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GM’s Mark Reuss: “Different Era” for UAW Talks

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jeffgilbert Jeff Gilbert
Automotive reporter for WWJ Newsradio 950 and CBS Radio News....
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VIDEO: WWJ AutoBeat Reporter Jeff Gilbert tells us about GM’s donation to the College for Creative Studies.

DETROIT (WWJ) With one month to go before the start of formal negotiations between the UAW and the domestic three auto companies, GM’s top North American executive says they are already talking with the union on an informal basis.

“It’s about making the company work, and making sure everybody’s on board with that,” is  how General Motors North America President Mark Reuss describes the upcoming talks.

Reuss was speaking to reporters at the dedication of the General Motors Auditorium at the College for Creative Studies Taubman Center.

The UAW is confirming that they will have the official “handshake” beginning talks on July 27th.  The union was not giving other details, but they traditionally start the talks with the company that took the lead in previous negotiations.  That would be General Motors.

There’s a lot of common ground in this year’s negotiations, says Reuss, as both sides want to see General Motors and it’s domestic counterparts succeed.  While some compensation issues could be difficult, there are other issues where the union and company may already be on the same page.

“There’s no black and white stuff,” said Reuss.  “Some of the stuff we want is a good thing for the union.  Some of the stuff the union wants is a good thing for the company, too.  Being flexible and agile, for instance,  I mean, everybody wins, right?”

This years talks are complicated by no strike agreements at General Motors and Chrysler, but not Ford.

Before speaking with reporters, Reuss announced that General Motors was contributing $2.5 million to Detroit’s College for Creative Studies.  This will help for the recent conversion of the former Argonaut Building, in Detroit’s New Center area, into the Taubman Center.  That center not only hosts classes for design students, it brings in younger students, to teach them the opportunities that could be available to them.

The Argonaut Building has an important place in General Motors history, hosting its very first design operation.

“It was a very important place for GM Design,” said GM Vice President of Design Ed Welburn.  “Some absolutely spectacular cars were designed here.”

A number of young designers now attending the College for Creative Studies are looking forward to creating the cars of the future.

“I’ve always had a fascination with cars,” said student Ronald Jacobs, from Detroit.  Y’know, growing up in the motor city, it makes sense as part of the culture here.”

Those designs will need to take into account very aggressive fuel economy goals.  GM’s Mark Reuss also asked about an Obama Administration request that major automakers–including GM–report on how they would mean a 56.2 mile per gallon fuel economy standard, by 2025.

“These are tough goals,” Reuss said.  “But, it’s our job to look at that, digest it, and really put together a data set of what it takes to do it.”

The administration will take that information, and use it to release its own fuel long term fuel economy proposals in the fall.  It will take another year before the actual rules are written.

But, with Democrats and Republicans both calling for the highest possible fuel economy standards, it’s very likely the industry will have some tough targets to reach.

Reuss said all factors need to be taken into account as the new rules are written.

“It’s how you get there with cars and trucks that customers really want to buy, at a cost basis that doesn’t put unreasonable costs into the car that people don’t pay for.”

Follow Jeff Gilbert on Twitter @jefferygilbert

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