Daniel Howes

Daniel Howes is columnist and associate business editor of The Detroit News. A former European correspondent for The News, he has reported from nearly 25 countries on three continents and in the Middle East. Before heading to Europe in 1999, Howes was senior automotive writer and a business projects writer. He is a frequent contributor to NewsTalk 760-WJR in Detroit and a weekly contributor to Michigan Radio in Ann Arbor.

Howes is winner of multiple International Wheel Awards for column writing; a four-time winner of Northwestern University’s Medill award for general markets coverage; three-time winner for commentary from the Society of Business Editors and Writers; and a three-time finalist for the Gerald Loeb Awards, including an honorable mention for commentary in 2007.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in history from The College of Wooster in Ohio, and a master’s in international affairs from Columbia University.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

The Blue Oval has seen the future, and it looks a whole lot like its past.

Ford Motor claims a rich heritage building the nation’s best-selling pickup and the best-selling three-row SUV. Its Mustang is an American icon. And its performance pedigree is enjoying a renaissance under product planners who understand emotion still matters in the business.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

Doesn’t matter to Donald Trump what his fellow Republicans say.

Or what Wall Street and America’s closest allies say.

The president wants tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, and this week he got them, along with some last-minute carve outs for those national security threats known as Canada and Mexico.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

In the land of Big Three universities and football wins, tiny Marygrove College doesn’t much matter. That’s the Michigan way – a not-so-flattering reflection of its warped values.

That’s a mistake. Marygrove is the creation of Catholic sisters from Monroe still deeply committed to helping Detroit. They opened Marygrove in 1927, establishing what became the state’s only predominantly African-American small liberal arts college. In later years, many of the students were the first in their families to go to college and most of them hailed from Detroit.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

The push is on to change the way Michigan selects trustees for its Big Three universities.

Using statewide ballots to choose trustees is no way to govern highly paid university presidents running multi-billion dollar institutions.

Michigan is the only state in the country to do it that way.

In the school of bad practices, the home of the Green and White perennially contends for Number One. Time for that to change.

Former Michigan Gov. John Engler speaks at Hillsdale College on on January 25, 2009.
Chuck Grimmett / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Michigan State University is consumed by the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal. It’s so far claimed the school’s president, its athletic director and a growing chunk of its reputation. So, what does MSU’S partisan Board of Trustees do? They tap former Republican governor John Engler as interim president.

As confidence-building measures go, the move doesn’t rank among the best of them. It nakedly exposes just how partisan the governance of MSU really is – and how irrelevant the students, the faculty and transparency are to those making the decisions.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

Michigan’s Big Three universities have a big problem, and it starts in the boardroom.

Michigan is the only state in the country that elects its major university trustees by at-large statewide ballots. They don’t represent districts.

Few have the sharp business acumen needed to govern multi-billion dollar institutions. And as the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal in East Lansing shows, it doesn’t hold them accountable, either.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

Detroit’s comeback narrative doesn’t play in Seattle.

That’s the home of Amazon, the giant online retailer. It dropped the Motor City this week from its list of towns vying to land the company’s second North American headquarters.

Realists will not be surprised.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

The future arrived Friday, courtesy of General Motors.

Just in time for the Detroit auto show. Imagine that.

Yep, that alleged archetype of American industrial decline says it will have a fully self-driving car on the road next year.

Not in three years, like its rival Ford. Not in whenever, like Elon Musk and his Tesla. Next year.

But let’s be clear: This isn’t the end of road for anything. It’s barely the beginning of the revolution transforming the auto industry.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

The American car is dying.

And it took an Italian to point it out.

That’d be ol’ Sergio Marchionne. He’s the heretical CEO who shocked the industry when he said Fiat Chrysler would stop producing cars in its U.S. plants. They’d be converted to building higher-margin SUVs because that’s what Americans want in more shapes and sizes. 

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

For way too long, the Detroit narrative arced only one way – and it was down.

It’s the nation’s poorest major city. It’s home to “ruin porn,” an American affliction so fascinating to condescending Europeans. Nearly half of the city’s adults are functionally illiterate, we’re told. And economic revival of this moribund municipality is about as likely as achieving peace in the Middle East.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

After nearly 20 years of waiting, nostalgia-mad Detroit got what it’s long been waiting for. Mortgage mogul Dan Gilbert, architect of downtown’s revival, cut the ribbon on the site of the ol’ J.L. Hudson’s store.

