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GM Renaissance Center in Detroit.
John F. Martin / Creative Commons

General Motors has been in the headlines recently over its recall of more than 1.5 million vehicles due to ignition switch problems that are being blamed for some 13 deaths.

Toyota is also in the news after having agreed to pay more than $1 billion to settle with the Justice Department over a delayed recall of millions of its vehicles.

But are U.S. consumers facing recall fatigue?

Sonari Glinton covers the auto industry for NPR, and he joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

General Motors

Members of Congress will have tough questions for the new CEO of General Motors.

Mary Barra is expected to testify in front of the Energy and Commerce Committee next month.

Barra has only been on the job as CEO for three months. Now she’s facing scrutiny for how the automaker handled or mishandled a major safety recall affecting more than 1.5 million cars.

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow says she’s confident in Barra’s leadership.

user paul (dex) / Flickr

It was announced yesterday that Toyota has agreed to pay $1.2 billion to settle with the U.S. Justice Department over a delayed recall of millions of vehicles.

The Justice Department is also investigating General Motors for delaying a recall of more than 1.5 million cars. The cars have defective ignition switches that can turn the car off at high speeds.

There's also news that GM executives are being summoned to D.C. to face Congressional inquiries.

Daniel Howes, business columnist at the Detroit News, joined us today to discuss the issue.

Listen to the full interview above.

Toyota To Pay $1.2B To End Safety-Related Probe

Mar 19, 2014
Updated at 10:30 a.m. ET.

Saying that "Toyota intentionally concealed information" and misled the public about the danger that some of its vehicles might suddenly accelerate, Attorney Gen. Eric Holder announced Wednesday that the automaker is being fined $1.2 billion for not being forthcoming after car owners started to complain in 2009.

An image from the consumer alert issued for the GM ignition switch recall.
NHTSA

Last month, General Motors recalled 1.6 million vehicles because of faulty ignition switches linked to 13 deaths and at least 31 crashes.

That has grown into that biggest crisis GM has faced in years, and an early and severe test for its new chief, Mary Barra.

Yesterday she released a video making a public apology:

“Something went wrong with our process in this instance and terrible things happened. As a member of the GM family and as a mom with a family of my own, this really hits home for me. And we have apologized. But that is just one step in the journey to resolve this.”

Also yesterday, the automaker announced another recall: more than 1.7 million vehicles in three new campaigns.

ChemicoMays

Auto companies are reducing the total number of their suppliers to maximize cost savings -- and that can make it harder than ever for new part suppliers to break into the business.

So, automakers like Ford Motor Company are doing what they can to make sure female, minority and veteran-owned manufacturers aren't bypassed.

Carla Traci Preston is Ford's Director of Supplier Diversity Development.

user paul (dex) / Flickr

The Detroit automakers are moving into their fifth year of recovery from the disastrous bottoming-out of 2009, when GM and Chrysler had to file for bankruptcy and Ford had to mortgage itself to the hilt to avoid the same fate.

Sales are brisk, auto loans are available and the future is bright, or is it?

Are there warning signs of another auto downturn? And if so, can the state of Michigan protect itself from getting hit as hard as it did in the last collapse?

Bridge Magazine writer Rick Haglund wrote about this in a recent piece for Bridge, and he joined us today along with Kristen Dziczek from the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor. 

Listen to the full interview above.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

General Motors plans to spend $162-million to expand its Lansing Grand River Assembly plant.

The plant produces the Cadillac ATS and CTS.

Monday night the Lansing city council will consider calling public hearings on a set of tax incentives for the expansion.

“It’s a welcome addition,” says Bob Trezise, the president of the Lansing Economic Area Partnership, “It really continues to consolidate the future of auto making, high end car making in the Lansing region and in the state of Michigan.”

automotiveauto.info

We've all heard the familiar idiom "every cloud has a silver lining."

But when it comes to the healthy profits being earned by the Detroit automakers and the profit-sharing checks that will be going to autoworkers, my next guest points out, the converse is true: "Every silver lining has a cloud."

Detroit Free Press Business columnist Tom Walsh joined us today.

