General Motors

GM

Dan Akerson, chairman and CEO of General Motors, will step down on January 15, 2014. Akerson moved up the date of his departure by several months after his wife was diagnosed with an advanced stage of cancer.

Akerson's successor will be Mary Barra. She's the executive vice president, Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain.

The 51-year-old Barra will become the company's first female CEO, and will be the first female CEO in the global automotive industry.

Barra was the daughter of a Pontiac die maker, according to Bloomberg:

Barra, 51, whose career started on a factory floor as an intern more than 30 years ago, has been in charge of product development and quality of all GM cars and trucks for 22 months, fostering collaboration and wringing costs out of the supply chain.

In its press release, GM said Barra was a leader in the company's turnaround:

...revitalizing GM’s product development process resulting in the launch of critically acclaimed new products while delivering record product quality ratings and higher customer satisfaction.

“With an amazing portfolio of cars and trucks and the strongest financial performance in our recent history, this is an exciting time at today’s GM,” said Barra. “I’m honored to lead the best team in the business and to keep our momentum at full speed.”

GM announced other executive staff changes as well. Dan Ammann, 41 and GM CFO, will become company president and will manage the company's regional operations around the world. He'll remain as CFO of GM as well. A new CFO will be named at a later date.

And Mark Reuss, 50, will move into the position being vacated by Barra.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

The U.S. government no longer owns GM

The U.S. government sold its last stock in General Motors today. The government no longer owns parts of the company.

Medical marijuana bills could move forward today

"A state House panel could vote as early as today on some high-profile medical marijuana bills. The legislation would revive medical marijuana dispensaries in Michigan and allow patients to use edible forms of cannabis," Jake Neher reports.

MSU student raises $3,000 for owner of flipped car

"A Michigan State University student has raised more than $3,000 to help pay for damage done to a stranger's car by rowdy Spartan fans after the school's football team beat Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship game on Saturday," the Associated Press reports.

GM Renaissance Center in Detroit.
John F. Martin / Creative Commons

Four years after facing the possibility of its own demise, General Motors is free of the controversial government ownership that saved the Detroit automaker in 2009.

"It was an unambiguous success," says Steven Rattner, who headed the Obama Administration's Auto Task Force.

The task force shepherded GM through an unprecedented 42-day bankruptcy.

The U.S. Treasury announced Monday it had sold the last of its stock in GM, at a loss of $10.5 billion.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

General Motors is heading back to its roots.

The automaker announced today that it will sponsor Flint’s “Back to the Bricks” car show for the next five years. The show features hundreds of ‘classic’ cars and trucks.

“This is an event that is more than just a car cruise and a car show,” says GM spokesman Tom Wickham, “It brings people into a community…provides an economic boost to a community and we need an economic boost.”

About a half million people attended Back to the Bricks in Flint this year.

Chevrolet

Today, General Motors announced plans to largely withdraw its Chevrolet brand from Europe beginning in 2016.

The automaker says the decision was largely due to a challenging business model and the difficult economic situation in Europe.

Meanwhile, the Ford Mustang is celebrating its 50th birthday with a new design — and plans to go global.

Russell Padmore, business reporter for the BBC, joins us from London to talk about the latest auto news.

Listen to full interview above. 

Car dealership.
GM

Auto companies report November's auto sales next week.

The news should be good, especially for Ford, Chrysler and Detroit.

Michelle Krebs is an analyst with Edmunds.com. She says the Detroit Three have had a great year so far, with car sales leading the way.   

“But they also are the biggest seller of trucks,” says Krebs, “People are buying big trucks again like they haven't in a long time.

Krebs says GM's did better this year than she expected.  She adds that’s especially true since Consumer Reports called the new Impala the "best sedan in the U.S."

Half a century ago, America suffered one of the most traumatic events in our history: The assassination of President Kennedy. But while it is important to remember that, it might also be good to consider that there is a bunch of good economic news today. Good news, especially for Michigan.