It’ll be a, quote, “city within a city.” It’ll be a “vertical” statement. It’ll be the tallest building in Detroit, overtaking that one built by the last pair of heavyweights who aimed to change the city's direction by sheer force of will.

Max Fisher and Al Taubman meant well with the Renaissance Center. But their timing stunk. Gilbert? Not so much.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

With apologies to Mark Twain, rumors that Detroit’s clunky ol’ auto industry can’t compete for talent and can’t compete with Silicon Valley may be greatly exaggerated.

A set of surveys by the Detroit Regional Chamber’s MICHauto unit, out this week, shows an auto industry regaining favor with would-be employees and the people who influence them. It shows a 14-point gain when asked whether young people would consider a career in the auto space.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

Our Canadian friends at Enbridge Energy may have a Trump problem with their Line 5. You’ve heard about Line 5 by now. It’s the pipeline – laid in the mid '50s – before the Mighty Mac connected the Upper and Lower peninsulas.

Just a few months ago, tiny patches of coating were said to be worn off the pipeline. Now the company is telling the state and anyone else who cares – and in the Great Lakes State a lot of people care – there’s more missing.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Mayor Duggan cruised to re-election on Tuesday. 

Now comes the hard part.

During the city's bankruptcy, heavyweights used the city's dire economy to do what the mayor couldn't do in his first term. 

That included restructuring the city's budget, retiring debt, and renegotiating labor contracts with the city’s unions for the first time in decades.

Now, the mayor has to sustain the momentum behind Detroit’s reinvention. He needs to work with his departments — and persuade business investors — to broaden the redevelopment push into the city’s neighborhoods.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

The United Auto Workers may be facing a crisis of credibility.

Credit the justice department. What started as an investigation into corruption at Fiat Chrysler’s union training center is now broadening to General Motors and Ford Motor. As my dad would say: This is no joke.

For decades, the UAW enjoyed a reputation mostly free of financial scandal and corruption allegations. Now many of its ranking leaders and their charitable non-profits are part of subpoenas seeking records and raising one big question:

Who’s benefiting?

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

Governor Rick Snyder says chasing jobs in the global economy isn’t all about pushing incentives. But that’s not entirely true.

Michigan offered Foxconn Technology Group more than $7 billion in tax breaks, savings and cash for three different projects, according to state documents detailed this week.

And the state is a partner in the regional bid to land Amazon’s second North American headquarters – a competitive interstate free-for-all certain to include whopping incentives.

What’s changed? The game.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

It’s good to be Elon Musk.

The chairman of Tesla, the electric car maker, cops to, quote, “production hell” for its new Model 3 compact. And the response from Wall Street? Mostly just yawns.

Parts of the car are being “hand-built,” – for now, anyway – and Tesla’s stratospheric shares take only a slight hit. Seriously?

Yes, it’s good to be ol’ Elon – often wrong, never in doubt and seldom punished.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

Not since Henry Ford and General Motors founder Billy Durant put America on wheels has the auto industry faced the disruption it does right now.

Not because oil prices are skyrocketing. And not because consumer demand is plummeting.

Forcing the change are two inexorable forces: technology and government regulators. They’re converging quickly. And the combination is pushing the likes of GM and Ford Motor into making seemingly contradictory bets.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

Heard about America’s new parlor game? Global corporations are playing regions and taxpayers off one another to land the richest deal. And Michigan is in the game. So far, anyway.

Earlier this week, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed legislation obligating his state’s taxpayers to pay Taiwan’s Foxconn Technology a cool $2.85 billion in cash. That’s billion with a “B.”

What for? To offset its payroll and capital costs to set up shop in the southeast corner of that state.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

Don’t let the opening days of another school year, or another Michigan win at the Big House, fool you: public education in this state is in steep decline.

Out of the 50 states, Michigan ranks 37th in eighth-grade math and 41st in fourth-grade reading, says the nonpartisan Public Sector Consultants. Strip out the state’s lowest-income students, and fourth-grade reading slips to 48th.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

Forget the notion that the Chinese are coming to the auto industry near you. They’re already here.

