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9:13 pm
Wed June 18, 2014

GM chief Mary Barra back on Capitol Hill

Credit Dave Pinter / flickr

General Motors CEO Mary Barra was back on Capitol Hill today.

She was there to offer more testimony on the growing ignition switch recall problem which has been linked to 13 deaths and the recall of some six million GM vehicles.

Mary Barra was not alone. She came with independent investigator Anton Valukas and his 300-page report.

Detroit News Washington Bureau Chief David Shepardson says Valukas was able to answer questions about the report while Barra could focus on what GM was going to do in the future.

“Overall, the questioning was a lot gentler than last time, because the committees didn’t express frustration with Mary that she was not able to answer so many different questions,” Shepardson said.

“There are really no questions they could answer with the exception of the why.”

*Listen to full interview above.

Stateside
5:41 pm
Tue June 17, 2014

GM recalls another 3.4 million cars

Credit user paul (dex) / Flickr

The recall notices just keep coming.

The ignition-switch crisis took a big new turn Monday as General Motors recalled 3.4 million cars.
That's on top of the 2.6 million small cars already called back for ignition switches that can slip out of the "run" position if the key is carrying extra weight and is somehow jarred. That could cause the engine to stall and kill power steering, power brakes, and air bags.

The problem has been linked to at least 13 deaths and over 40 crashes. However, GM sales have not been greatly affected.

This latest recall comes as CEO Mary Barra prepares for what will undoubtedly be a rough session tomorrow on Capitol Hill before the House Energy and Commerce's Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee.

*Listen to full interview above.

Auto
10:54 am
Tue June 17, 2014

GM recalls 3.16 million cars for another ignition switch problem

General Motors has found another problem with ignition switches in vehicles.

In what's sure to become extra ammunition in Wednesday's Senate committee interrogation of GM Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra, the automaker this week is recalling 3.16 million mostly older model vehicles to replace slotted keys with keys with a hole.

The company says the fix will prevent the cars from inadvertently turning off if there is extra weight on the key ring and the car goes over a bump.

The cars involved in the recall:

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Auto
5:05 pm
Thu June 12, 2014

Ford lowers mileage rating for 6 vehicles, mostly hybrids

The Lincoln MKZ was advertised as "the most fuel-efficient luxury hybrid in America." Not any more.
Credit Michael Gil / Wikimedia Commons

You think Ford was a little embarrassed last year after having to reduce its mileage claims for the Ford C-Max? Now they have to reduce those claims for six 2013 and 2014 models (claims on the C-Max have to be reduced again).

All of Ford's 2013 hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles are affected, as well as most 2014 Fiesta models.

Here's a little damage control from Ford's Raj Nair:

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Stateside
1:47 pm
Thu June 12, 2014

Dennis Williams is UAW's new president

Credit 36th Constitutional Convention

Dennis Williams is the new president of the United Auto Workers Union, and members appear to be very optimistic about the leadership.

Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes told Stateside that the union views Williams as somebody who can be an innovative bargainer and bring a new perspective.

Howes in his column today said that Dennis Williams has his work cut out for him to correct the mistakes of his predecessor, Bob King. 

Williams is the first UAW president who never headed one of union’s main three departments: Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler. He is also the first who has never worked in an auto plant.

*Listen to full interview above. 

Auto
11:23 am
Tue June 10, 2014

GM shareholders are in Detroit, and so are protesters

GM protesters outside the Renaissance Center
Credit Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

GM shareholders meet today at the automaker’s Detroit headquarters—with protesters circling outside the Renaissance Center.

The protesters include family members of people who died in GM cars that have since been recalled.

GM has acknowledged 13 deaths as a result of faulty ignition switches. But victim’s advocates say that number is much higher, possibly more than 100.

Laura Christian’s daughter, Amber Marie Rose, died when the airbag in her 2005 Chevy Cobalt failed to deploy.

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Stateside
5:31 pm
Thu June 5, 2014

GM CEO Mary Barra says investigation revealed big flaws in ignition switch recall process

Credit Wikipedia

"We failed."

That was the painful self-assessment from General Motors today, as CEO Mary Barra unveiled the findings of an internal investigation into the automaker's ignition switch crisis.

The defective switches are linked to at least 13 deaths and 47 crashes over more than a decade.

Today Barra spoke to GM employees at a town hall meeting broadcast around the world.

Michigan Radio's auto reporter Tracy Samilton was at the town hall, and she joined us on today’s Stateside.

*Listen to our conversation with Tracy Samilton above. 

Breaking
9:48 am
Thu June 5, 2014

GM CEO says "pattern of incompetence and neglect" led to ignition switch debacle

GM executives answer questions during this morning's press conference.
Credit GM / YouTube

Update 3:30 p.m.

Texas attorney Bob Hilliard represents about 70 families suing GM in a variety of state and federal courts.  

