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Stateside
5:56 pm
Tue September 30, 2014

Can Detroit automakers deliver on big promises for their luxury brands?

Will Cadillac become a global luxury brand on a par with Germany's Big Three?
Credit User: Erik Daniel Drost / Flickr

 

These are challenging times for the executives who run the luxury brands at General Motors and Ford.

Lincoln has been on wobbly legs for years, and Cadillac is lagging behind the competition, especially the German luxury competition.

Detroit News Business columnist Daniel Howes has been following the Michigan automakers' struggle with the luxury business. He says these companies have largely failed to get luxury buyers to take their products seriously. 

"Lincoln has failed for a long time, in a large part because Ford was not willing to spend the money to make Lincoln differentiated enough. A lot of people will tell you today that Cadillac has got the best product, but the problem is the sales are not producing," says Howes.

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Stateside
12:59 pm
Tue September 30, 2014

The past and future of the Ford Mustang

2015 MUSTANG
media.ford.com

This year marks the 50th birthday of a car that has carved out a big place for itself in American automotive history: the Ford Mustang.

Today on Stateside, we'll take a 50-year look back at the history of the pony car and look ahead to the newest generation. The 2015 Mustang is heading to showrooms next month.

Jay Follis is an automotive historian. He's director of marketing at the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners in Barry County, and he's looked at the history of the Mustang in the current issue of Michigan History Magazine. Follis says before the introduction of the Mustang, Ford didn't plan on anything new.

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Auto
11:48 am
Tue September 30, 2014

Ford Motor Company gets a "D" for planning for climate change

A Chevy Volt, being charged at a solar charging station at GM's Detroit-Hamtramck facility
General Motors

Ford Motor Company Executive Chairman Bill Ford, Jr. has long been a leader on the issue of climate change.

He was the first executive of a major auto company to call for global action on the threat, more than 15 years ago.

So it may come as a surprise that his company did so poorly on this year's CDP S&P 500 Climate Change Report.

The group gives Ford a "D" for the actions it is taking to prepare for climate change. 

Here's another thing that may come as a surprise: 

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Auto
9:07 pm
Sat September 20, 2014

GM, Chrysler recalling more than 400,000 vehicles

Jeep Grand Cherokee

DETROIT (AP) - General Motors is recalling 221,558 Cadillac XTS and Chevrolet Impala sedans because the brake pads can stay partially engaged even when they're not needed, increasing the risk of a fire.

The recall involves Cadillacs from the 2013-2015 model years and Impalas from the 2014 and 2015 model years. There are 205,309 vehicles affected in the U.S.; the rest of the vehicles are in Canada and elsewhere.

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Stateside
6:36 pm
Thu September 18, 2014

GM recall scandal isn't in the rear-view mirror yet

Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

 

When General Motors appointed Kenneth Feinberg as its so-called "compensation czar," it was clear the automaker hoped to have Feinberg determine damages to victims of the ignition-switch debacle, pay, and move on.

But as Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes writes today, things are not working out that way:

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Auto
1:40 pm
Tue September 16, 2014

GM CEO Mary Barra to receive Appeal of Conscience award for handling of recall scandal

Mary Barra listens in to a call at GM's Customer Engagement Center in the wake of the ignition switch recall.
Credit General Motors

GM CEO Mary Barra will receive an Appeal of Conscience Award on September 23rd from the interfaith organization Appeal of Conscience Foundation.

Barra is being honored for her leadership in the wake of a shocking revelation in late January that General Motors had delayed a potentially deadly ignition switch recall for ten years.

The switches could be knocked out of the run position into the accessory position when the cars went over a bump.  That disabled safety features, including airbags.

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Auto
12:34 pm
Tue September 16, 2014

GM adds third shift, 750 workers, to Wentzville, MO factory

The assembly line at GM's Wentzville, Missouri assembly plant.
Credit General Motors

General Motors is adding a third shift to its Wentzville, Missouri plant to meet expected demand for the midsize trucks that are built there.

GM is introducing new versions of its midsize trucks, the Chevrolet Colorado and the GMC Canyon.

The new shift is expected to start work in early 2015.

The automaker says dealers have ordered 30,000 Colorados already, "which is very high for early orders."

