I know a couple who bought two brand-new General Motors cars in the mid-1980s. She bought an Oldsmobile station wagon, and he bought a beautiful sleek Buick.

They carefully maintained them, didn’t abuse them, and the cars fell apart. The Oldsmobile finally died after barely seventy thousand miles. The Buick had massive electrical problems for which the company refused to take any responsibility.

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

Auto sales are humming along. In fact, May brought the best light-vehicle sales ever recorded for that month: over 1.6 million units.

So, what's with the "immediate retirements" of top bargainers for General Motors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles?

Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes worries that "the wheels are starting to wobble" for Detroit's auto industry.

General Motors CEO Mary Barra.
Dave Pinter / flickr

General Motors CEO Mary Barra confirmed she received an email from Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne suggesting that the two companies merge.

She says the email was vetted by her executive team and GM's Board of Directors.

And the answer to the suggestion was "no."

Marchionne says the global auto industry needs to consolidate to realize better economies of scale, but Barra says GM is doing just fine on its own in that regard. / commons

An annual study says suppliers have a poor relationship with General Motors, Fiat Chrysler (FCA) and Nissan, mainly because those automakers were adversarial in their dealings with them.

John Henke of Planning Perspectives says the results of his annual OEM-Supplier Relations Study was disappointing and surprising, because in recent years, GM and Chrysler had been making improvements with supplier relations.

General Motors

Last year, GM's Warren Technical Center was designated a National Historic Landmark.

That was the good thing that happened.

But a bad thing happened that same year. Many buildings and infrastructure on the sprawling campus were damaged by severe flooding.

Auto sales grew in 2014
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

UNDATED (AP) - Demand for small and midsize SUVs is driving up auto sales.

  General Motors, Ford, Toyota, Fiat Chrysler and Nissan all reported U.S. sales gains in April as buyers flocked to crossover SUVS that handle like cars and sit up higher. But the gains came at the expense of small and midsize cars.


GM will have less cash on its books, after making a deal with an activist investor unhappy with the company's stock performance. 

GM agreed to buy back $5 billion worth of its stock, to appease investors led by Harry Wilson. Wilson was a member of the Auto Task Force in 2009 which took GM through bankruptcy. 

He'd threatened to run for GM's board as a hostile candidate, to try to force GM to make an $8 billion stock buyback.

Freezing temperatures and drifts of snow likely took a small bite out of U.S. auto sales last month, but most automakers are still reporting gains thanks to the strong economy.

General Motors' sales rose 4.2% over last February, while Chrysler's sales were up 5.6%. Nissan's sales were up 2.7%. However, those gains were smaller than analysts had predicted.

Courtesy of GM

The Next Idea

It can often be difficult to imagine just how much the latest innovations will truly affect our lives. The smartphone’s contributions, for example, are now obvious; the Segway’s, not so much.

One industry, however, that offers some of the clearest examples of how technology and new innovations will fundamentally change our world is the auto industry.

From driverless cars and 3-D printers, to shifting demographic and transportation trends, automakers are competing to find the best, most efficient innovations that will reshape everything from the way we buy (or share) cars to how we drive (or won’t) in the coming decades.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Today’s announcement that General Motors plans to spend $300 million in Michigan is good news not only for GM employees, but also for auto parts suppliers.

GM had previously announced the automaker's plans to invest $240 million in its Warren transmission plant. The plant will make the electric drive unit for the next-generation Chevy Volt. 

The Detroit Institute of Arts

This Week in Review, Jack Lessenberry and Rina Miller discuss big name politicians stopping in Michigan to campaign for local candidates, the latest development in Detroit’s bankruptcy trial, and GM’s record global sales despite a dismal week on Wall Street.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

ISIS, Ebola, tensions between Russia and the Ukraine, economic slowdowns in China, Europe, Latin America, and elsewhere – the profusion of gloomy headlines added up to a grim day on Wall Street yesterday, as the Dow plunged more than 450 points. 

It was the heaviest day of trading in more than three years. 

The stomach-churning day on Wall Street came exactly as General Motors announced some shiny, happy news: GM sold more cars and trucks worldwide in the third quarter than anytime since 1980.

Daniel Howes says the GM's record sales are largely powered by the relatively positive markets in North America and China. But in a lot of other parts of the world, the sales stink for GM as well as its competitors. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

General Motors is taking the lead in producing cars that can almost drive themselves.

The "driver-assist" and "vehicle-to-vehicle" technology enables cars to communicate with other cars and roadside sensors. That should help drivers avoid accidents and reduce traffic congestion.

GM CEO Mary Barra announced Sunday the automaker will begin offering V2V as an option in the Lansing-built Cadillac CTS starting with the 2017 model year.   

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

General Motors is being accused of not caring about the working conditions in its plants in Columbia and India.

About two dozen protesters plan to hound GM CEO Mary Barra at events tied to this week’s auto technology conference in Detroit.

Paige Shell-Spurling is organizing the protests.  She says GM is ignoring problems with unsafe factories that have left dozens of workers seriously injured.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A veritable "who's who" of the global automotive industry has signed on to support the University of Michigan’s new automated vehicle initiative.

The “Mobility Transformation Center” is a public-private center that will look at how to make automated vehicles commercially viable.  