He says his clients were “stunned” to hear GM CEO Mary Barra admit the problem was a result of "incompetence and neglect."

“I don’t think that GM can come into a court of law anymore and argue it wasn’t their fault,” says Hilliard. He says the only thing GM can argue now is “what is the value of the loss.”

But Hilliard says he does worry GM will claim it's not liable for problems predating its bankruptcy. He cites a case involving a Pennsylvania man who was paralyzed from the chest down in an accident.   

“In court they say GM did not design this vehicle. GM did not manufacture this vehicle. GM did not sell this vehicle. Even though this vehicle was a 2006 GM Cobalt,” says Hilliard.

Hilliard says he's "skeptical" about the victims’ compensation fund GM is offering to establish.

Update 10:34 a.m.

The much-anticipated report that looked into what went wrong at General Motors was given to federal regulators and Congress this morning.

GM executives held a press conference this morning about what the report found and how GM plans to respond.

This is a turning point in the ignition switch recall saga for GM.

CEO Mary Barra refused to answer detailed questions from the press and from Congress until Anton Valukis released the findings of his investigation.

The New York Times' Bill Vlasic writes that GM execs hope this report will relieve some pressure on the company:

Legal experts say that G.M. has taken a calculated risk that Mr. Valukas’s findings and recommendations will sufficiently answer the myriad questions hanging over the company.

“The downside is that members of Congress, the press and the public may think that the report lacks credibility if it is in an in-house investigation,” said Carl W. Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond.

But Professor Tobias said that Mr. Valukas, a former United States attorney, was a good choice for the delicate task of investigating G.M. “His reputation is on the line with this report, so he is not likely to sacrifice that for G.M.,” he said.

But this is just another step in the grand mea culpa for GM.

Vlasic reports the company faces more Congressional hearings, more investigations from the U.S. Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission, and it will need to compensate the families of the victims of the ignition switch problems:

... the company is awaiting recommendations from the lawyer Kenneth R. Feinberg on how it will compensate victims of switch-related crashes and family members of people who died as a result of the defect. G.M. faces hundreds of private claims and lawsuits.

Mr. Feinberg, who oversaw compensation claims for victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the Boston Marathon bombing, has said he would make his recommendations to G.M. later this month.

To see how this crisis unfolded for GM, check out this timeline from NPR's Tanya Basu.

9:48 a.m.

General Motors CEO Mary Barra says 15 employees have been fired over the company's recent ignition switch recalls.

Barra made the announcement this morning as she released an internal investigation by attorney Anton Valukis into the recall of 2.6 million older small cars for defective ignition switches.

Barra says the internal investigation into its recent ignition switch recall is "brutally tough and deeply troubling."

“What Valukis found in this situation was a pattern of incompetence and neglect,” Barra said. “Repeatedly, individuals failed to disclose critical pieces of information that could have fundamentally changed the lives of those impacted by the faulty ignition switch.”

It took GM more than a decade to report the switch failures, which it blames for 13 deaths.

In a town hall meeting at GM's suburban Detroit technical center, Barra says attorney Anton Valukas interviewed 230 employees and reviewed 41 million documents to produce the report, which makes recommendations to avoid future safety problems.

Auto
7:12 pm
Wed June 4, 2014

Proposed EPA rules will add only $7 to average-priced car

A study by Business Forward says it costs the average auto plant more than $1 million to shut down for lack of parts
Credit automotiveauto.info

A new study by Business Forward says electric costs will go up only slightly for auto manufacturers as a result of proposed EPA regulations on utilities.

And those costs pale in comparison to the financial impact from climate change.

Jim Doyle is president of the trade group.   He says storms are a huge expense for auto plants, which have to shut down if a supplier can't ship parts due to weather. 

And climate scientists say global warming is increasing the frequency and severity of major storms.

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Auto
6:33 pm
Tue May 27, 2014

Hyundai and Kia make greenest cars, according to Union of Concerned Scientists

2014 Hyundai Genesis
Credit Wikipedia

Hyundai and Kia made the greenest cars last year, according to an annual ranking by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The sister Korean companies stole the crown from Honda, which had been No. 1 since 1998.

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Auto
11:02 am
Tue May 27, 2014

U.S. car buyers paid more because of price fixing

Car dealership.
Credit GM

WASHINGTON – A price-fixing investigation into the auto parts industry has mushroomed into the Justice Department's largest criminal antitrust probe ever, and it's not over.

The investigation was made public four years ago with FBI raids in the Detroit area.

It's led to criminal charges against dozens of people and companies, stretched across continents and reverberated through an industry responsible for supplying critical car components.

Thirty-four individuals have been charged and 27 companies have pleaded guilty or agreed to do so. Collectively, they've agreed to pay about $2.3 billion in fines.

