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If you follow auto news at all, you know this already.  Ford Motor Company's new F-150 has an aluminum body. 

Aluminum is lighter than steel, so the switch has taken up to 700 pounds off the weight of the pickup, improving the truck's fuel economy as well as the payload and towing capacity.

YouTube / YouTube

Many of the most memorable commercials during past Super Bowls have come from automakers, but fewer will be participating in the expensive marketing during the event this year.

A rally last year in Canton, Mississippi for Nissan workers.
user peoplesworld / Flickr

  Amidst the buzz over the shiny new cars, trucks and SUVs on display at the North American International Auto Show are voices of protest. They represent workers at Nissan's assembly plant in Canton, Mississippi who feel betrayed by the automaker's promise of good jobs.

Wikipedia

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has reached an agreement with the auto industry to phase out most copper from brake pads by the year 2025.

The agreement follows in the wake of California's adoption of the regulation, which is designed to protect salmon and other fish, along with aquatic plants, from the toxic effects of copper.

Every time a driver hits the brakes, the friction rubs off part of the brake pad. The fine dust of copper and other toxic materials on roadways is flushed into nearby waterways.

The 2015 Ford Mustang.
Ford Motor Company

The Ford Mustang is on its way to China.

Ford says its first shipload of around 100 Mustangs has left Portland, Oregon, and is headed to China. Shipments to Europe will begin later this year.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Michigan State Police say they have been focusing resources on an unusually dangerous stretch of I-94 between Battle Creek and Galesburg for some time.

That was before a massive pileup of more than 190  vehicles on January 9th.

Now, police will bring even more resources to bear on the area.  An enforcement campaign this summer will expand beyond the usual speeding and drunk driving offenses.

"We're also going to incorporate some videotaping of some drivers texting while driving," says Lieutenant Dale Hinds.  "We've had quite a bit of issue with that in that area."

Automotive Rhythms / Flickr

The North American International Auto Show is in full swing in Detroit.

Writer Paul Eisenstein, publisher of TheDetroitBureau.com, serves up an in-depth look at the state of alternative fuel vehicles for the January issue of Hour Detroit Magazine.

Eisenstein has covered all the news conferences and "big vehicle reveals" at the NAIAS. Amidst the luxury cars and the muscle cars like that new 650-horsepower Corvette automakers are still thinking "green" with alternative fuel options.

Mark Brush

Every year, my neighbor knows spring is almost here because he sees me lying under my 24-year-old VW Vanagon looking for the latest leak from my “wasserboxer” engine.

It’s like Groundhog Day. If the thing starts, spring comes early. If not, we’re all one mail-order part away from warmer weather. So when that VW parts place in California sends me the new hose/temp sensor/gasket/fratastat, I fire up the van and summer starts.  

I’ve been lucky. I’ve kept the thing going. The van still has Fahrvergnügen. And we get to park it in places like this:

 

Alden Jewell / Flickr

Got milk? Well, back in the day, milk trucks drove door-to-door delivering the all important staple to your home.

Twin Pines, Sealtest, Borden’s, Washtenaw Dairy and Guernsey Farm are just a few of the companies that sent hardy little delivery trucks out every day, serving up home delivery of milk, cream, eggs and cheese.

user dgtmedia-simone / wikimedia commons

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne rarely holds a press conference without offering at least one memorable quote.

Actually, let's make that never. FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne has never given a press conference without making at least one statement that is memorable, or colorful, or shocking, or funny, or all four combined.

Paige Pfleger / Michigan Radio

Click on the image above to see some of the concept cars on display at this year's auto show.

- Paige Pfleger, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Today marks the first day of media preview action at the North American International Auto Show. Already, some big winners have been named. Ford won Truck of the Year award for its F-150, while the Volkswagen Golf was crowned the North American Car of the Year.

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

General Motors officials introduced a concept car, the Chevy Bolt, today at the North American International Auto Show. The car company claims the all-electric car has a range of up to 200 miles on one charge and will be affordable to the typical consumer. The company puts the price of the Bolt at $30,000 including a federal tax credit.

If it’s released, the Bolt would compete with the electric car-maker Tesla. Tesla’s Model S has a range of 265 miles on one charge, but the car’s price tag is out of reach for many consumers with a base price of nearly $70,000.

The 2015 VW Golf (left), and the 2015 Ford F-150 (right) at the North American International Auto Show.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The Volkwagen Golf was named the North American Car of the Year, beating out the other two competitors nominated for the award – the Ford Mustang, and the Hyundai Genesis.

General Motors CEO Mary Barra.
Dave Pinter / flickr

Two weeks after Mary Barra took charge of General Motors, she faced a sudden challenge that could have tested even a seasoned CEO.

The automaker was forced to admit it had delayed a recall of 2.6 million Cobalts and other small cars for 10 years, leading to dozens of deaths that might not have happened had the recall been timely.

Soon, Barra was called before several congressional committees, where she endured sometimes merciless questioning about the scandal. 

IIHS / Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

Analysts expect another good year for auto sales in 2015. 

But automakers may have to lean more heavily on techniques that boost sales.

Jeff Schuster of LMC Automotive says it looks like the economy will grow this year - albeit slowly. 