Yesterday, University of Michigan economists presented their annual November forecast. They saw good things ahead, with the national economy growing almost twice as fast over the next two years as now.

Two experts from the Research Seminar in Quantitative Economics predicted five million new jobs over the next two years. Unemployment, they predict, will fall from just over seven to about six percent.

Meanwhile, they predict the automakers will sell half a million more units next year than this, more still in 2015, and the housing market will also grow.  Inflation will stay low and oil prices will remain steady. This is all very good news, if true.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The announcement this week that an Alabama company plans to build a pipe factory in Flint could help spur further investment in a former General Motors site there.

The 235 acre Buick City site is being marketed by the Racer Trust. The trust was set up to sell off abandoned General Motors properties. American Cast Iron Pipe is the first company to invest in Buick City.

Elliot Laws is with the Racer Trust. He says they’ll be blasting news of American’s plans to build in Flint to other potential investors…

General Motors wants tax incentives to help offset an investment in its Detroit assembly plant.

But some Detroiters say the bankrupt city shouldn’t be handing out subsidies to profitable carmakers.

A small group of protesters circled in front of GM headquarters in downtown Detroit Monday, demanding that the corporation “pay its taxes.”

The Reverend Charles Williams II, who led the protest, said it's not right for GM to look for tax abatements while the city is in federal bankruptcy court, and pensioners face possible cuts.

August was a good month for U.S. automakers.

Nearly all automakers are reporting double-digit sales gains as August shapes up to be another strong month for the industry.

GM

GM announced today that the price of a Chevy Volt will drop by $5,000:

The 2014 model will start at $34,995...

If consumers include federal tax credits ranging from $0-$7,500 (depending on individual tax liability), pricing could start at $27,495.

thecarconnection.com

Analysts are expecting a robust month for auto sales.

Jesse Toprak is an analyst with TrueCar.com.  He says July sales were good across all categories.

“But two extreme segments stand out, we see very high demand for small cars and small SUVS, and a very healthy demand for large pickup trucks,” says Toprak.

Toprak says the increase in pickup sales is being driven by small business owners, and an uptick in home renovations.

General Motors

General Motors is number two in global auto sales so far this year, just behind Toyota, and just in front of Volkswagon.

So why didn't GM make more money than its Dearborn rival, Ford Motor Company, in the second quarter?

Both companies made $1.2 billion, but Ford made that money based on a lower volume of sales.

User: Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Governor cuts trip short

Governor Rick Snyder will return early from his trip to Israel today in order to lobby for Medicaid expansion. Snyder will encourage fellow Republicans to pass the legislation. “Today is the last day for lawmakers to pass Medicaid expansion before their two-month summer break,” reports Jake Neher.

Teachers protest education legislation

Michigan teachers rallied in Lansing yesterday to protest legislation that would allow state officials to close struggling school districts.  According to the Associated Press, “the legislation lets the state superintendent and treasurer dissolve a district with 300 to 2,400 students if certain criteria are met.”

General Motors receives high ratings

For the first time ever, General Motors topped the Initial Quality Survey released by automotive tracking firm J.D. Power.  Michigan Radio’s Tracy Samilton reports that GM received a better score than any other corporation in the study.  She says "people are reporting very few mechanical problems.  Most automakers have drummed out serious engine and transmission defects from their cars."

This year's vehicle Initial Quality Survey by the business tracking firm J.D Power and Associates is a bit of a stunner.

The survey asks people how many problems they had with their car in the first 90 days of ownership.

The top auto company was GM. 

The company's GMC brand was second only to Porsche.  That's the first time GMC has ranked anywhere near that high in the history of the survey.   Chevy was fifth, also a dramatic rise in the rankings.

GM Media

Late last year, the U.S. Department of Treasury announced it would sell all its remaining stock in General Motors in 12 to 15 months.

Today, the Treasury is announcing a plan for another big sell-off.