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Auto
10:37 am
Mon September 15, 2014

19 death claims due to GM faulty ignition switch approved for special compensation so far

Credit GM

For months, General Motors has estimated 13 people were killed as a result of accidents linked to a faulty ignition switch in Cobalts, HHRs, Saturn Ions, and some other small cars.

But it appears the estimate was low.

GM has established a special voluntary compensation program for victims or families of victims who can prove serious or fatal accidents were linked to the defective switch.

The program began taking claims on August 1.

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Auto
5:06 am
Mon September 8, 2014

GM to become first automaker to roll out "connected" vehicles

GM CEO Mary Barra announces the automaker's plans for making new "driver-assist" an option in 2017 Cadillac CTS's
Credit 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.   

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Auto
4:58 am
Mon September 8, 2014

GM accused of ignoring unsafe factories in foreign countries

Protesters accuse GM executives of ignoring unsafe working conditions in factories in Columbia and India
Credit 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.

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Auto
3:51 pm
Fri September 5, 2014

U of M automated car center picks up major corporate support

A glass panel display shows how vehicles equipped with the new technology will be able to communicate with one another and roadway infrastructure, like traffic signals.
Credit 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.  

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Auto
3:51 pm
Mon September 1, 2014

Auto industry, regulators prepare for "mid-term review" of CAFE

Ford's three-cylinder Ecoboost engine. Ford's strategy to meet new fuel economy standards includes smaller engines and lightweighting.
Credit Ford Motor Company

To most of us, 2017 is three years away.

To the auto industry, it's just around the corner.  The fast-paced industry develops its vehicles three to five years ahead of when they will be on the market.

So, there's already a lot of talk about what's going to happen during the midterm review in 2017.

That's when everyone gets together to determine if the nation's ambitious new fuel economy standards for the years 2022-2025 are technologically feasible - without making vehicles so expensive we can't afford them, or so impractical we don't want them. 

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Auto
10:56 am
Tue August 26, 2014

Car customer satisfaction slips for almost all, more for non-U.S. brands

Chevrolet and Buick were the only two brands to see an increase in customer satisfaction in the 2014 American Customer Satisfaction Index.
Credit GM

Customer satisfaction with new cars declined for the second year in a row. 

This year, satisfaction with new car purchases declined a little more than one percent, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index. 

Founder Claus Fornell says car companies are churning out cars pretty fast these days to meet the high demand.  That may be increasing quality problems - and  recalls.

"It's a nuisance or worse, for consumers," says Fornell, "and therefore, it's not surprising that customer satisfaction is lower for those people who have had a recall."

But Fornell says satisfaction with cars is still quite high compared to most industries. That's because there's been a dramatic improvement in car quality.

"Compared to let's say 20-25 years ago, all these products are very good.   It is not low satisfaction compared to other industries, but it is going in the wrong direction."

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Auto
3:35 pm
Mon August 25, 2014

Tiny company has big hopes for more propane-fueled cars

Filling up with liquid natural gas, aka, propane, aka, autogas
Credit David Villa

Propane production in the U.S. is booming - and so is business for a small Michigan company that retrofits vehicles to run on the fuel.

Albert Venezio is Chairman of Icom North America.  Icom N.A. has 25 employees and is based in New Hudson, Michigan.

Albert Venezio, the company's North American Chairman, says propane, otherwise known as autogas, is cheaper and cleaner than diesel or gasoline, and it's ideal for fleets, delivery vans, and school buses. 

One big customer is Metro Cars at Detroit Metro Airport.  The company has converted all its vehicles to run on the Icom system.  The system allows cars to switch between propane or gasoline as needed.

"We can reduce their  fuel costs at least a dollar a gallon, sometimes as much as $2 a gallon, and we reduce emissions probably in the 30-50% ratio, and they use a domestic fuel," says Venezio.

Propane is found wherever natural gas is found.  The natural gas fracking boom has caused a plentiful supply of propane.

Venezio says the U.S. may have enough propane deposits to fuel 5 million vehicles annually.   Right now, about 200,000 vehicles in the U.S. can run on propane. 

The numbers of propane vehicles are much higher in Europe, where taxes make diesel and gasoline fuels very expensive.

