GM

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There is no small touch of irony in the fact that as Detroit filed for bankruptcy, the U.S. car makers are enjoying boom times. Sales for the Big Three in July were the highest in seven years. GM, Ford and Chrysler are adding shifts and hiring workers. Good times.

But not for the city that gave birth to what we know as the U.S. auto industry.

Tom Walsh, business columnist for the Detroit Free Press, and Sonari Glinton, National Desk Reporter from NPR who has covered transportation and the auto industry, joined us today.

General Motors

GM will recall 292,879 Chevy Cruze cars from the  2011 and 2012 model years for a potential intermittent loss of partial braking power.

GM says it's aware of 27 low-speed crashes, some of which could be linked to the problem, but no injuries.

The automaker says in rare instances, a driver might have to apply extra force to the brake to get the car to stop.

The recall is for Cruze cars equipped with the 1.4 liter gasoline turbo engine and automatic transmission.

Dealers will remove and replace a microswitch in the power brake vacuum pipe assembly.

Wikipedia

While Detroit embarks on the beginning days of its bankruptcy, the city’s Big Three automakers are reemerging from their own financial crises. It was four years ago that GM and Chrysler filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

And as this month marks the 150th year after Henry Ford’s birth, we take a look at what it takes to run a big auto company, and the future of Michigan’s automakers.

Bob Lutz has held top positions at GM, Ford, Chrysler, and BMW. His most recent position was that of Vice Chairman of GM from 2001 to 2010.

His newest book gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the bosses Bob Lutz has worked for, some of the most legendary names in auto history. It's called Icons and Idiots, out from Portfolio/Penguin.

Bob Lutz joined us today to talk about his book.  

Listen to the full interview above.

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.

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Mad Men's Don Draper is known on the AMC show as being the best guy to create an ad campaign.

He's known for lines like, "What you call love was invented by guys like me...to sell nylons."

Don's company, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, has done creative campaigns for companies like Lucky Strike, Maidenform, Heinz and Hilton Hotels.

In the most recent season, much of the company's time was spent securing an auto client -- Jaguar.

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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.

Michigan Radio / Michigan Radio

This week, ArtPod is inspired by the massive chocolate Easter bunnies we’ve been inhaling for days now.

So to welcome Spring (hey, it’s 50 degrees!) we’re doing a bigger edition of ArtPod, squeezing in two very different  Michigan’s artists and culture-makers.

First, we start off with a full-cast radio performance of the play “RUST.”

actorstheatregrandrapids.wordpress.com

It's a familiar Michigan story. In 2008, General Motors decided to shutter a stamping plant in Wyoming - just outside Grand Rapids.

But to Austin Bunn, a new professor of writing at Grand Valley State University, the close of the plant wasn't the end of a story, but a beginning.

For the next four years, Bunn interviewed the workers at the plant about the experience of job loss, displacement and their lives after the close.

From these transcripts he created a documentary play, RUST. It was originally produced at the Actors' Theatre of Grand Rapids.

What you're about to hear is adaptation of the play for radio using local actors.

RUST was co-produced by Austin Bunn and Zak Rosen. Interviews conducted by Austin Bunn and Working Group Theatre. Featured actors include Tracey Walker, Rena Dam, Chris Nye, Wayne Swezey, GF Korreck, Paul Arnold, Fred Stella, and Laurence Drozd.

You can learn more about the Actors' Theatre of Grand Rapids and Austin Bunn's work by visiting their websites.

Listen to the full audio above.

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. 

Ford Motor Company

Many of the claims for better fuel economy from new turbo-charged engines are more hype than reality, according to tests by Consumer Reports, the independent consumer advocacy group.

The agency tested a number of vehicles that offer regular four or eight cylinder engines, and compared them to the turbo-charged version.  Turbo-charging is a technology that gets more power from a smaller engine with direct injection of extra spurts of air and fuel.

