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Road fatalities plunged an unprecedented 26% between 2005 and 2011.

Now, to be sure, driving was still the most dangerous thing that most of us did during that time.  

In 2011, 32,310 people lost their lives in a traffic accident.

But put in context, that number is astonishingly low. 

The last time fewer people died on U.S. roadways was in 1949 - and that was with 83% fewer vehicles on the road.

But there are signs of trouble ahead.

Ford Motor Company

Vehicles made by Ford Motor Company dropped to next to last in Consumer Reports' latest reliability survey - in large part, due to problems with the company's MyFordTouch communication system.

But the company has no plans to drop the system.

Consumer Reports is a harsh critic of the company's decision to almost completely abandon traditional dials, buttons and knobs to control many basic functions like heat, air conditioning, and radio. 

staff / media.chrysler.com

DETROIT (AP) - Chrysler is telling owners of more than 46,000 midsize cars to take them to dealers to fix a problem that can make the engines stall.

Owners of Chrysler 200s and Dodge Avengers from the 2011 model year are getting notices from the company. The cars have 3.6-Liter V-6 engines.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began investigating in June after getting complaints from drivers.

The safety agency and Chrysler got 161 complaints about stalling, mostly at low speeds.

Investigators traced the cause to a computer that runs the pollution controls. Chrysler will reprogram the computer.

The company's actions are similar to a recall but are called a customer satisfaction campaign. The safety agency says the condition is a low risk to safety and is properly addressed by Chrysler's campaign.

media.chrysler.com / staff

DETROIT (AP) - Chrysler is recalling more than 919,000 older-model Jeep SUVs worldwide because the air bags can inflate while people are driving them. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says the recall affects Jeep Grand Cherokees from the 2002 through 2004 model years.

Also covered are Jeep Libertys from model years 2002 and 2003.

A part can fail in the air bag control computer, and the front and side air bags can inflate while the SUVs are being driven.

An investigation by the safety agency found that the air bags went off 215 times causing 81 minor injuries. No crashes were reported.

Chrysler, which makes Jeeps, will install an electrical harness to fix the problem. The company will begin notifying owners of the recall in January.

Ford Motor Company

At least for now, Ford Motor Company has put to rest months - no, make that years - of intense media speculation about when its CEO Alan Mulally will leave the company.

Ford says the 67-year old executive, widely credited with saving the company, will NOT be leaving his position until at least the end of 2014.

Mulally, a 37-year veteran of Boeing, took the helm of Ford in 2006, as the struggling Detroit automaker faced the prospect of bankruptcy, like its rivals Chrysler and General Motors.

Guessing when Ford CEO Alan Mulally will retire has become a favorite game for some auto beat reporters. But now Ford and Mulally have taken all the fun out of it.

GM share price up on better-than-expected earnings report

Oct 31, 2012
Andrea_44 / Flickr

GM shares were up Wednesday on the back of a stronger-than-expected third-quarter earnings report.

The automaker reported a net income of $1.48 billion, down just 14.5 percent from last year despite major losses in Europe.

As a result, GM stock had increased by 9.66 percent to $25.53 a share by 2:20 p.m.

Melissa Burden with the Detroit News has more:

Ford Motor Company's third quarter profit in North America was its biggest since at least 2000.

But the company's financial performance was dragged down by Europe, where a protracted recession has cripped car sales.

Ford lost $468 million in that region.

The company has a turnaround plan for Europe, and it's very similar to what Ford did to recover in North America:  decisive downsizing, including closing plants, while at the same time investing heavily in future products.

Chrysler's third-quarter profits up 80 percent

Oct 29, 2012

A third-quarter earnings report from Chrysler shows that profits are up 80 percent from last year.

The automaker earned $381 million over the past quarter, up from $212 million for the same period last year.

Brent Snavely from the Detroit Free Press has more:

Chrysler adds third shift, 1,100 jobs at Detroit plant

Oct 26, 2012
Chrysler-Group / flickr

A third shift beginning next week at Chrysler’s Jefferson North Assembly Plant in Detroit will add about 1,100 new jobs.

The new shift is being added to keep up with increased demand for the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Brent Snavely from the Detroit Free Press has the story:

Adding the third crew now was driven by the mounting cost of overtime Jefferson North's workers have logged in recent months. Newly hired workers start at a lower wage to which the UAW agreed in its 2011 contract.

Ford restructures in Europe, cuts 5,700 jobs

Oct 25, 2012
Ford

Ford is cutting 5,700 jobs in the U.K. and Belgium as it tries to return to profitability in Europe.

The company is expecting annual losses of over $1.5 billion in Europe.

Alisa Priddle of the Detroit Free Press has more:

The actions will cut capacity by 18% or 355,000 vehicles a year which should result in annual savings of $450 million to $500 million, the company said today.

Both Ford and General Motors announced steps this week to reduce their losses in Europe.

The region is experiencing a disabling recession that's expected to last at least through 2015.