Officials say, "subject to market conditions," they intend to sell 30 million additional shares of GM common stock "in conjunction with GM’s inclusion to the S&P 500 index effective as of the close of trading on June 6, 2013."

If you live in Michigan there’s a good chance you’ll head up north this summer, or maybe west to bask in the sun on Lake Michigan, but if you’re still not sure where to escape this summer, we have some fun tips on hidden vacation gems you are sure to enjoy.

And, Rick Pluta gave us an update on the Mackinac Policy Conference.

And, Daniel Howes shared his insights on how the financial and investing world views the Detroit auto companies.

user paul (dex) / Flickr

It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for our weekly conversation with Daniel Howes, the Business Columnist at the Detroit News.

This week, he focused on the business community in Detroit, where companies like General Motors are trying to give back through programs like the GM Student Corps. From Howe's column:

By itself, the pilot program unveiled in the Wintergarden of GM’s Renaissance Center, isn’t front-page news in a city bursting with the good, the bad and the financially ugly on a weekly basis. What GM Student Corps signifies, however, is another example of a key player in the business community seeing a communal need and moving to fill it, quickly.

He joined us today to discuss the business in Detroit as well as the health of the auto industry.

Listen to the full interview above.

Car companies closed a lot of North American factories in the past ten years as the auto industry restructured.

That has made Jim Tetreault's job even more of an art and a science.

Tetreault is Ford's head of North American manufacturing.  He's responsible for maximizing the number of vehicles that any of the Detroit automaker's remaining plants can produce, while minimizing the downtime at each facility.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero says he wants four more years in office. He formally announced his campaign today. 

“I’m telling you folks … Lansing is on the verge,” the partisan crowd groaned, and then laughed, as Virg Bernero joked at his campaign kickoff.

Carlos Lowry / Flickr

  If you hear the word Europe, you might find yourself thinking of great places to travel, a rich history, or family roots.

If you're an auto executive and you hear “Europe,” you’ll likely sigh and take a couple of aspirin for your headache.

That's because the Detroit automakers stand to lose $4 billion in Europe this year. And with a collapse in auto sales across the pond, trying to muscle through the kinds of changes that saved the industry here in North America is a totally different challenge in Europe.

Michelle Krebs of Edmunds.com and Michigan Radio’s auto reporter Tracy Samilton discuss the bleak picture in Europe for Detroit automakers.

Listen to the full interview above.

wikimedia commons

VAN BUREN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - The Yankee Air Museum is kicking off a $6 million campaign to make its home at a former facility that built B-24 bombers during World War II.

Museum officials announced this week an effort to purchase and renovate part of the former Willow Run powertrain plant. The museum is housed at Willow Run Airport, near Ypsilanti in Wayne County's Van Buren Township.

Its original headquarters was destroyed by fire in 2004.

Dennis Norton, the founder and president of the Yankee Air Museum, has presented plans to Ypsilanti Township officials. The museum says it has until Aug. 1 to secure funding, and would buy the site from the Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response Trust.

Ford Motor Co. built the plant for B-24 production. It later was taken over by General Motors.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Lansing City Council has approved a 12 year-four million dollar tax abatement for General Motors.

GM is planning a $38 million expansion to its Lansing Grand River assembly plant.  The expansion is expected to add 150 jobs to the plant.

GM currently makes its Cadillac ATS and CTS at the Lansing plant.   The automaker also plans to start producing its next generation Camaro at the Lansing plant.

1958 Chevrolet Impala.
GM

It has been one of the best selling cars of all time.

Since its inception in 1958, GM has sold more than 14 million Impalas (putting it in tenth place on 'best selling cars of all-time' lists).

It looked like this back then:

Today, the tenth version of the Impala is being made at GM's Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant, and at the Oshawa Assembly plant in Canada.

Here's a photo of the new Impala rolling down the Oshawa assembly line:

GM

Two of the plants are in Michigan (Flint and Bay City), one in Toledo, and one in Bedford, Indiana.