DETROIT (AP) -Last year's momentum in U.S. auto sales is continuing into this year.

Ford, Chrysler and GM are all reporting double-digit gains for January.

Sales at Ford rose 22 percent compared with a year earlier. GM and Chrysler each reported 16 percent gains.

Ford's sales rose on strong sales of pickup trucks and new vehicles.

GM

General Motors is expanding its Global Powertrain Engineering Headquarters in Pontiac, and consolidating some major research and development operations there.

The company says investing $200 million in a new test wing there will allow them to bring work that’s being done all over the country under one roof, and move faster in developing next-generation powertrain technologies.

Toyota tops GM in global auto sales

Jan 14, 2013
A.N.M / flickr

With projected vehicle sales of 9.7 million in 2012, Toyota has once again dethroned General Motors as the world’s top-selling automaker.

GM increased its global vehicle sales to 9.29 million but could not keep pace with the Japanese automaker as it unveiled new versions of its popular Camry model.

German automaker Volkswagen followed close behind with 9.07 million in global sales.

Christine Tierney of The Detroit News has more:

GM: Best November since 2007

Dec 3, 2012
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General Motors says it had its highest November sales since 2007.

GM’s sales are up 3.4 percent over last year. Passenger cars are up 19-percent overall, with Buick bumping up 22 percent, and Cadillac sales up 30 percent.

General Motors was a deeply troubled company in 2008.

Eh.  Make that deeply, deeply, deeply troubled.

So was its finance arm, GMAC, which had plunged head-first into subprime mortgage lending, in addition to automotive lending.  That left the company awash in billions of dollars worth of bad mortgages.

The federal government had to figure out a way to bail out both companies - because GM wouldn't survive if it didn't have a place to send customers for car loans, and if its dealers didn't have a place to get financing to buy the inventory.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Democrats want to revamp voting procedures and make Secretary of State an appointed position

"There's a move in the Michigan Senate to change the Secretary of State's office to a non-political position and to revamp the state's voting procedures. Gretchen Whitmer is the Senate minority leader. She says many Michigan voters waited for hours to cast their ballots while Secretary of State Ruth Johnson was campaigning for Mitt Romney. A spokeswoman for Ruth Johnson says the Secretary of State was not campaigning for Romney on Election Day, but was working with local election officials. Whitmer says Senate Democrats are working on legislation that would allow early voting and no-reason absentee voting to help reduce long lines at the polls. She says they're also drafting a bill that would make the Secretary of State an appointed position, rather than an elected post," Rina Miller reports.
 

Bill would help horse racing industry

"A bill to help Michigan’s struggling horse racing industry is on its way to the state Senate. The legislation would allow people to bet on races dating back years. Players would place bets on a machine, and a randomly selected race would be shown on a video screen. The state House passed the bill last week with bi-partisan support," Jake Neher reports.

Competition for GM in China

"Two domestic Chinese car companies are teaming up.  The move could help them compete against General Motors in China - and perhaps even hasten the day when Americans can buy Chinese-made cars. Gwanjoe and Chery plan to collaborate to cut costs. That should help them compete against GM and Volkswagen - the two biggest car companies operating in China. Michael Dunne is the author of "American Wheels, Chinese Roads." He says the collaboration could help the two inside China, and boost exports to developing countries. But he figures a Chinese car company won't try to enter the tough U.S. market for at least five years," Tracy Samilton reports.

Both Ford and General Motors announced steps this week to reduce their losses in Europe.

The region is experiencing a disabling recession that's expected to last at least through 2015.

Car sales are abysmal in Europe, down more than 30-percent from normal demand.

Ford says it may lose a total of one billion dollars in the region for the entire year.

General Motors' losses might be more than that.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - General Motors is offering big discounts to boost sales of the Chevrolet Volt, an electric car that struggled to attract buyers until its price began dropping early this year.

Discounts run as high as $10,000 per Volt, according to figures from TrueCar DOT com, an auto pricing website. They include low-interest financing and subsidized leases.

