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The National Insurance Crime Bureau warns that hacking poses an ever-growing threat to car owners, as cars increasingly become computers with wi-fi on wheels.

"As more and more technology is incorporated, the vulnerability is huge," says the Bureau's Frank Scafidi.  "We're not seeing huge events like this or great numbers.  It is sporadic but it is something to be aware of."

A recent video caught a thief sitting in a car with his laptop, reprogramming a car to start, most likely using a new, blank key. A few minutes later, he takes off in the car.

Nearly 75% of people surveyed by AlixPartners say they'd be interesting in an autonomous, AKA self-driving car.

The number jumps to 90% if the self-driving car includes the option of letting a human take control if deemed necessary.

Mark Wakefield of AlixPartners says he thinks his survey found more interest in self-driving cars because of the way they phrased the questions. The survey provided details about the positives of self-driving cars, in addition to the negatives.

German automaker Volkswagen has been handed an expensive lesson: don't mess with the EPA, and don't mess up our air. 

The U.S. Government has given Volkswagen a historic $14.7 billion spanking. 

A consumer advocate says many low to moderate income people pay much more for car insurance, even with the same driving record and zip code as wealthier people.

Bob Hunter is with the Consumer Federation of America.

He says major insurance companies use factors like marital status, education, occupation, and home ownership as proxies for income.

He says in general, people who are single, don't own a home, didn't go to college, and who work at blue collar jobs, have less money. 

The United Auto Workers says it's reached a tentative agreement with a Detroit auto supplier.

Earlier this week, the UAW announced it had authorized a strike at Sakthi Automotive Group.

The India-based company has two plants with more than 200 employees in Detroit.

UAW leaders accused Sakthi of a number of labor law violations, including refusing to provide information for collective bargaining, and firing unionized workers.

A law firm is suing General Motors, claiming the automaker's diesel Cruze sedans cheat on emissions tests, just like Volkswagen's diesels. 

Volkswagen is in big trouble for deliberately installing software that turns off emissions controls during normal driving, and on during fuel economy testing.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sued Volkswagen over the deceit. The Associated Press reports an announcement of a settlement will be made early next week.

The United Auto Workers is threatening a strike at Sakthi Automotive Group.

The India-based auto parts supplier has more than 200 employees at two Detroit facilities. It makes safety components for automakers including GM and Ford.

The UAW says Sakthi has engaged in a number of unfair labor practices at its Detroit plants, starting prior to the union organizing workers there in 2015.

Those practices continued as the UAW and Sakthi began collective bargaining in January of this year, says UAW Local 600 Vice President and lead negotiator AJ Freer.

Argonne National Laboratory

Good news for Ford, General Motors, and Fiat-Chrysler from an influential survey of initial quality in cars.  

Renee Stephens of J.D. Power says overall, domestic car owners reported fewer problems in the first 90 days than import car owners.

"Domestics actually overtook the import brands this year for only the second time in the history of the study --  the last time was in 2010," says Stephens.

Another surprise was mainstream brands did better than luxury brands. That hasn't happened in the survey since 2006.

The accident that killed actor Anton Yelchin on Sunday might not have been a fluke, but rather, the result of a common mistake that has confused car owners and resulted in the recall of more that 800,000 vehicles manufactured by Fiat-Chrysler. 

FLICKR USER AUTOMOBILE ITALIA https://flic.kr/p/AsE6u3

Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes has been reviewing the landscape of automobiles, high-tech, and next-generation mobility and finds Fiat Chrysler’s top guy Sergio Marchionne is lagging.

The largest recall in automotive history just got bigger.

General Motors and Ford Motor Company this week recalled nearly four million cars with passenger-side Takata airbags.

Takata airbags can inflate with too much force, especially if the cars have been driven in hot, humid areas for a long time. 

GM issued the recall of "certain 2007-2011 vehicles" grudgingly. The automaker believes its designs protect the airbags from heat and moisture. From its statement:  

Automakers have added another 12 million cars to a massive recall involving defective airbags.