Car sales are abysmal in Europe, down more than 30-percent from normal demand.

Ford says it may lose a total of one billion dollars in the region for the entire year.

General Motors' losses might be more than that.

Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company won't confirm an Automotive News report that its Lincoln brand will be re-badged as "Lincoln Motor Company."

Auto News reported this summer that it had obtained a document sent by Ford to a number of marketing firms, in which Ford said it intended to rename the venerable brand -- with a venerable name.

Ford Motor Company acquired the Lincoln Motor Company in 1922.

The recent bankruptcy of battery company A123 has some questioning the profitability of electric cars like the Nissan Leaf.
user cliff1066 / flickr

Tuesday’s bankruptcy announcement by A123 Systems Inc. has many taking another look at the prospects of the electric car.

Conservative commentators have taken the opportunity to bash the Obama administration for its green energy investments.

In 2009, A123 received a $249 million grant from the Department of Energy.

DETROIT (AP) - General Motors says production is set to begin late next year on a luxury version of its Chevrolet Volt hybrid.

The automaker said Tuesday the Cadillac ELR will be assembled at the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant. That plant makes the Chevrolet Volt, Opel Ampera and Holden Volt.

The Cadillac will run on electricity and carry a four-cylinder gasoline engine to generate power when the batteries run out of juice. It's based on the Cadillac Converj, a concept car unveiled in 2009 at the Detroit auto show.

GM North America President Mark Reuss said in a statement that the car is "further proof of our commitment to electric vehicles and advanced technology."

The company will invest $35 million at the plant, which hasn't produced a two-door car since the 1999 Cadillac Eldorado.
  

.a123systems.com/media-room-photos.htm

DETROIT (AP) - The U.S. operations of electric car battery maker A123 Systems filed for bankruptcy protection and its automotive assets are being acquired by Johnson Controls for $125 million.

The announcement Tuesday comes one day after A123 warned in a regulatory filing that it likely would miss some debt payments and could be headed for bankruptcy court.

A123, based in Waltham, Mass., got a $249 million U.S. government grant to help it build a battery factory in Michigan.

media.ford.com

DETROIT (AP) — Ford is recalling more than 154,000 Fiesta subcompacts to fix a problem with the side air bags.
 
The company says that if the front passenger seat is empty, the side air bag won't inflate to protect rear-seat passengers in some crashes.
 
Ford says it doesn't know of any crashes or injuries linked to the problem.
 
The recall affects Fiestas from the 2011 through 2013 model years. They were built in Mexico from Nov. 3, 2009 to Sept. 21, 2012.

Dealers will reprogram the computer that controls the side air bag so it inflates even if no one is in the front passenger seat. The repair will be done for free

media.gm.com

WASHINGTON (AP) - Auto industry officials say the government is preparing to warn car owners whose airbags have been replaced in the past three years that dangerous counterfeit bags may have been installed.

Industry officials said the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has alerted them that thousands of car owners may be driving vehicles with counterfeit airbags. Some of the counterfeit bags fail to inflate properly. The officials requested that their names not be used because NHTSA had asked them not to speak publicly about the problem until after an announcement scheduled for Wednesday.

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

General Motors says it will close its hydrogen fuel-cell research operation near Rochester, N.Y., and move it to Michigan, along with most of the 220 salaried jobs currently in New York.

The company says most of the 220 salaried workers in Honeoye Falls, N.Y., will be offered the chance to move to GM's engine and transmission research unit in Pontiac.

Spokeswoman Kimberly Carpenter says the move will pull together all of its experts on ways to move vehicles. The company will save some money by not renewing a building lease in New York.

She says GM will continue to focus on electric vehicles and fuel cell development. GM has been testing fuel-cell vehicles that run on hydrogen with no harmful emissions.

Ford Motor Company hopes to earn a place on the hybrid map in the U.S. with its new C-Max.

The company knows that won't be easy. 

No one comes even close to the dominant sales position of the Toyota Prius line of vehicles - the original Prius, the smaller Prius C, and the larger Prius V.

Ford's new C-Max has a major bragging point:  it beats the fuel economy of the Prius V by 7 miles per gallon on the highway.

The Prius is beloved by its owners; it has one of the highest loyalty ratings of any car. 

So Ford has chosen a gentle style of humor over an aggressive pitch to sell the C-Max.

Ford today launched a series of ads using a cartoon character, "La Linea," -- a revival of the classic 1970s character from a popular Italian animated children’s series.

The ads show the character overcoming the performance limitations of a Toyota Prius, by driving a Ford C-Max.  You can see one of the ads here:

“The ads are done with just the right tonality of competitiveness versus a strong competitor. It clearly positions our product in a fun way,” says Matt VanDyke, director, U.S. Marketing Communications, Ford Motor Company .

General Motors says its U.S. sales rose about one and a half percent last month, as a big jump in car sales was offset by falling truck sales.

Ford says its U.S. sales were flat in September, like GM, Ford was weighed down by lower truck sales even as sales of its cars rose.

