When autoworkers went on strike in September, executives of the large U.S. automakers warned that union demands could significantly undermine their ability to compete in a fast-changing industry. The chief executive of Ford Motor said that the company might have to scrap its investment in electric vehicles.
The future doesn’t look quite that bleak now that Ford and the United Automobile Workers union have reached a tentative agreement that is likely to serve as a template for deals the union eventually reaches with General Motors and Stellantis, the maker of Ram, Jeep and Chrysler.
Ford’s costs will rise under the terms of the new contract, which includes a 25 percent raise over four and a half years, improved retirement benefits and other provisions. The extra expense will weigh on profit and could hamper Ford’s ability to invest in new technology, John Lawler, the company’s chief financial officer, said Thursday.
But some analysts said the increases should be manageable. What will matter more for the company’s prospects, they said, is how innovative and efficient the company is in designing and producing cars and technology that can compete with offerings from Tesla, which dominates electric vehicles, the auto industry’s fastest growing segment.
“They haven’t agreed to anything that will kill their competitiveness,” said Joshua Murray, an associate professor at Vanderbilt University who is an author of a book that examined how U.S. automakers lost ground to Japanese and European rivals. He said the deal could even help Ford, in part because the four-year contract ensures there would be no labor strife during an intense phase of the transition to electric vehicles.
“They won’t be engaged in labor conflict while they’re dealing with” the technology shift, Mr. Murray said.