Enterprise

A new study says car sharing has already cost U.S. auto dealers a lot of car sales over the past few years –and the trend will accelerate in the future.

John Hoffecker of AlixPartners says car-sharing services like ZipCar reduced car purchases by 500,000  between 2006 and 2013.

The AlixPartners study focused on 10 metro areas where car-sharing services are well established.

2007 Cobalt, one of the recalled models
GM

General Motors is expanding its recall of cars for a defect that can suddenly turn off the cars and disable the airbags.

The company also admits it made mistakes during the initial recall.

The defect is a faulty switch that may have caused more than 30 crashes and 13 deaths.

In some instances, the ignition switches turn off if the car is jarred, or if the key ring has extra weight on it.

Pobrecito33 / Flickr

The United Auto Workers is blaming outside interference for its defeat this month in a union election at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn.

The UAW filed an appeal of that vote today with the National Labor Relations Board.

In the days leading up to the vote, numerous Tennessee politicians threatened to kill millions of dollars of state incentives for an expansion of the plant if the workers voted to unionize.

In the end, plant workers voted down the union by a narrow margin.

Pobrecito33 / Flickr

It's Thursday – time for our weekly check-in with Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes. 

 He's picking through the rubble of the UAW's bid to unionize workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. We know that VW workers said "no thanks" to the UAW by a vote of 712-626, but what are the deeper implications of that "no" vote? Daniel Howes joined us today. Listen to the full interview above.

GMC SUVs in a car lot
user ep_jhu / Creative Commons

Ford and General Motors both recently decided to stop producing cars in Australia. Now, that country's car manufacturing industry is about to reach the end of the road. That's after today's announcement that Toyota will close its operations there as well.

Stateside's partner the BBC has more from business correspondent Russell Padmore.

General Motors

General Motors made $3.77  billion in 2013.

That's a 22% drop from the year before.

GM got hit with a lot of extra costs last year. The company is taking the Chevy brand out of Europe, so it doesn't compete with the automaker's Opel brand, and it's closing a plant in Europe.

GM is also closing its Holden division in Australia. And its taxes went up.

But GM's new CEO Mary Barra tells investors quality is also up.

Ford Motor Company

It's a car-eat-car world out there, and Boston Consulting Group says the competition is only going to get more fierce.

BCG's new study finds that companies that are more innovative will have an important competitive advantage. 

Analyst Xavier Mosquet says a majority of people say they want to buy a car from a company they perceive as innovative.

But, it may not be easy to meet their expectations. 

user dgtmedia-simone / wikimedia commons

Remember "DaimlerChrysler"? Well, that didn't go so well.

Maybe "Fiat Chrysler Automobiles" will fare much better.

The company that owns Chrysler Group LLC, Fiat SpA, announced the name change today: 

Today, the Board of Directors of Fiat S.p.A. (“Fiat”) approved a corporate reorganization and the formation of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (“FCA”) as a fully-integrated global automaker...

In order to establish a true peer to the major global automotive groups, in both scale and capital market appeal, the Board has decided to establish Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V., organized in the Netherlands, as the parent company of the Group. FCA’s common shares will be listed in New York and Milan.

The newly formed company's stock will be traded on the New York Stock Exchange. Current Fiat shareholders will receive one share of FCA for each Fiat share they're holding.

The newly named company released its new logo as well today. A logo they say "lends itself to an extraordinary range of symbolic interpretations."

CEO of Fiat and Chrysler Sergio Marchionne called the corporate reorganization "one of the most important days in my career at Fiat and Chrysler."

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s auto industry figured prominently in President Obama’s State of the Union speech last night.

He started by talking about a hard-working auto worker building fuel-efficient vehicles and helping America wean itself off foreign oil. 

The president then introduced the new CEO of General Motors, who was sitting with the First Lady.  

A Ford assembly plant in Kansas City.
Ford Motor Company / Flickr

Ford Motor Company had one of its best years ever, and under its contract with the UAW, the company will give a portion of its annual North American profit to the nearly 47,000 hourly workers who help build the profitable cars and trucks.