Takata-made airbags can inflate with too much force and explode. Shrapnel from the devices has killed 13 people, 10 of those in the United States. More than 100 people have been injured.

The total number recalled over the defect is now about 36 million cars in the U.S. and 70 million globally. 

Twelve of the fatal accidents have occurred in Honda vehicles. One death occurred in a Ford pickup in Georgia in December, 2015.

Andrew Hoffman’s grandmother was born in 1895 and died in 1990. In her lifetime, she saw the adoption of indoor plumbing, indoor electrification, airplane travel and computers. Children of today will also see change their lifetime. The main changes, Hoffman believes, will be in electricity and mobility.

 

Hoffman is a professor at the Ross School of Business and Education Director at the Graham Sustainability Institute at the University of Michigan. He wrote an essay for The Conversation entitled “How driverless vehicles will redefine mobility and change car culture.”

He joined us on Stateside to discuss what may happen in the near future, as self-driving vehicles make their mark on culture.

 


An annual report by the Governor's Highway Safety Association finds that motorcyclist traffic fatalities rose 10% across the nation between 2014 and 2015, and the increase was substantially greater in Michigan.

Fatal motorcycle accidents rose 23% in Michigan.

Co-author Richard Retting says there could be many factors responsible, including better weather in 2015, along with more vehicles of all kinds on the highways.

But he says Michigan's repeal of its mandatory motorcycle helmet law in 2012 very likely was a factor, too.

2016 GMC Acadia
GM

General Motors says it overstated the fuel economy for three crossovers by 1 to 2 miles per gallon, but says it was a mistake, not an intent to deceive customers. 

The "inadvertent error" means GM overestimated the fuel economy of 170,000 2016 Chevy Traverse, GMC Acadia, and Buick Enclave vehicles by about 10%.

GM says the mistake happened when it installed new emissions-related hardware in the cars. New mileage stickers have been issued, and owners are being notified.

2017 Ford GT
Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company received 6,506 applications during its one-month window for people who want to own a 2017 GT supercar. 

But there will only be 500 lucky owners. And it's not first-come, first-serve.

Ford will select who gets one of the cars, giving preference to people who've owned a GT, for example, or those who have a "strategic alliance" with Ford, or – most importantly – people who can generate buzz for the Ford brand.

To boost their chances, quite a few GT hopefuls included videos with their applications. 

Ford Motor Company of Dearborn on Thursday reported a record first quarter profit of $2.5 billion, far exceeding analysts' expectations.

General Motors had a good first quarter too, reporting $2 billion in profit, and Italian-American automaker Fiat Chrysler made $540 million.

All three companies are benefiting from the boom in U.S. sales of SUVs and pickup trucks. 

Gasoline prices remain low, and automakers have made great strides improving fuel economy  for larger vehicles. 

Ford Motor Company's investment of $1.4 billion will upgrade its Livonia Transmission plant to build a new, more fuel-efficient 10-speed transmission for some models of F-150 trucks.  

At the same time, Ford is also building a new factory in Mexico, part of a strategy to build SUVs and trucks in the U.S. and cars in Mexico. 

The UAW doesn't like that strategy, but Ford points out it still employs more than 55,000 hourly workers in the U.S.  That's more than any other automaker in the country.

Clyde Robinson / Creative Commons

Repossession companies want lawmakers to block a bill they say will harm their business and consumers.

The package of bills, SB 656 and 657, would exempt companies that serve as middle-men between lenders and the people who actually repossess cars from having to get a license to operate as debt collectors in Michigan.

user: mariordo / Wikimedia Commons

Federal safety regulators have told Google the computer in their self-driving car can be considered the driver - in lieu of a human.

One analyst says that decision is a "launching pad" for the technology.

Rebecca Lindland of Kelley Blue Book says many regulations were written long before the self-driving car was a twinkle in Google founder Larry Page's eye. So recognizing the computer as the driver helps to make the technology feasible.

