In particular, friction is growing between workers who build combustion vehicles — still the mainstay of most carmakers’ profits — and managers seeking to position their companies for a battery-powered future.
The latest sign of the tough road ahead came on Thursday. To protest conditions offered by Mercedes parent Daimler as it negotiates adding new battery-making facilities at its Untertuerkheim plant in Stuttgart, Germany, the company said staff will stop working overtime next month. That will will slow engine output, forcing it to cancel shifts for assembling the E-Class sedan, Daimler said.
Mercedes, which is investing 10 billion euros ($11.4 billion) as it prepares to roll out 10 electric models, expects as much 25 percent of its sales to come from the new technology by 2025, stoking concerns about job security particularly at engine plants.
“The changes that’ll happen over the next eight to fifteen years will directly hit plants like Untertuerkheim,” said Wolfgang Nieke, worker representative at the site, which employs 19,000 people. “If we don’t lay the groundwork for this shift now, the harder it’ll be down the line.”