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August U.S. car sales
5:25 pm
Tue September 4, 2012

GM's Chevy Cruze top-selling compact in August

General Motors

General Motors says sales rose 10-percent in August, compared to the same month a year ago.

The Detroit car company also broke several sales records.

GM says it got a noticeable bump from advertising aired during the Olympics.

Sales of the Chevy Cruze, Volt, Spark and Sonic hit an all-time high.

Those are all small cars.  

The Chevy Cruze, a compact car, even beat Honda's perennial top-performer, the Civic, in August.

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10:37 am
Tue September 4, 2012

U.S. automakers report strong sales numbers for August

August was a good month for U.S. automakers
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

August was a good month for U.S. automakers compared to a year ago. In total, the big three sold more than 585,700 vehicles last month.

Chrysler had its best month since August 2007, according to the AP, and had sales of more than 148,000 vehicles. They say their sales were led by demand for the Dodge Ram pickup truck.

Ford sold 197,249 vehicles in August, and in a press release said high gas prices led more people to their lineup of vehicles.

“As fuel prices rose again during August, we saw growing numbers of people gravitate toward our fuel-efficient vehicles – cars, utilities and trucks,” said Ken Czubay, Ford vice president, U.S. Marketing, Sales and Service.

And General Motors sold 240,520 vehicles in August. More than Ford or Chrysler.

In their press release, GM said it's ready for gradual improvements in the economy.

“The single message Chevrolet communicated this summer was ‘confidence’ and it rang true with customers when they saw how our product lineup is being transformed,” said Kurt McNeil, vice president of U.S. sales operations. “All four of our brands are building momentum behind new products so we’re very well positioned as the economy continues to slowly improve.”

2:02 pm
Wed August 29, 2012

400 to 500 jobs at American Axle in southwest Michigan

Lead in text: 
American Axle told the Detroit Free Press this morning it plans to "add 400 to 500 jobs in the next couple years" at its Three Rivers driveline plant in southwest Michigan. The company builds drivetrains and driveline systems and components for auto and truck manufacturers. Its biggest customers are Chrysler and GM.
Richard (Dick) Dauch, the combative and sometimes controversial cofounder and CEO of American Axle & Manufacturing since its creation in 1994, is handing over the reins as chief executive to his son David Dauch, effective Saturday. Dick Dauch, 70, will stay on as executive chairman of Detroit-based AAM.
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10:57 am
Mon August 27, 2012

Canadian Auto Workers authorize strike against Ford, Chrysler, GM

User: dmealiffe flickr.com

The Canadian Auto Workers union said today its members have voted to strike against Chrysler, Ford, and GM, if necessary.

The Detroit News reports the CAW is negotiating new contracts with the automakers. Current contracts are set to expire on September 17:

The CAW is expected to meet with the automakers Monday and Tuesday in downtown Toronto.

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11:42 am
Fri August 24, 2012

Ford's touch screens get thumbs-down from Consumer Reports

Randy Stern Wikimedia Commons

Consumer Reports says it's not just picking on Ford with its latest blog, entitled "Why the MyFord Touch control system stinks."  The magazine says Ford is one of the worst offenders, but it says any car touch screen that takes the driver's eyes off the road is a bad idea. 

MyFord Touch controls the radio, heat or air conditioning, navigation, trip computer, and, well,  just about everything except the gas, brakes and steering wheel. 

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Connected vehicles
11:34 am
Wed August 22, 2012

Brave new connected vehicle world launches at UMTRI this week (VIDEO)

UMTRI technician Stan Baldiss installing a transmitter in a study participant's vehicle
Tracy Samilton Michigan Radio

The world's largest-ever test of connected vehicle technology got underway in Ann Arbor this week.

Experts predict that our cars will one day routinely "talk" to one another with wireless communication devices -- preventing huge numbers of traffic accidents.

Already, ordinary motorists have experienced driving with the devices on closed courses.  One study was held last year at the Michigan International Speedway. 

Now, in the next step, the technology is being tested under real-world conditions.  By October, the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI for short) plans to install some version of wireless car-to-car communication devices in nearly 3,000 people's cars, as well as on some city and school busses.

Traffic signal-to-car communication devices will be installed at numerous intersections; others will be mounted near potentially dangerous sections of roadway.

See a video of how the technology works: 

 

For a year, the motorists will travel their usual ways, occasionally crossing paths.

UMTRI will collect the data, which will eventually help researchers determine how well the technology works in real life.   Researchers may be able to prove that a handful of accidents were averted. 

But the real potential for the technology is when it is adopted on a wide scale, in millions of vehicles.

UMTRI Director Peter Sweatman thinks the potential to save lives is huge.

