time and entry-level workers.
He said there's better than a 50 percent chance Tier 2 can be ended in the current round of bargaining. Entry-level workers today start at $16 an hour and top out at a little more than $19. Tier 1 workers earn wages of $28.50. The Detroit 3's current four-year contracts with the UAW expire Sept. 14.
But Marchionne did not say how the two sides could end the pay disparity and not trample a company goal of keeping raises pegged to profit-sharing and other flexible compensation rather than straight wage increases.
His counterpart at the ceremony, UAW President Dennis Williams, repeated that Tier 1 workers, who haven't had a wage increase in 10 years, should share in the newfound prosperity of FCA, Ford and GM.
Cole said industry job growth since 2011 is topping out. The combined UAW work force in 2011 was 114,000, CAR reports. It is about 142,000 today and headed for 147,000, the center estimates. All those new jobs went to lower-paid Tier 2 workers.
Now, the UAW and Detroit 3 will spend a good portion of this year's talks bargaining about whether to equalize pay.