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Bargainers for the UAW and the Detroit automakers will get down to brass tacks the week of July 13.

The tug of war will be between workers who expect to get back some of what they gave up during the downturn of 2008-09, and auto executives who can't fall back into the practices that got them in such trouble. 

Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes believes it's all going to come down to who's looking ahead through the windshield or at the past in the rear-view mirror.

"As you go into negotiations, you can't help but think that the UAW and their membership are looking at the fact that over the past four years of the current contract, GM, Ford, and what is now FCA or Chrysler, have made $67.7 billion of profits in North America." 

When Kia first began selling its cars in the U.S. in 1995, they sold mainly because they were cheap. Quality and reliability? Not exactly a Kia car's forte'.

That has changed, if this year's J.D. Power Initial Quality Study is any indication. Kia owners reported fewer problems in the first 90 days of ownership than any other brand, save No. 1 Porsche.

In another flip-flop, many Japanese brands fell below the industry average for the first time since J.D. Power began tracking initial quality 29 years ago.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Updated:  10:23 am 6-17-15

Tesla's foray into advanced battery manufacturing in the U.S. is apparently no threat to advanced battery manufacturer LG Chem of Korea.

Tesla, with the help of partner Panasonic, is building a massive lithium-ion battery manufacturing plant in Nevada.

wikipedia / public domain

Ford Motor Company will return to Le Mans racing after a hiatus of 46 years.

The Dearborn automaker will enter a racing version of its new GT Supercar in the grueling endurance race.

"This vehicle, really from the very beginning, was born to race," said Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford at a press conference held on the grounds of the famous circuit in France. 

Ford, the great-grandson of Henry Ford, said watching the 1966 Le Mans - when Ford cars placed first, second and third - was one of the most exciting memories he has from childhood.

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.

Amit Evron / Wikipedia.org

It’s a little-known chapter in the history of the Ford Motor Company.

And all that’s left today are ruins and a ghost town deep in the Amazon rainforest.

Matt Anderson tells us the story of Henry Ford’s great “social and business experiment” nearly a century ago, in Brazil. He’s the curator of transportation for The Henry Ford Research Center.

A hundred years ago, the British and Dutch controlled the world’s rubber production. The rubber tree was native to the Amazon, and the English took seedlings from Brazil to Southeast Asia for mass production.

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.

Federal regulators will require trucks and buses to have electronic stability control.
user Nic Redhead / Flickr/creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode

If you have a relatively new car, you have an important safety feature called electronic stability control in it.  But that big bus or heavy truck next to you on the road?  It probably doesn't. 

This week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration finalized a rule that will change that.

Amanda Mills, USCDCP / Public domain

More than 10,000 people died in alcohol-related traffic accidents in the U.S. in 2013.

And a large number of those accidents involve  drivers who had never been stopped for driving under the influence before.

New technologies are being developed that have the potential to eliminate many of those accidents, if widely adopted. One version uses touch sensors on the wheel. Another analyzes the air in the cabin.

media.ford.com

The economy in China may be slowing, but Ford says its plans for future sales increases are still on track.

Ford of China head Dave Schock says the days of "frantic" double-digit GDP growth are likely over. But he says the government plans to transition the economy to a 7% rate of growth, which means plenty of opportunities to increase car sales. 

Ford is pinning its hopes on so-called Tier 3 through Tier 6 cities in China. Those are small to mid-sized cities (a small city in China can still have several million residents.) 

GM hopes the Chevy Bolt will make long range electric cars affordable.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Electric cars can't compete on price or range with gas-burning cars, yet. But they're getting closer, according to a new study from Lux Research, because of the work being done by advanced battery manufacturers.

Analyst Cosmin Laslau says advanced lithium ion batteries could hit a price target of $172 per kilowatt hour by the year 2025. That's a 35% reduction from the current price.

CDC

It doesn't matter where you live in the United States; the leading cause of death is heart disease, followed closely by cancer.

But there are more than 113 causes of death listed in the The International Classification of Diseases, and any one of those can end up on someone's death certificate. 

That means there are a lot of state-by-state distinctions hidden in the bigger numbers.

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

DETROIT - The U.S. government's highway safety agency says it will hold a public hearing in July to determine if Fiat Chrysler has met its legal obligations in 20 safety recalls.

Witnesses and the automaker will be able to present evidence at the July 2 hearing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

www.flazingo.com / www.flazingo.com/creative 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.