Ken Lewenza, president of the Canadian Auto Workers.
Canadian Auto Workers union

The Canadian Auto Workers and GM announced a tentative contract Thursday night reports The Globe and Mail:

The deal extends by one year the life of a car-assembly plant in Oshawa, Ont., that was scheduled to close next year and adds a new shift of workers at a neighbouring plant. That means GM’s employment level in Canada should be roughly the same as it is today – or about 7,000 people – in 2016.

We’ve got a lot going on in Michigan, to put it mildly, and I would guess that you haven’t been paying much attention to the union negotiations that have been going on in Canada.

That’s understandable -- but they could have a significant impact on the economy in this part of the world. The Canadian Auto Workers union used to be part of the UAW, before breaking off and becoming independent in the 1980s.

After reaching a tentative four-year deal with Ford on Monday, CAW officials have agreed on an indefinite extension of negotiations with Chrysler and GM.

Ken Lewenza, president of the Canadian Auto Workers.
Canadian Auto Workers union

Just five days remain before an existing contract between the Canadian Auto Workers and Ford, GM, and Chrysler  expires. 

Members of the union previously authorized their leaders to call a strike - but it's a double edged sword for the union.

Ken Lewenza is National President of the Canadian Auto Workers.

He says the union is willing to come up with a deal that preserves the Detroit Three's Canadian labor costs as they are now.

General Motors

General Motors says sales rose 10-percent in August, compared to the same month a year ago.

The Detroit car company also broke several sales records.

GM says it got a noticeable bump from advertising aired during the Olympics.

Sales of the Chevy Cruze, Volt, Spark and Sonic hit an all-time high.

Those are all small cars.  

The Chevy Cruze, a compact car, even beat Honda's perennial top-performer, the Civic, in August.

Dutch car company Spyker is suing General Motors for three billion dollars over the bankruptcy of GM's former brand, Saab.

Spyker says GM illegally interfered with a sale of part of Saab, and claims it was that interference which caused Saab's bankruptcy. 

GM sold Saab to Spyker in 2010, with a stipulation that Spyker would have to obtain GM's permission to sell Saab to anyone else.

Spyker almost immediately ran into financial problems trying to keep Saab afloat.  

General Motors / GM

GM's second quarter profit dropped from a year ago. The company made $1.5 billion, down from $2.5 billion, largely due to losses in Europe.  

The company also took an unusual step related to damage control, after a high-profile firing at the company on Sunday.

GM departed from the industry norm and only allowed analysts, not media, to ask questions during its earnings conference call.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

General Motors’ big hope to grab a share of the luxury compact segment rolled off the assembly line in Lansing today.  Tomorrow, the Cadillac ATS rolls on to the world stage.

Onstar

General Motors says its On-Star customers can now use their GM cars to make some extra money - by renting out their vehicles.

Car-sharing allows someone to rent their personal vehicle to people who don't own one. Typically the borrower just needs a car for a few hours, for errands, grocery store visits or the like.

Now, GM car owners who subscribe to Onstar can rent out their cars through a car-sharing company called RelayRides.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

The United States has filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization against China over tariffs on U.S.-made vehicles.

The Obama administration says China unfairly placed duties of up to 22 percent on U.S.-made vehicles that are exported to China.

The tariffs apply to larger passenger cars and SUVs.

Robust U.S. auto sales have been helping to keep a floor on the U.S. economy for months, and they kept up the good work in June.

Car sales surpassed the expectations of many analysts.   

The good news included Detroit car companies.  Ford sales rose 7% and Chrysler sales jumped 20% compared to June a year ago.

General Motors sales increased nearly 16%.

GM's Kurt McNeil says he expects a good second half of the year, too.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

General Motors is celebrating an environmental milestone. The company says a Lansing autopart distribution center is the automaker’s 100th facility to go “landfill free.”

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