General Motors has been in the news a lot, probably more than it wants to be. Daniel Howes, a business columnist at The Detroit News, wrote an article about the automaker's struggle to overhaul its culture in the wake of failed parts, recalls, government criticism, and more.

Howes described GM’s corporate culture in his article as “blame-shifting, lack of accountability, and a callous disregard for customers.”

He said changing the leadership and putting new people on the board of directors may be necessary, but is not enough to change the culture of the company.

General Motors

Today brought the fourth appearance for General Motors and CEO Mary Barra before angry members of Congress.

This time a Senate subcommittee took a deeper dive into the ignition switch recalls and didn't like what it saw in GM's legal department.

Michigan Radio's auto reporter Tracy Samilton followed the event.

According to Samilton, GM's chief counsel Michael Millikin was in the "uncomfortable Senate spotlight" today.

When senators asked why Millikin still kept his job, Barra said she "respectfully" disagreed with them, and she defended Millikin as a man of "incredibly high integrity."

She said Millikin "had a system in place." Unfortunately, in this instance "it wasn't brought to his attention."

General Motors

General Motors' sales rose 1% in June - despite two fewer sales days in the month, despite a delayed recall scandal, and despite the company issuing a record number of recalls.

The Detroit automaker's sales were the best for June since 2007.

Karl Brauer is an analyst with Kelly Blue Book. 

He says the media and Congress have displayed an intense interest in GM's admission that it delayed an ignition switch recall for eleven years. 

Customers aren't paying as much attention.   

"Most people look at this recall as old GM and old models that has nothing to do with what's in the showroom right now," says Brauer.

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:

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.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Dozens of people are suing General Motors over its ignition switch problem.

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.”

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.

US Supreme Court

This Week in Michigan Politics, Jack Lessenberry and Christina Shockley discuss the U.S. Supreme Court decision on affirmative action, and the latest reactions by GM after the fallout from recalls for ignition switch problems.

Flickr user afagen / Flickr

As we get together with our families to celebrate the holidays, we often think about those who are no longer with us. For many, a trip to a cemetery to visit loved ones is easy, but for others, it’s impossible.

For families with relatives buried in the Beth Olem cemetery in Detroit, they can’t go pay their respects.

The cemetery is hidden within GM’s Poletown plant, and is only open to the public two days every year: the Sunday before Passover and Rosh Hashanah.

People are able to visit the cemetery if they go on a private tour offered by the Michigan Jewish Historical Society. We heard from some of the visitors today.

Listen to the full interview above.

The massive GM recall just got more expensive

Apr 11, 2014

General Motors Thursday revised up to $1.3 billion dollars its estimate of the cost of recalling millions of cars with faulty ignition switches.

The automaker will now replace the ignition lock cylinder as well as the switch itself on the defective vehicles. The $1.3  billion estimate includes the cost of repairs and of providing loaner vehicles to customers.

GM shares fell to a 10-month low today in the wake of the news. Ratings agency Standard & Poor's said Thursday that it might put off a planned upgrade of GM's debt to investment-grade status until next year.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - General Motors is adding 824,000 small cars to its ongoing recall tied to defective ignition switches.

The company will add vehicles from the 2008-2011 model years to a recall that initially covered cars only through the 2007 model year.

The Chevrolet Cobalt, Chevrolet HHR, Pontiac G5, Pontiac Solstice, Saturn Ion and Saturn Sky are all involved in the recall.

GM says around 5,000 of the faulty switches were used for repairs on 2008-2011 model year cars. GM says it's expanding the recall to make sure it finds all the switches.

Next week will bring a big test for new GM CEO Mary Barra.

She will present herself to Congress for a two-day grilling over the ever-growing ignition switch crisis, a problem that GM says is linked to 12 deaths.

Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes thinks Barra has a whole lot of heavy lifting to do to get this "new" GM out of the shadow of the missteps of the "old" GM. He joined us today for our weekly check-in.

Listen to the full interview above.

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

General Motors has been in the headlines recently over its recall of more than 1.5 million vehicles due to ignition switch problems that are being blamed for some 13 deaths.

Toyota is also in the news after having agreed to pay more than $1 billion to settle with the Justice Department over a delayed recall of millions of its vehicles.

But are U.S. consumers facing recall fatigue?

Sonari Glinton covers the auto industry for NPR, and he joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

General Motors

Members of Congress will have tough questions for the new CEO of General Motors.

Mary Barra is expected to testify in front of the Energy and Commerce Committee next month.

Barra has only been on the job as CEO for three months. Now she’s facing scrutiny for how the automaker handled or mishandled a major safety recall affecting more than 1.5 million cars.

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow says she’s confident in Barra’s leadership.

The Justice Department is investigating General Motors for delaying a recall of more than a million and a half cars. On today's show: how is this recall affecting GM's reputation?

And, a new Michigan law will now allow you to literally BYOB, bring you own bottle of wine to a restaurant.

Also, starting a business can be hard, but what about starting a business with a mission to help end homelessness? That's exactly what the Empowerment Plan aims to do. 

First on the show, Rick Pluta, Captiol Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network and co-host of It's Just Politics, joined us to talk about how Lansing plans to spend surplus money.