A Justice Department official says it's safe to say that U.S. car buyers paid more as a result of the conspiracy.

Officials say the investigation stands out for its scope and for the cooperation received from Japan, Australia and other countries.

Auto
11:59 am
Sun May 25, 2014

Auto parts price-fixing probe rattles industry

The investigation was made public four years ago with FBI raids in the Detroit area.
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

WASHINGTON (AP) - A price-fixing investigation into the auto parts industry has mushroomed into the Justice Department's largest criminal antitrust probe ever, and it's not over.

The investigation was made public four years ago with FBI raids in the Detroit area.

It's led to criminal charges against dozens of people and companies, stretched across continents and reverberated through an industry responsible for supplying critical car components.

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Auto
12:28 pm
Tue May 20, 2014

GM recalls 2.4 million more vehicles

2015 Cadillac Escalade

DETROIT – General Motors is recalling 2.4 million vehicles in the U.S. as part of a broader effort to resolve outstanding safety issues more quickly.

The latest action brings to 13.6 million the number of vehicles GM has recalled this year, a new record for the automaker.  

The recalls announced Tuesday include 1.3 million older-model crossovers with defective front seat belts and 1 million sedans with a shift cable that can wear out. 

GM is also recalling 1,400 new Cadillac Escalade SUVs with faulty air bags. No fatalities related to the defects have been reported, GM says. It expects to take a $400 million charge in the second quarter to repair the vehicles. 

GM agreed to a $35 million federal fine last week for delays in reporting a deadly ignition switch defect.

Stateside
7:32 pm
Thu May 15, 2014

New study shows drivers don't trust connected vehicles

A few years ago, most of us would not know what the phrase "connected vehicles" meant. Today, the technology is being used in more vehicles, in hopes of cutting down on accidents and traffic jams. 

A new study from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute finds that even as the public welcomes the prospect of safer driving, they are still worried about being hacked and preserving their privacy. 

We were joined by the researchers who conducted this study. 

*Listen to the full interview above. 

Auto
2:52 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

See GM engineers' tests on cars with defective ignition switches

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has posted online the results of additional tests performed by GM engineers on recalled Cobalts, HHRs, Ions, and Solstices.

The cars have defective ignition switches that can turn into the "accessory" or off position if a) there is extra weight on the key ring, and b) the switch is jarred, by the car going over rough terrain, for example.

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Auto
5:00 pm
Mon May 12, 2014

Chrysler loses $690 million on one-time charges

Chrysler posted a loss of $690 million in the first quarter of 2014, largely due to one-time costs associated with a stock buyout.

Chrysler and its Italian partner Fiat purchased the 41.5% of the shares of Chrysler held by a union retiree health care trust.

The deal set the stage for the two to merge, forming a new company – Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

From a purely sales perspective, Chrysler did well in the first quarter. Sales rose 10% from the same period last year, and the automaker's market share rose a full percent.

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sustainability
6:00 pm
Fri May 9, 2014

Hey, scooter: Indian builder coming to Ann Arbor

An Indian manufacturing company is expanding into Michigan.

Mahindra Group will locate  its technical research facility in Troy – and a manufacturing facility in Ann Arbor.

Mahindra's first product in the U.S. will be an electric scooter called the "GenZe."

The scooter is designed for modern urban and campus commuting.  It will get up to 30 miles on a charge, and the battery can be removed and plugged into a regular 110-volt outlet.

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Auto
5:44 pm
Fri May 9, 2014

Another day, another couple of big recalls

Two more big recalls today, this time by Ford Motor Company and Chrysler.

Both companies say they are unaware of any injuries or accidents related to the issues.

Chrysler is recalling about 780-thousand newer model minivans for window switches that can overheat and catch fire.

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Auto
4:31 pm
Thu May 8, 2014

Detroit's annual Belle Isle Grand Prix is approaching

Credit David Grant / Flickr

Preparations are well underway as Belle Isle gets primped and polished for the upcoming Grand Prix, officially called the "Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix," from May 30 to June 1. 

Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes talked with the man who revived Detroit's Grand Prix in 2007. 

This is the first time the race has been held since the state took over management of Belle Isle. What has been done to prepare for the race and fix up the island?

*Listen to the interview above. 

Auto
6:15 am
Tue May 6, 2014

Fiat Chrysler union ready for another 5 years

Sergio Marchionne will outline a strategic plan today.

It's a big day for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

The Italian-American company's CEO, Sergio Marchionne,  will outline a strategic plan for the next five years.

The marriage between Chrysler and Fiat surprised many in the auto industry just by surviving.

Now the company is strengthening that union, by exporting its strongest brands around the world.

When Fiat agreed to a kind of corporate shotgun marriage with a fresh-out-of-bankruptcy Chrysler five years ago, a lot of people thought Fiat's CEO Sergio Marchionne was crazy to do it.

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