Mark Stewart, the North America COO for Stellantis, said the company has to ensure that its manufacturing work force is ready for this critical transition.
Stewart spoke with Staff Reporter Vince Bond Jr. during the Detroit auto show about preparing workers for EVs, the key challenges he faces daily and how the company has adjusted to the merger. Here are edited excerpts.
Q: For the last couple of years, it seems like we see you every couple of months doing different plant groundbreakings and unveilings. Do you feel this is a transformational time for Stellantis?
A: It's kind of reflected today. Today was a good time for reflection at the first [Detroit] auto show after all these years. We're clearly an industry in transition, we're a company in transition with all the technology changes, the different disruptions coming, but I think we've definitively responded to the market. Whether it's investing $35 billion [in electrification and software], opening the new Mack plant to expand right here [in Detroit], the new battery [joint-venture] plants opening in Indiana and in Canada, and then, most recently, announcing the 25 new full-on BEVs [battery electric vehicles] before we hit 2030. It's definitely an exciting time for that.
As these EVs come out, how are you preparing your workers to build those vehicles?
We are looking at what skill sets we need to transition and what learnings we need to have. One of the things we saw up front and early, and we actually did in our last negotiations all together, was coming up with new skilled trade sets that are getting ready for electrification. Also, in terms of partnering with the local schools at a high school level to get kids interested in coming and showing how exciting the new technology is and all the different jobs available in the work force for it.
We've partnered with Oakland University, we've partnered with Ohio State and several other universities to really make sure that we've got programs in place for our classic powertrain engineering community. They can go back and take many degree sessions that we've done together with universities for software and for electrification. It's important for us that everybody has a place in tomorrow's Stellantis just like they do in today's Stellantis. As this tech changes and job requirements change, we're going to continue to work on job training programs for everyone.
For the battery plants in North America, do you think that they will be unionized?
It's up to the people in the plant. All of our other facilities that we wholly own are unionized. We've got a great relationship with the union and if those wind up being union, that's great and wonderful, just like it is today. If it's not, then that's those folks' decision as well.