Behold the power of a product when a Detroit 3 automaker gets it right.
How many Americans are waiting in line on any given day to buy a Ford F-Series pickup? How many households are longing for a loaded Jeep Wrangler? Who doubts that the upcoming GMC Hummer EV pickup will be the coolest thing in the parking lot in a few months?
It's the business class 101 lecture you didn't bother taking notes in because it was so ridiculously obvious: You study the market to understand what consumers want. You design the best model on the market with all the features people want. You build it with care and commitment. And you sell it fairly to people who value your results.
So then why is it, you may wonder, that a bill is being floated in the Senate to incentivize the sale of electric vehicles if they were manufactured at an assembly plant with a union work force?
What message is that? That auto plants are disadvantaged by having a unionized work force? Really?
It seems we've heard many years of messaging that, in fact, the auto industry's union representation represents an inherent strength — in skill level, experience, training resourcefulness and company pride.
Which sells better: a UAW-built Ford F-150 from Dearborn, Mich., or a Titan pickup produced by Nissan's nonunion plant in Canton, Miss.?
Before readers break into opposing cheers for U of M vs. Mississippi State, I direct your attention back to that business class 101 lecture. Perhaps it's not the geography the product comes from. Perhaps it's not even the administrative organization the assembly workers have.
Maybe it's just the product.
Not many Nissan executives will argue with me when I say that Ford puts a whole lot more resources into its pickups than Nissan puts into the Titan. The Nissan brand is, therefore, "disadvantaged," you may conclude. Nissan's dealers are, at least. How can you bring in the necessary floor traffic to sell Titans at anywhere near the colossal volume of Ford if the manufacturer is not as committed to that product segment as its rivals?
Which brings us to the competition. Who is really in the crosshairs of this Senate proposal, authored by Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat from Michigan?
There are a number of nonunion manufacturers now planning to produce EVs in North America. Nissan happens to be one of the pioneers in the field, having invested $1.6 billion a decade ago to produce the Leaf and its battery system in Smyrna, Tenn., where the work force is nonunion. Mercedes-Benz is spending $1 billion to start assembling EVs in Vance, Ala., which also has a nonunion work force.
Volvo will make its assembly plant near Charleston, S.C., "all EV" in the next few years — also nonunion. Volkswagen is preparing for EV production in Chattanooga, where workers twice voted against joining the UAW. Nonunion Mazda and Toyota are hinting that EVs may come out of their as-yet-unfinished joint-venture assembly plant in Huntsville, Ala. And there are some small nonunion EV startups in the wings, such as Rivian and Lucid Motors.