But Chrysler had the best September of the Detroit Three, with a 12 percent increase in sales.

More from the Detroit News:

Henry Ford Community College

It's been a long time since the days you could succeed on the factory floor with "a weak mind and a strong back," as the adage goes.

Modern manufacturers need people who use their minds more than their bodies.  

Today, manufacturing workers need to be computer literate, solve problems when the robots on the line shut down, and work in teams.

The Obama administration says manufacturing companies added jobs for the first time since the 1990s - more than 500,000 jobs in the past 30 months.

2006-2007 Honda Accord. One of the models included in the recall.
IFCAR / wikimedia

Honda is recalling around 572,000 Accord midsize cars in the U.S. to fix a defective power steering hose that can leak fluid and catch fire.

The recall affects Accords from the 2003 through 2007 model years that are equipped with V-6 engines.

Honda says one fire was reported but no injuries.

From Honda:

American Honda has expanded a May 2012 power steering hose recall to additionally include approximately 572,000 model-year 2003-2007 Accord V6 vehicles in the United States.

Ken Lewenza, president of the Canadian Auto Workers.
Canadian Auto Workers union

Yesterday, the Canadian Auto Workers union said that 90 percent of unionized Chrysler workers voted to approve a new deal with the company.

Ford and GM workers in Canada approved their deals last week.

So what did they get?

Here's a good write-up on the negotiations between the Canadian Auto Workers and Detroit's Big Three automakers from the Detroit Free Press' Brent Snavely.

A 2011 Chrysler Town & Country rolls off the final inspection line at Chrysler Group LLC’s Windsor Assembly Plant.
Chrysler

21,000 unionized auto workers in Canada are another step closer to job stability until at least 2016.

Last night, union workers at General Motors plants in Canada approved a collective bargaining agreement between the Canadian Auto Workers and the auto company.

Ford workers in Canada approved their deal earlier this week. And Chrysler workers will vote this weekend.

CBC News in Windsor reports on what these deals mean:

The CAW union and Chrysler have reached a tentative deal similar to the agreements reached with GM and Ford. Ford workers in Canada ratified their agreement earlier this week. GM workers are expected to do so sometime tomorrow. More from CBC Windsor.

Ken Lewenza, president of the Canadian Auto Workers.
Canadian Auto Workers union

One more agreement, and the Canadian Auto Workers will be on the road to deals with all three U.S. automakers.

The CAW and Chrysler are working on finalizing a labor contract this week.

Ross Marowits of the Montreal Gazette reports the two sides are close to reaching an agreement.

The chairman of the CAW master bargaining committee for Chrysler said the two sides made significant progress over the last 24 hours.

“I think we’re closer and closer by every minute and every hour and again we’re just working at this closing up those loose ends,” Dino Chiodo said Wednesday in an interview from Toronto.

“Unless things completely fall off the rails, which I don’t see happening at this point, I think we’re moving along very well and I’m confident that sometime today or tomorrow we’ll be able to achieve the final task of wrapping this up.”

The bargaining teams are expected to meet tonight after 7 p.m. The CAW and General Motors have reached a tentative agreement. Unionized GM workers in Canada are expected to vote on the proposed agreement today and tomorrow. Ford workers in Canada approved their agreement this past Monday. Altogether, the CAW represents around 21,000 auto workers from the "Big Three."

Canadian Auto Workers union at a rally.
CAW / Facebook

Ford's union workers in Canada have approved a four-year contract with the company.

And the Canadian Auto Workers union have a tentative agreement with GM.

Now, talks with Chrysler continue this week.

CBC Windsor has the latest on the talks:

The CAW's president, Ken Lewenza, knows it's not going to be easy with Chrysler. Company executives have made it clear they want an agreement that lowers labour costs to match those in the United States.

Lewenza said it could be days before there is a tentative agreement between the two sides.

"We can get a deal. I've a great deal of respect for [Chrysler CEO Sergio] Marchionne and his management team," Lewenza said. "I don't hide that and I think he's got respect for our union. But at the end of the day, you can only respect each other when you dot the I's and cross the T's."

If talks stall, the CAW can strike.

But with a deal signed with Ford, and a final deal with GM expected to be approved by GM union workers in Canada  this week, a strike at Chrysler plants in Canada doesn't seem likely.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - General Motors is offering big discounts to boost sales of the Chevrolet Volt, an electric car that struggled to attract buyers until its price began dropping early this year.

Discounts run as high as $10,000 per Volt, according to figures from TrueCar DOT com, an auto pricing website. They include low-interest financing and subsidized leases.

Chrysler's Windsor Assembly Plant.
Chrysler

The head of the Canadian Auto Workers union says General Motors is waiting for a counter proposal from the union, and he says there has been significant progress toward a new labor deal.

CAW President Ken Lewenza says the union will make the offer today. He also says progress has been made with Chrysler.

The union reached a tentative deal with Ford earlier this week.

From CBC News Windsor:

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