After a contentious battle pitting the United Auto Workers (UAW) against Republican politicians and party operatives in Tennessee, workers at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga voted against unionizing 712 to 626. That kept the UAW from entering a foreign automaker’s U.S. plant for the first time in the South. Opponents of the plant’s unionization ranged from the Republican Senator of Tennessee to Grover Norquist, whose billboards suggested the UAW could bankrupt the area.
Showing the long-defunct Packard Plant that closed in the 1950s, one of the Norquist billboards read, “Detroit. Brought to you by the UAW,” USA Today reports.
That’s a great deal of venom directed the UAW’s way. A glance at the award-winning automobiles produced at UAW plants in the U.S. tells quite another story. From sports cars that pace the auto industry to compacts that sell more than any other model on the planet, union plants have countless feathers in their caps. Here are eight world-class cars and trucks made at America’s UAW plants.
1. Ford Fusion
The slick-looking Ford Fusion injected a considerable dose of style into the midsize segment known for its blandness. U.S. auto consumers responded to the new Fusion in kind, making it No. 11 in the list of top-selling vehicles of 2013. In fact, the Fusion’s 27 percent gain over its prior year sales was the biggest boost of any automobile in the top 15.
Good news about the Fusion became great news for Detroit when Ford announced it was bringing production of the car to its Flat Rock, Michigan, plant in August 2013. UAW officials joined Ford corporate officers in celebrating the arrival of the Fusion. As Volkswagen learned from its entirely unionized German plants, the road to automotive success is often paved with cooperation between workforce and management. In bringing production of its world-class car back to Michigan, Ford clearly agrees.
2. Chevy Corvette Stingray
GM’s top-shelf sports car is cleaning up automotive awards. Fresh off its win as North American Car of the Year, there appears to be nothing capable of stopping it. The new iteration of the sports car legend improves upon both the horsepower and fuel efficiency of the previous model. How did Chevy pull off that feat? It’s one triumph of engineering that has industry observers suggesting Detroit is in the midst of a true revival.
UAW workers at the GM plant in Bowling Green, Kentucky, assemble the Corvette, where enthusiasts can tour the facilities. There may be no better example of craftsmanship on the auto market today.
3. Jeep Grand Cherokee
Jeep may be part of Chrysler, which is part of Italian automaker Fiat, but the Jefferson North Assembly Plant where UAW Locals 7, 412, and 889 make the 2014 Grand Cherokee is pure Detroit. In August 2013, the plant celebrated the completion of its five-millionth vehicle — a Billet Silver 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Consumers are on board, too. The Grand Cherokee took twenty-first place among all vehicles sold in the U.S. in 2013 while winning Most Loved SUV in America from Strategic Vision. Critics agree as well. Autobytel.com named the Grand Cherokee 2014 SUV of the Year.
4. Mitsubishi Outlander Sport
The one foreign-branded car on this list belongs to Japan’s Mitsubishi Motors Corporation. UAW workers at the Mitsubishi Motors North America plant in Normal, Illinois, make the Outlander Sport SUV that won Top Safety Pick designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (or IIHS) for 2014. If those laurels weren’t enough, the Automotive Science Group (or ASG) honored the Outlander Sport for Best All-Around Performance in 2013.
If the evidence points to any conclusion, it’s that United Auto Workers have no problem racking up awards for their automobiles — whether working for the Detroit Three or a foreign car company at an Illinois plant.
Talk about being on a roll. The Ford Focus is the best-selling car in China, which helped it become the best-selling car on earth for the second straight year when the stats were tallied in January 2014. The One Ford global approach is winning on many levels, but it all starts on the automaker’s home turf in Michigan.
UAW employees who assemble the Focus at the Wayne, Michigan, plant are the only Ford team that builds electric vehicles, plug-ins, hybrids, and old-fashioned gas-powered automobiles in the same facility. Milestone for 2013: Ford sold well over one million Focus models across the globe on the year.
6. Cadillac CTS
The 2014 Motor Trend Car of the Year is — you guessed it — union-made at the GM Lansing Grand River plant. UAW Local 652 members assembled their millionth vehicle at the Lansing, Michigan, plant in 2013. Fittingly, it was the same 2014 Cadillac CTS that Motor Trend said took the fight to the top German luxury cars and won. Is it a coincidence that these elite vehicles are all union-made in the U.S. and Germany?
Perhaps, but the union crew will get a new task in the coming months when the 2015 Chevy Camaro is assigned to Lansing Grand River. In other words, the good times will continue to roll at this facility for years to come.
7. Dodge Viper
UAW members don’t shy away from “supercars,” either. At the Conner Avenue Assembly Plant in old Detroit, the union crews put together the blazing SRT Viper, a monster that houses an 8.4-liter V10 engine capable of producing 640 horsepower on 600 lb-ft of torque. Clear a lane.
In fact, the SRT Viper is so lethal that dealers were reportedly afraid to let test drivers behind the wheel of the Viper. Specimen of such a high level of style and performance are rare anywhere. In Detroit, only union hands make them run.
8. Ford Mustang
Ford is starting to crank out high volumes of its 2015 Mustang in anticipation of a warm reception to the stud pony car. As much a symbol of America as any automobile in history, the muscle-bound Mustang retains its brawn while maintaining much of its aggressive look.
Tasked with producing the new version of the iconic Mustang is the crew at the Flat Rock Assembly Plant, where production moved in 2004. In April 2013 UAW teams assembled the one-millionth Mustang in Ford’s history. Judging by the enthusiasm for the 2015 model, they can expect to be making many more muscle cars in the years to come.
Honorable Mentions on this list go to the Ford F-150, Chevy Impala, Cadillac ATS, and Ford Escape — just a few more of the winning brands union members produce.