Last year, Ford's profit in North America was $8.8 billion, so each of those workers will receive an $8,800 bonus check. The payout breaks last year's bonus of $8,300.

via Wikipedia

The home of the Ford Model T is now an abandoned factory complex along busy Woodward Avenue in Highland Park, Michigan – and there's not much to distinguish this place from Detroit's other industrial ruins.

But if you stop and walk up to the front of the building, you'll find a historical marker telling us that by 1925, this place churned out more than 9,000 Ford Model Ts a day.

media.chrysler.com / media.chrysler.com

MILAN (AP) - The Italian carmaker Fiat says its acquisition of the final Chrysler stake is complete, making the U.S. car company a wholly-owned subsidiary of Fiat.

Fiat SpA said Tuesday that it closed the deal announced Jan. 1 with the cash payment of $1.75 billion to a union-controlled trust fund. That's on top of an initial $1.9-billion payment, which was arranged through a special distribution from Chrysler. Fiat also made the first installment on an additional $700 million payment.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - The North American International Auto Show in Detroit has opened its doors to the public.

The annual event began Saturday at Cobo Center following a week of previews for journalists and others in the industry. A race-worthy Corvette, a sumptuous Mercedes C-Class and other glitzy models catch the eye at the show, which runs through Jan. 26.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

At Detroit’s North American International Auto Show, the focus is naturally on the cars.

But behind the scenes, more than 2,000 people labor to make sure visitors are impressed by what they see.

Detroit has hosted an auto show for over a century now. And in a place known as the Motor City, it’s always been a pretty big deal.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Media preview days are in full swing at the North American International Auto Show.

Over 5,000 reporters from around the world have converged on Cobo Center, including Daniel Howes, a business columnist with The Detroit News.

Howes talks with us about the big car news to come out of the auto show.

Listen to full interview above.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - University of Michigan and state government officials aim to have a 32-acre driverless car test site running by September - in time for a global conference on intelligent transportation systems.

Gov. Rick Snyder and other state and university officials gathered Tuesday at Detroit's auto show to outline plans for the Mobility Transformation Facility, a $6.5 million site on the Ann Arbor university's North Campus.

It will offer a simulated urban environment with roads, intersections, building facades, traffic circles and a hill.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - General Motors Co. says it will resume paying a quarterly dividend, its first since the height of the financial crisis in 2008

The U.S. automaker's CEO Dan Akerson had hinted that a dividend may be coming and the company confirmed the move Tuesday. General Motors says its dividend of 30 cents per share is payable March 28 to stockholders of record as of March 18.

The Detroit-based company says investors should share in the company's success and that the dividend is a signal of confidence for a profitable future.

Chrysler introduced the car it’s promising will “redefine the brand” at Detroit’s auto show Monday.

The “flagship” 2015 Chrysler 200 is the Auburn Hills-based automaker’s first venture into the highly competitive mid-size sedan market in more than a decade.

Chrysler officials say the model will go “head-to-head” with its competitors in terms of quality, design and – at just under $22,000 – price.

David Mindell

Ford Motor Company revealed a groundbreaking change for its top-selling F-150 truck at the North American International Auto Show on Monday. The new truck will have a body made mostly of aluminum instead of steel.

Ford is taking the calculated risk to retain its crown as the number one seller of pickups in the world.

Ford is banking on the loyalty of F-150 owners like David Mindell, CEO of Plantwise, a company that specializes in native plant landscaping and wetlands restoration.

Mercedes Mejia/Michigan Radio

This week's opening of the auto show at Cobo Center in Detroit marks 25 years since the show took its jump into the big time. 

What used to be the "Detroit Auto Show" became the North American International Auto Show, putting Detroit square in the center of the auto show universe. 

Detroit Free Press Business columnist Tom Walsh explores the show's history.

media.ford.com

In a calculated risk meant to ensure Ford remains the leader in full-size pickups – and to meet upcoming truck fuel economy standards – the Dearborn automaker revealed a new F-150 that will shed about 700 pounds of its weight by switching much of the body to aluminum.

The company stresses that the frame of the truck will remain high-strength steel, but, "pound for pound, aluminum is stronger than steel," Ford CEO Alan Mulally told reporters after the event, which featured several F-150s bursting through a paper barrier designed to look like a concrete wall.

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