"Motor vehicle injuries and fatalities are the number one public health problem in this country -- I don't think people realize that," Sweatman says, standing in a big garage bay where technicians are installing the devices in study participants' cars.  "Between the ages of 1 and 35 - that's the no. 1 cause of death!"

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12:30 pm
Mon August 20, 2012

Ford sets sights on Toyota with C-MAX news

The 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid.
Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company is taking on Toyota in a market the Japanese automaker once dominated - fuel efficient passenger vehicles. The 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid and Ford C-MAX Energi plug-in Hybrid are going on sale this fall.

Ford announced today that the 2013 Ford C-MAX can go further on a tank of gas than the Toyota Prius v.

  • 570 miles for the C-MAX vs. 450 miles for the Prius v.

The 2013 C-MAX hybrid gas-electric vehicle has an mpg rating that is the same for the city and the highway - 47 mpg. Ford notes that is 7 mpg better than Toyota Prius v on the highway.

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Seat belts
6:10 pm
Tue August 14, 2012

State officials remind motorists, 'Wear seat belts,' after L. Brooks doesn't

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson was in the front seat and not wearing a seat belt -- in violation of state law -- when his car was struck by another driver on Friday.

Patterson sustained a broken femur and two broken wrists.

Patterson's driver was also not wearing a seat belt - nor was the driver of the Volkswagon Passat that struck Patterson's car.

Anne Readett is a spokeswoman for the state Office of Highway Safety Planning.

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New crash test
1:39 pm
Tue August 14, 2012

New crash test means getting IIHS "top safety pick" a lot harder

Acura TL and Volvo S60-G only two midsize luxury cars to be rated "good" on small overlap crash test.
Acura

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety will probably be handing out a lot fewer of its coveted "Top Safety Pick" awards in 2014.

Not because cars will suddenly be less safe - but because of a new test the agency is requiring.  

The Insurance Institute will soon add a test for a so-called "small overlap" crash.

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3:52 pm
Tue August 7, 2012

Dodge to withdraw from NASCAR racing in 2013

Dodge

Dodge will withdraw from NASCAR competition at the conclusion of the 2012 season - this after its partner Penske Racing announced earlier this year that it had decided to switch to Ford Motor Company in 2013.

Chrysler's Ralph Gilles said the company "couldn't make the pieces of the puzzle fit together" in trying to find a new racing team that would maintain the level of competition Dodge wanted to maintain.

He didn't rule out re-entering NASCAR competition at a later time.

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10:55 am
Tue August 7, 2012

GM needs to take Spyker lawsuit "seriously" say experts

Dutch car company Spyker is suing General Motors for three billion dollars over the bankruptcy of GM's former brand, Saab.

Spyker says GM illegally interfered with a sale of part of Saab, and claims it was that interference which caused Saab's bankruptcy. 

GM sold Saab to Spyker in 2010, with a stipulation that Spyker would have to obtain GM's permission to sell Saab to anyone else.

Spyker almost immediately ran into financial problems trying to keep Saab afloat.  

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2:09 pm
Thu August 2, 2012

Ford adds 225 jobs in Sterling Heights to build hybrid transmissions

Ford Focus C-Max
user: Matthias93 Wikimedia Commons

Ford Motor Company is hiring 225 workers to run a new hybrid-electric transmission assembly line at the Sterling Heights plant.

The Associated Press reports Ford is investing $220 million in the Van Dyke Transmission plant to make the new transmission.

Ford used to purchase its hybrid transmissions from Japan, but the Van Dyke plant's new assembly line will construct Ford's first domestically designed and produced hybrid transmission.

Hybrid versions of the C-Max, Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ midsize sedans will sport the new transmission beginning this fall, as well as the plug-in hybrid versions of the Fusion and the soon-to-be-released C-Max.

In a press release, the company says the plant already added 130 jobs as part of the launch, and the remaining employees will start work by the end of the month.

Ford says the plant is now the only producer of front-wheel-drive hybrid transmissions in North America, though General Motors Co. makes rear-wheel-drive hybrid transmissions in Maryland, the AP reports.

-Elaine Ezekiel, Michigan Radio Newsroom

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12:20 pm
Thu August 2, 2012

GM announces second quarter earnings but mum on Ewanick

Joel Ewanick receiving Green Car of the Year for the Chevy Volt
General Motors GM

GM's second quarter profit dropped from a year ago. The company made $1.5 billion, down from $2.5 billion, largely due to losses in Europe.  

The company also took an unusual step related to damage control, after a high-profile firing at the company on Sunday.

GM departed from the industry norm and only allowed analysts, not media, to ask questions during its earnings conference call.

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10:12 am
Thu August 2, 2012

Toyota recalls RAV4 SUVs and Lexus sedans

A 2012 RAV4. Toyota is recalling RAV4s from the 2006 to 2011 model years.
Toyota publicity still

Toyota is recalling 778,000 RAV4 SUVs and Lexus HS 250h sedans to fix a suspension problem that could cause crashes.

