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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

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.

M-1 RAIL / Facebook

Sixty one years after General Motors buses replaced Detroit’s streetcars, they’re back.

The QLine fleet started rolling along Woodward yesterday, tracing a 6.6-mile round trip that is the next step forward in the reinvention of Detroit. As signs go, it’s about as positive as you can get for the downtown a lot of Detroiters — in the city and in the suburbs — long ago gave up for dead.

flickr.com/photos/briansolis/2321406871

You may have heard that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg recently chose little ol’ Dearborn to lean into the real world. Good choice, even if the mogul’s posts after his visit proved Detroit isn’t the only patch of America living and working in a bubble. Silicon Valley is, too.



Audio FileDaniel Howes, April 29, 2017Edit | Remove

  As wake up calls go, think tank reports ain’t much.

Yeah, they marshal the grim statistics. They make harsh comparisons. They tell the people who bother to read them, mostly the already converted, just how Michigan is failing in education and job growth, in per-capita income and in the number of adults who work.

The Michigan state capitol building
Thetoad / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

By now you’ve heard about Michigan’s “Comeback.”

You can find it in booming auto sales and fat corporate profits. You can feel it in a 5.1% unemployment rate. That’s roughly a third of its high point in the throes of the Great Recession.

You can see the revival all over downtown Detroit. That’s where billions in fresh capital are remaking an urban core into the kind of hip and happening place that a lot of folks thought they’d never see in the city America gave up for dead.

But that’s only part of the story.

NEW YORK INTERNATIONAL AUTO SHOW

These days, Detroit is all about showing it’s new. It’s different. That it’s learned from the past.

Then what happened at the New York Auto Show this week? Markets collided, and the winners are buyers of trucks, SUVs and even muscle cars, not investors hot for all things electric.

Major players transformed the Big Apple into a shameless celebration of size and horsepower. It’s more evidence that the emissions-free future touted by the industry and rewarded by traders is trumped by reality, that is: consumer demand, low interest rates and cheap gas.

The Tesla Model S, first introduced in June 2012
Tesla Motors

Here’s the latest Detroit indignity: Tiny Tesla, the electric automaker, is felling giants.

The Silicon Valley startup created in 2003 is worth more in market value than the American industrial icon founded exactly 100 years earlier by Henry Ford, the premier innovator of his time.

Tesla’s not far behind General Motors, either. The promise of game-changing innovation, the hope that someone new can crack the emissions-free code is causing tons of smart money to flow into Chairman Elon Musk’s Tesla.

Nearly $49 billion-worth, to be precise.

Ford Motor Co. headquarters
Ford Motor Company

Forget the “Lost Decade.”

Profitable automakers racing for the new-new thing of mobility are starting to create the "Next Decade." On one track are the likes of General Motors and Ford Motor, each booking record profits on the strength of trucks and SUVs. On the other track is a whole new world with the power to change the perception – and reality – of Michigan as we know it.

Chrysler headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan.
flickr user fiatontheweb / creative commons

By now it should be obvious that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is for sale.

Not in a desperate do-a-deal-now kind of way. But in a persistent, strategically logical way.

Why? Because CEO Sergio Marchionne says as much, repeatedly. He understands better than most the capital demands of today’s global auto industry -- and FCA’s limited capacity to meet them.

Big Three New World

Mar 11, 2017
user paul (dex) / Flickr

GM is bailing out of Europe. The company is cashing in its Euro-chips and choosing to focus more on other markets. And GM’s not alone in that. While it might look like the Detroit car makers are turning tail and running, Daniel Howes of The Detroit News explains why it could be a good thing for Michigan.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Mike Duggan knows politics.

That’s partly why Detroit’s mayor is alleging that former Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr misled him about the city’s pension exposure. It’s an insurance policy.

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