Ford Motor Company

Automakers spend money and time developing high-tech car features, hoping to make their offerings stand out from the pack.

But are those automakers on the same page as consumers? A study released by JD Power & Associates, a research firm, says consumers are most interested in technology that makes us safer. 

Tesla

Tesla will acquire Riviera Tool in Cascade Township, renaming the company "Tesla Tool and Die Factory."

The Silicon Valley-based auto and battery manufacturing company has used Riviera as a supplier before, but the acquisition means Tesla will become the factory's only customer.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A former home of Michigan’s auto industry will soon train future automotive engineers.

Kettering University is moving ahead with plans to turn part of Flint’s old Chevy in the Hole site into an automotive research hub.

“This is the next generation,” says Robert McMahan, the president of the Kettering University, “The next phase in (Chevy in the Hole’s) long legacy.”

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.

DETROIT (AP) - Under pressure from U.S. safety regulators, Ford is expanding a recall of small and midsize cars to fix door latches that may not stay closed.

  The recall now covers almost 546,000 Ford Fusions and Lincoln MKZs from the 2013 and 2014 model years, and Ford Fiestas from 2011 to 2014.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

General Motors is planning to invest more than $5 billion in its U.S. facilities over the next three years. 

The money won't mean a huge number of new jobs.  A total of about 650 new positions will be added.

But GM's head of North American Manufacturing Cathy Clegg says it does mean a long-term commitment to jobs already at the facilities.

A 2014 Impala on the assembly line driving off the line at Oshawa Assembly.
© General Motors

OSHAWA, Ontario - General Motors Canada says it will cut about 1,000 positions from its Oshawa manufacturing operations this year.

GM Canada said Thursday that its main assembly operation is expected to have 2,600 hourly employees, down from 3,600 by December.

JBleeker / Creative Commons

The hybrid honeymoon may be over, at least while gas prices remain low.

Fewer than half of hybrid and electric car owners who traded the vehicles in during the first quarter of 2015 bought another hybrid or electric, according to Jessica Caldwell with Edmunds.com. 

Car accident.
Daniel X. O'Neil / Flickr

Car insurance rates in Michigan are 136% higher than the national average, according to an analysis by Insurance Quotes, a subsidiary of Bankrate.com.

Probably the biggest reason, says Insurance Quote's Laura Adams, is that Michigan is a no-fault state

That means insurance companies have to pay the cost of any car accident a customer is involved in, regardless of which driver is at fault. 

Flickr user Robert Couse-Baker / Flickr

The landmark 2012 Clean Air Act was the nation's first action focusing on greenhouse gases, with the goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2025.

Margo Oge was the Environmental Protection Agency's director of the Office of Transportation Air Quality and she helped to shape the Clean Air Act.

Flickr user Argonne National Laboratory / Flickr

Lawmakers are still discussing how to manage the $9.4 billion in tax credits Michigan owes automakers.

The incentives started under Gov. John Engler and were mainly used during Gov. Jennifer Granholm's era. Their purpose was to keep automakers in Detroit, and Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes says this plan was largely successful.

"The problem is the bills are becoming due and you've got folks in the Legislature who are arguing about what they're going to do about it," Howes says.

There's no way around paying them, and Howes says, "The debate now is what do they do going forward and what does that do to Michigan's competitiveness."

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Lithium-ion battery maker LG Chem is planning on doubling the size of its workforce in Holland this year. The plant makes batteries for the Chevy Volt and Cadillac ELR.

LG Chem is expanding to make batteries for a new customer. But a company spokesman won't say who the new customer is.

John Lloyd/Flickr

Vehicles don't last forever, and old vehicles need extra maintenance.

That's the take-home message from a four-year investigation into brake-line failures on very old GM trucks.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigation focused on complaints of brake failures in GM trucks built between 1999 and 2003.

GM had an event-filled year. The company announced more shifts at assembly plants, like at this one - the Wentzville Assembly plant in Missouri. It also dealt with the fallout from the ignition switch recall.
GM

UAW members gathered in Detroit this week to let local delegates air their views about what the union should demand in contract talks with U.S. automakers later this year.

The discussion has centered on the two-tier pay system that's been in place for the last eight years.

Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

No union member likes the fact that pay for entry-level workers at GM, Ford, and Chrysler is capped at about $19 an hour.

Not the workers themselves, known as "tier two."

Not the higher-paid workers, known as "tier one," like Jeep assembly line worker Samantha Price, who says the system creates inter-personal conflict at her Toledo plant "every day.  Every single day."

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