The auto industry is working on squeezing more miles to the gallon out of the internal combustion engine, and that's what these investments are about.

The $332 million will go toward upgrading manufacturing plants to produce six and eight speed transmissions, small "Ecotech" engines, and a new V-6 engine.

GM recently announced that it will redesign, refresh or replace nearly 90 percent of its vehicles in the North American market between now and 2016.

In addition to the investments in Flint, Bay City, Toledo, and Bedford, IN, GM says it's also upping previously announced powertrain investments by $46 million. Plants in Romulus and Saginaw will see that investment.

From Ford's press release:

Since 2009, GM has announced nearly $1.8 billion of investments for the six Powertrain facilities.

“We are investing in technologies and manufacturing capabilities that produce high-quality, fuel-efficient vehicles and components for our customers,” said Diana Tremblay, vice president of GM North American Manufacturing.  “Today’s announcement demonstrates GM’s commitment to growing the business and strengthening the plant communities where we receive so much support.”

GM says its investments won't lead to new jobs, but will retain 1,650 jobs at the facilities.

The plant in Flint will see the biggest investment. $215 million will be invested in the Flint Engine Operations plant for the 3 and 4 cylinder Ecotec gasoline engines.

Nathan Boomey of the Detroit Free Press reports Flint welcomes the news:

The investment marks a dose of good news for the Flint community after GM recently announced plans to shut down its Grand Blanc Weld Tool Center, displacing 343 employees...

“The investment we’re making is to obviously put in the required capacity or adjustment to the capacity to create more fuel-efficient products for our customers,” Jones said.

Boomey reports GM declined to reveal when the investments will occur, or what cars will receive the new engines and transmissions.

In their release, GM said the new "8-speed [transmissions] will be used in numerous GM vehicles by the end of 2016."

user paul (dex) / Flickr

General Motors says the car and truck buying public will be seeing big changes in the next few years when we walk into a GM showroom.
 
GM’s North America Chief Financial Officer Chuck Stevens recently told analysts that the automaker will redesign, refresh or replace nearly 90 percent of its vehicles in the North American market between now and 2016.

Is this strategy a matter of blazing new trails, or playing catch-up with the competition?

This is a two-sided story. Starting this year with 2011 models, the federal government’s fuel-economy standards, which have sat frozen for years, are going to get a big-time thaw. It's the biggest change since the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) law was created in 1975.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

General Motors is considering spending nearly $40 million to expand its Lansing Grand River plant.

On Monday, the Lansing city council will consider granting tax abatements to GM.

The abatements are tied to the automaker’s plan to spend $38 million to expand its Lansing Grand River plant. The expansion would add about 150 jobs.

GM already makes its Cadillac ATS at the plant.   The ATS recently won the North American Car of the year award at the North American International Auto Show. 

Toyota has tapped a former executive at U.S. rival General Motors to be on its board, the first time in the Japanese automaker's 76-year history it is appointing board members from outside the company.

The appointment of Mark Hogan, effective April 1, is a key part of the sprawling management changes Toyota Motor Corp. announced Wednesday. They underline its efforts to grow more international, nimble, transparent and responsive to regional markets.

Toyota set up a new division called "No. 1" to oversee North American, European and Japanese markets, and another "No. 2" for emerging markets. It also promoted four non-Japanese managers to oversee regional businesses.

Besides Hogan, two Japanese, from insurance and securities sectors, were picked as outside board members. The board appointments require the approval of shareholders.

February was a good month for the Big 3.

The increase is a sign that U.S. auto sales remain strong even in an uneven economy.

General Motors

General Motors made nearly $5 billion in 2012.

That's down a lot from 2011, when the company made $7.6 billion.

But GM CEO Dan Akerson says it was a strong year for the company nonetheless.

He says G-M "planted the seeds of growth in every region of the world."

The Detroit automaker reduced its pension obligations, bought an international finance division, and put new cars in the pipeline for 2013 and beyond.

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