United Auto Workers walk along the assembly line at Ford's Chicago assembly plant.
United Auto Workers walk along the assembly line at Ford's Chicago assembly plant. - 
Listen To The Story
Marketplace

U.S. car manufacturers are wrapping up a banner year, which saw high sales and high profits, despite the many recalls.

Those profits will be front and center as the United Auto Workers sits down with industry executives to hammer out a new contract.

Five years ago, few would have imagined a future as bright as today. Hiring is up, profits are up, gas is down, and the Detroit Three have a stable of sexy new cars.

Profits are up in part because wages for senior workers have been frozen for 10 years, and new hires are now paid on a much lower scale.

"You know it is hard when you have people working right next to each other making two different wages, basically doing the same work,” says Tim O’Hara, vice president of UAW Local 1112 at the GM assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio. 

“Hopefully we can get that turned around in the negotiations coming up," he says.

Many industry analysts think the UAW has a strong case. Bill Visnic, a senior editor at Edmunds.com,  says the UAW will likely make the case that the period of austerity in Detroit is over.

“They could say, ‘We see your quarterly reports, you’re making billions of dollars, you know, share that with us,'” says Visnic.

Visnic points out that it hasn’t been all sacrifice for autoworkers, many of whom have received hefty profit-sharing bonuses in recent years. 

Moreover, carmakers aren’t likely to roll back the concessions they feel are key to their current success.

Follow Adam Allington at @@aallington