Vehicles running on propane get about 10% lower fuel economy - but the fuel produces about a third  lower CO2 emissions - and zero particulate matter. 

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Auto
12:32 pm
Fri August 22, 2014

Biggest model transition in Ford history begins Friday

The first F-series truck made by Ford in 1948.
Alden Jewell Flickr

Pickup trucks are the most profitable and popular vehicle in the United States, keeping hundreds of thousands of American farmers, ranchers, and small companies in business.

And Ford's F-150 is the king of all the pickup trucks. It's been the best-selling vehicle of any kind for decades.

On Friday evening, the last 2014 model year F-150 pickup truck rolls off the assembly line at the Dearborn Truck Plant.

Then the work begins to prepare the plant to build the next version – a groundbreaking truck with a mostly aluminum body. 

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Auto
2:54 pm
Tue August 5, 2014

Dream Cruise, move over. The Swedes do classic car love-fests better.

A 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air
Credit Wikimedia

With the venerable Woodward Dream Cruise just days away, thousands of metro Detroiters are pulling the

covers off the precious classic American car in the garage, and buffing her to a shine.

Few of us know that Swedes share the same love affair.

A few weeks ago, Vegas Tenold attended the 30th annual "Power Big Meet" in Vasteras, Sweden.  He writes for the New York Times:

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Auto
5:04 pm
Fri August 1, 2014

New penalties proposed for delaying car recalls

GM is recalling more than 28 million vehicles in the U.S., including 2.6 million Cobalts, HHRs, Saturns and other small cars with a faulty ignition switch
Credit GM

Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill has introduced bills that could subject auto companies and auto executives to tough new penalties for delaying a recall.

McCaskill, a Democrat, has been leading an investigation into GM's ignition switch recall scandal.  The company admits it delayed a recall of 2.6 million small cars for ten years - and at least 13 people died as a result.

McCaskill's Motor Vehicle and Highway Safety Enhancement Act of 2014 would:

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Stateside
9:16 pm
Wed July 30, 2014

Auto business is booming, but report warns of next industry downfall

Auto sales are booming, but don't expect this to be a continuous growth period.
Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

When the economy in Michigan is hurting, you always hear politicians talking about diversifying the economy.

But when the auto industry is doing better and the economy in Michigan is riding along with it, that talk seems to disappear.

Well, not this time. Rick Haglund recently wrote about a report that indicates the auto industry might be hitting the brakes.

Haglund joined us today. He’s a freelance journalist and contributor to Bridge Magazine, MLive and others. Michigan Radio's auto reporter, Tracy Samilton, also joined us on the show.

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Auto
12:01 am
Wed July 30, 2014

Many cars still having trouble with IIHS small overlap crash test

Result of small overlap crash test for Hyundai Sonata. Note how the passenger compartment remains largely intact.
Credit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

A year after the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety introduced it, many automakers are still having trouble designing cars that can do well on the "small overlap" crash test.

A small overlap crash happens when just the corner of the front of a car hits something, like another car, or a tree or a pole.

That kind of a crash can bypass the "crumple zone" of the front of the car, which is meant to absorb the force of the crash, protecting the people inside the passenger compartment from death or injury.

IIHS recently tested 12 small new cars for small overlap protection; only one, the Mini Cooper Countryman, received the highest grade of "Good."

Five others, the Chevy Volt, the Ford C-Max Hybrid, the Mitsubishi Lancer, the Scion FR-S, and the Subaru BRZ, got the next highest mark of "Acceptable."

Because the Chevy Volt also offers buyers the option of a front collision warning, the Institute gave the car its Top Safety Pick Plus award.

Four cars got a "Poor" rating, including the Fiat 500-L, the Nissan Juke, the Nissan Leaf, and the Mazda 5.

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Stateside
4:00 pm
Tue July 29, 2014

GM recalls bring in revenue for dealerships

Credit GM

We’ve all heard about one recall after another from General Motors. But what does that mean for the dealer? Lester Graham stopped by Victory Chevrolet Buick in Milan and talked to salesperson Sean Johnson about the recalls.

“It’s a lot more business in the service end of it,” Johnson said. “Negative wise, I think people are kind of scared to buy a GM product.”

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