Geely has controlled Sweden’s Volvo for seven years now. Tencent Holdings owns a five percent stake in Elon Musk’s Tesla. Pacific Century Motors acquired Delphi’s Saginaw-based steering division to create Nexteer Automotive Corp. And Chinese companies spent $140 billion last year on mergers and acquisitions, second only to the United States.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

Rising profits and record sales are no protection from predators – or a boss trying to extract value before it’s too late.

Just ask the fine folks at Fiat Chrysler. Their company is in play for the fifth time in roughly 20 years.

From independence, it went to the Germans, then back to the Americans. They drove it into bankruptcy, and then to the Italians of Fiat and Ferrari fame. Then they tried to entice General Motors and Volkswagen into deals nobody wanted.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

Don’t buy the White House spin: President Donald Trump didn’t abandon his two panels of corporate CEOs. They abandoned him.

Equating neo-Nazis and white supremacists with counter-protestors, as the president did this week, will do that.

Within hours of his comments, leading CEOs – including General Motors’ Mary Barra – worked the phones to look for a way out, preferably without incurring the wrath of the Tweeter-in-Chief.

The answer: hang together to avoid hanging separately. What’s he gonna do? Denounce en masse the corporate CEOs he wooed to his business forums?

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

These are tricky times for the United Auto Workers.

The guy in the White House says he wants what they want: more manufacturing jobs in the United States. But he’s actually not in charge of making that happen. Instead, the opposite is unspooling – from Harley Davidson cutting production to Detroit automakers shipping assembly of once-revered nameplates overseas.          

Cars sales are tanking, prompting the union that is synonymous with Detroit to start fretting in the halls of its hometown automakers.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

Whoever thinks consumers are driving the market for electric cars isn’t paying attention.

Countries are driving it, and investors know it. The latest? France, which said this week it plans to ban the sale of all gas and diesel-powered cars by 2040. Yes, all.

The government of French President Emmanuel Macron joins a growing list of nations prepared to use mandates to achieve what stubborn consumers operating in open markets will not. And that’s to drive what regulators and environmental activists think they should.

It’s all so Big Brother.

CREDIT Joe Ravi / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 3.0

You may have missed the biggest news of the week – at least here in the Motor City. For the first time ever, Apple’s CEO confirmed the tech giant is hot for self-driving cars.

Buckle up, folks.

CEO Tim Cook says there’s “a major disruption looming” as self-driving technology, electric vehicles and ride-sharers like Uber and Lyft converge into one big ball of change. He says autonomous systems are a “core technology” for Apple and “the mother” of all artificial intelligence projects.

It’s seldom politically correct in this town to say one of our automakers is lagging the competition. But there are exceptions — and right now Ford Motor is one of them.

The Blue Oval shocked the auto world when it replaced CEO Mark Fields a few weeks ago with Jim Hackett, the former Steelcase boss turned University of Michigan athletic director. It pulled another one when it shuffled its global leadership team in a shakeup the Glass House hasn’t seen in a long time.

What’s going on here? Plenty, and it begins with a simple sentence: profit today is not enough for tomorrow.

The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The party’s over on Mackinac Island.

If that’s what you insist on calling the Detroit Chamber’s annual policy conference on this island frozen in time — complete with its high-end hotel prices and tony wine bars. The only thing that moves fast here are the cash registers and welling nostalgia.

That’s a problem. Michigan and its largest city do their best work in a crisis. But as 1,700 or so of the state’s business movers and political shakers descended on the Grand Hotel this past week, there is no real crisis to rally the collective mind.

Steve Shotwell / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Nine years after Ford Motor recruited an outsider to save it from itself, the automaker’s doing it again.

This time, the savior is more familiar. It’s Jim Hackett. He's the guy who wooed Jim Harbaugh back to the Michigan sidelines once prowled by the legendary Bo Schembechler. Harbaugh says Hackett’s all about teamwork, about making the team better, and the football coach says the new Ford CEO is, quote, “tougher than a two-dollar steak.”

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

Another week in the Motor City and you get buyouts at Ford Motor and news of General Motors bolting yet two more foreign markets. What’s going on here?

Simple: this ain’t your father’s auto industry anymore.

These are pillars of the American industrial economy. They're companies worth rescuing with taxpayer money and the biggest home improvement loan ever. And they're vying for relevance.