The company says if rear suspension nuts aren't tightened properly after a wheel alignment, the arms can rust and separate from the vehicle. Toyota reported nine crashes and three minor injuries from the problem.

RAV4s covered by the recall are from the 2006 to 2011 model years. The Lexus sedans are from 2010 only.

Toyota says it's developing a plan to fix the problem. It will notify owners by mail when it's time to take the vehicles into dealers for a free repair.

In the meantime, the company is telling drivers to contact their dealers if they hear an abnormal sound in the rear of the vehicle.

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1:18 pm
Mon July 30, 2012

Hyundai recalling Santa Fe SUVs and Sonata sedans

Hyundai is recalling nearly 200,000 Santa Fe SUVs in the 2007 to 2009 model years.
Hyundai publicity still

Hyundai Motor Co. is recalling some Santa Fe SUVs and Sonata sedans because of problems with their air bags.

The Santa Fe recall involves nearly 200,000 vehicles in the 2007 to 2009 model years. Hyundai dealers will reprogram the front passenger air bag sensors so they will accurately detect when a small adult is seated.

Hyundai said it has received complaints from some adults under 130 pounds (60 kilograms) whose air bags didn't deploy. No injuries have been reported. The air bags were originally programmed not to go off to protect children.

The company is also recalling 22,500 Sonata sedans from the 2012 and 2013 model years because their side air bags could go off without warning.

Hyundai says it has received 16 complaints about the Sonata's air bags, but no injuries have been reported.

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1:09 pm
Mon July 30, 2012

Chrysler's second quarter profit up from last year

Michigan Radio

Chrysler continues to mend.

The company's revenues increased 23 percent in the second quarter of 2012.

The company said its net income rose from $181 million to $436 million.

Last year, Chrysler's profit took a hit because the company had to pay a $551 million dollar charge to pay off its government loans early.

The good Chrysler news is expected to be followed on Tuesday by much worse news from the company's majority owner, Fiat.

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Auto
2:20 pm
Thu July 26, 2012

GM has high hopes for the 2013 Cadillac ATS

2013 Cadillac ATS rolled off the assembly line for the first time today in Lansing, Michigan
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

General Motors’ big hope to grab a share of the luxury compact segment rolled off the assembly line in Lansing today.  Tomorrow, the Cadillac ATS rolls on to the world stage.

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Auto
1:06 pm
Thu July 26, 2012

Ford to recall 485,000 small SUVs to fix throttles

2001-2004 Ford Escape
Wikimedia Commons

Ford is recalling nearly 485,000 Escapes and Mavericks to fix sticking gas pedals that can cause crashes.

The worldwide recall affects the 2001 through 2004 model years that are powered by 3-liter V-6 engines with cruise control. It comes just over a week after U.S. safety regulators began investigating the Escape small SUV.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has received 68 complaints about the problem, including 13 crashes, nine injuries and one death. A teenage girl died in the January crash of an Escape in Arizona.

Ford says the cruise control cables can snag on the plastic cover atop the engine and cause the gas pedals to stick. Dealers will replace the engine cover fasteners and raise the covers to make more room.

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10:23 am
Wed July 25, 2012

Ford's Little Engine That Could Challenge Hybrids

The 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show in Germany featured Ford Motor Co.'s new three-cylinder EcoBoost engine, which will hit the U.S. market next year.
Courtesy of Ford Motor Co.

Originally published on Wed July 25, 2012 9:37 am

Ford Motor Co. intends to prove that good things come in small packages — really small packages. The company has taken engine downsizing to a new level with its new three-cylinder EcoBoost engine, which has been introduced in Europe and is set to hit the U.S. market next year.

The EcoBoost offers more power than many conventional four-cylinder engines, with fuel economy numbers a hybrid could envy. Early fans are calling it a modern "little engine that could," and Ford is betting that American customers are ready to embrace a three-cylinder engine.

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10:40 am
Fri July 20, 2012

Deadline day for GM retirees pension buyout offer

GM's headquarters in Detroit.
John F. Martin Creative Commons

Today is the deadline for more than 40,000 General Motors retirees to accept their former employer's offer of a lump sum buyout of their pensions.

Otherwise, their pensions will be taken over by Prudential Insurance.

GM's Randy Arrix said the change is part of the company's efforts to create what it calls a "fortress balance sheet."  Getting underfunded pensions off the books strengthens the balance sheet.

"Pension obligations are very volatile, and they're volatile because they're dependent on some things within our control like contributions, and other things that are not, said Arrix.

Some GM retirees are angry about the change, which they see as a broken promise by GM, but for others, the buyout is an opportunity to control their own money.

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