A shifter like the one shown here has confused consumers, resulting in the recall of more than 800,000 Fiat-Chrysler vehicles.
Mike Durand / creative commons

U.S. car safety regulators are investigating electronic gear shifters in more than 850,000 newer model Fiat Chrysler vehicles. 

Driver problems with the shifters have caused 121 crashes and 30 injuries. 

The shifters are apparently so confusing that drivers have exited the vehicles while they're in gear. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says the shifters' operation is not intuitive and provides poor feedback to the driver. 

A few accidents caused by the rollaway vehicles resulted in hospitalizations. 

Toyota

General Motors announced Wednesday it made a record profit of $7.9 billion in 2015. 

CEO Mary Barra told investors she thinks the good times will continue in 2016 and beyond. 

"There's been a lot written about the U.S. industry being at peak levels and that a downturn is imminent," Barra said. "We like many others do not share this view."

GM's record profit means a record profit-sharing check for UAW hourly workers, as well. Many will get $11,000 in the next month or so.

IFCAR / Wikipedia/public domain

Ford Motor Company made a record $7.4 billion in 2015, largely on the basis of profits in North America and despite a very big loss of $832 million in South America.

Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks says the automaker also made a record pre-tax profit of $765 million in the Asia Pacific region – and the automaker returned to profitability in Europe for the first since 2011.

UAW hourly workers will share in the good news.

The color of this Buick Avista concept car caught the eye of Cynthia Canty at the 2016 National American International Auto Show.
Photo by Steve Fecht for Buick

    

When looking for a new set of wheels, does the color make the car? Or does the color take a back seat to the car's design or what's under the hood?

Car enthusiasts who attended the North American International Auto Show in Detroit had a number of vehicles catch their eyes and the color of the car, likely, played a big role in that.

Bull-doser / wikimedia/public domain

Fiat Chrysler is making some tweaks to its current five-year plan.  And some of those tweaks are pretty big. 

Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne says the company will double down on increasing its ability to churn out Jeeps and trucks.  In the U.S., he says the trend is clear.  

"There's been in our view a permanent shift towards UVs (utility vehicles) and pickup trucks," Marchionne told analysts during an earnings conference call.

Creative Commons

One of the six "bellwether" ignition switch lawsuits against General Motors has been dismissed, after evidence was presented showing that the plaintiff lied about the timing and extent of his injuries and his financial damages.

GM faces hundreds of lawsuits across the country alleging various harms from its delay of a massive recall for faulty ignition switches.  The switches can suddenly turn off if bumped, disabling the power steering and the airbags. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A new poll from the University of Michigan says most parents have strict rules for teen drivers.  

Researchers say teen drivers are vulnerable to distractions.  

They say it’s important for parents to set rules to reduce those distractions.  

The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health finds a majority of parents strictly forbid teen drivers from talking on cell phones or texting. Most also put limits on the number of passengers, as well as where and when teens can drive.

General Motors

General Motors is launching its first new brand in 20 years.

But it's not a car brand.

"Maven" is GM's new personal mobility service.

The new brand is in response to a trend, slight but noticeable and growing, of millennials and urban residents deciding car ownership isn't worth the cost or hassle. 

But they still need to get around. Peter Kosack is GM's head of Urban Mobility. He says Maven will give customers easy access to car-sharing and ride-sharing services.

Volvo

Usually, the biggest buzz at the North American International Auto Show surrounds a vehicle.

This year, you could argue the big buzz was about a trend: The race toward self-driving, or autonomous, vehicles.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced that President Obama would seek $3.9 billion in the next federal budget to encourage the development of autonomous vehicles, which Foxx says show the potential to save thousands of lives.

Semi-autonomous vehicles are already on the road, with more to come.

During the press days of the North American International Auto Show, Detroit's Big Three unveiled their latest 2016 models and made announcements about what's to come. Here are the highlights of what GM, Ford, and Chrysler brought up on stage and displayed on their stands.

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