Economic growth supports car buying.

"But the real wild card is going to be interest rates," he says.

Auto sales grew in 2014
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

It was a record year for recalls in 2014.  But that didn't appear to hamper new car sales in the slightest.

Analysts expect 16.4 million in car sales for the year.

flickr.com

The National Insurance Crime Bureau tracks car thefts by just about any variable you can think of, including holiday car thefts. 

The Bureau's Frank Scafidi says in many states, the lowest number of car thefts take place on Christmas Day, "so maybe there's still a little holiday Christmas spirit among thieves, too."

But the most popular holiday - New Year's Day - is just around the corner.

FCA

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is changing the name of its American division.

Chrysler (actually Chrysler Group, LLC) is now FCA US LLC.  Or FCA US for short.

FCA explained the change this way:

user futureatlas.com / Flickr

Oil prices worldwide continue to slide. Gas prices haven't been this low in five years, with Michigan averaging $2.41 a gallon.

Colorful used cars
Zelda Richardson

After six years of stagnation, it’s looking like the European car market could end the year with some growth. Our partner at the BBC Russell Padmore joins us from London to talk about what’s behind the sales, and what it means for American auto companies.

Listen to our conversation with Padmore below. 

IIHS

Auto sales continue to perform well in 2014, say analysts, even though one of the usual ingredients in that success is missing -- strong GDP growth.

"The economy has not necessarily cooperated yet," says Jeff Schuster of LMC Automotive.  "Not to the level, that 3% level, which is typically expected to support auto sales.  And we haven't really had that."

Schuster thinks 2014 vehicle sales will end up around 16.4 million.

Jessica Caldwell of Edmunds.com is just slightly more optimistic.  She thinks the industry could sell 16.7 million by the end of December.

Auto dealers are once again jumping on the Black Friday sales phenomenon.

Analyst Jessica Caldwell of Edmunds.com says last year, dealerships and automakers offered special Black Friday incentives to lure shoppers.

The result: Car sales during Black Friday weekend were 105%  higher than the three other weekends in November.

"So it does seem as if, we started to embrace it, and then it worked so well, no surprise that this year, we expect it to work well again, says Caldwell.

Fred Thompson / Flickr

2014 is nearly over, but we won't know how much ethanol the U.S. EPA will require to be blended into gasoline for 2014, until 2015.  The EPA announced last week it will delay issuing the standard.

The ethanol industry and refining industry are on opposite sides of the Renewable Fuels Standard debate.  The RFS requires increasing amounts of ethanol in gasoline every year, unless there are compelling economic reasons to depart from the practice.

Earlier this year, the EPA indicated it was planning to lower the Renewable Fuels Standard for the first time since 2007 – because it appeared the amount of ethanol in gasoline would have to exceed 10% – and the effect of higher ethanol blends on older engines is unclear.

The delay on issuing that standard has generated relief among corn ethanol lobbyists.

Volkswagen

Manufacturing jobs - in particular, auto manufacturing jobs - used to pay better than other types of jobs.

After 2007, that was no longer the case, according to a new analysis by the National Employment Law Project.

The trend continues to worsen.

The report finds that manufacturers earned 7.7% less than the median wage for all occupations in 2013.

More than 600,000 manufacturing workers make just $9.60 an hour, or less. 

Cadillac logo and grille
Flickr user Eric E Johnson / Flickr

Cadillac is moving its headquarters, and over 100 employees, to New York City. Detroit News Business Columnist Daniel Howes tells us the move shows that Cadillac is looking to gain more customers of money and influence on the East coast.

Cadillac’s vehicles will still be developed and engineered here in the Midwest.

Listen to our conversation with Howes below.


All Things Nav

Nineteen automakers that operate in the U.S. have agreed not to share data from cars with third parties, without the drivers' consent. 

Gloria Bergquist, vice president of the Auto Alliance, says cars are increasingly becoming connected to satellites, the Internet, and each other.

Those connections create a lot of personal information about where drivers go – and how they drive.

But Bergquist says people should also remember that connected cars will also bring many benefits.

Historic Belle Isle
Flickr user Don Harrison

Bill Loomis, author of a Detroit News piece "Detroit Before Motors: The Horse Age," talked to us about the 12,000 horses that crowded the streets of Detroit in the late 1800s.

Loomis tells us about the logistics of using horses to get around in the city and horse racing in Detroit.

You can listen to our conversation with Loomis below:


Tracy Samilton/Michigan Radio

Ford Motor Company's Dearborn truck plant is back online.

The automaker stripped the plant to its bare bones to remake it for building an aluminum F-150.

The lighter truck will get significantly better fuel economy, as well as better hauling and towing capacity.

During a media tour of the new body shop, Chief Engineer Ron Ketelhut pointed out that some things are missing –sparks, for example, and a deafening wall of noise.

Instead of welding the body together, (noisy, dirty, and hot work), the robots use rivets.

Andrea_44 / Flickr

Emails just released in a court case reveal General Motors ordered a half-million replacement ignition switches, nearly two months before reporting the defective switch problem to the government. The defect has been identified as a factor in 32 deaths.

Jeff Bennett broke this story for the Wall Street Journal.


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