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5:44 pm
Tue July 10, 2012

Chevrolet offers 'Love it or return it' to boost U.S. sales

General Motors set a global sales record for the first quarter of 2012.

But in the U.S., GM's market share dropped to a record low in the first half of the year -- 18.1 percent, according to Edmunds.com.

Now, GM's Chevrolet brand is offering a program it calls "love it or return it," to try to boost sales.  Chevy is the company's most important brand, accounting for 70 percent of its sales.

The company will let people return their new Chevy vehicles within 30 to 60 days after purchase for any reason.

The program also includes no-haggle pricing.

Edmunds.com analyst Michelle Krebs says it potentially could help GM boost its U.S. market share. GM lost market share, as did Ford, as Honda and Toyota came roaring back in the first half of the year with ample inventories on dealer lots. Both those companies lost market share in 2011 because of the tsunami that struck Japan.

"The other thing is, it's pretty cheap for GM to do this," notes Krebs.  "Because very rarely, when another company or GM has done a program like this, does anybody bring the car back."

Krebs says it's important for GM to get potential customers into its dealerships, because, in her opinion, the company's product lineup is not getting the attention it deserves.

GM says the "love it or return it" program will help show its confidence in its products- and perhaps lure additional customers to Chevy dealerships, many of which have been extensively upgraded.

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5:40 pm
Thu July 5, 2012

U.S. asks WTO to step in over China tariffs on American-made cars

A Chevy dealership in Shanghai, China
Tracy Samilton Michigan Radio

The United States has filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization against China over tariffs on U.S.-made vehicles.

The Obama administration says China unfairly placed duties of up to 22 percent on U.S.-made vehicles that are exported to China.

The tariffs apply to larger passenger cars and SUVs.

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5:42 pm
Tue July 3, 2012

Collision warnings in cars work: IIHS study

A new study suggests that most new technologies to reduce car crashes are effective.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found claims went down seven percent for vehicles that sound a warning to alert drivers of an imminent crash.

There was a fourteen-percent reduction in claims for cars that automatically apply the brakes to avoid a collision.

The Institute's David Zuby  says that's a significant reduction.

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Auto sales
5:32 pm
Tue July 3, 2012

No surprise, June auto sales were good. Surprise, they were better than we thought

Robust U.S. auto sales have been helping to keep a floor on the U.S. economy for months, and they kept up the good work in June.

Car sales surpassed the expectations of many analysts.   

The good news included Detroit car companies.  Ford sales rose 7% and Chrysler sales jumped 20% compared to June a year ago.

General Motors sales increased nearly 16%.

GM's Kurt McNeil says he expects a good second half of the year, too.

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6:06 pm
Tue June 26, 2012

Ford's Mark Fields: production constraints to ease by year-end

Ford Motor Company is hitting most of its financial targets these days.

The Detroit automaker is profitable; last year it restored dividends to shareholders; and recently, the company's stock climbed back to investment grade.

But Ford will miss one key target in 2012.  The company will lose market share this year, rather than gain it, as company executives predicted last year. 

Market share is a car company's percentage of total car sales.    

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5:24 pm
Wed June 20, 2012

Domestic automakers trail in consumer quality survey; GM shows big improvements

U.S. automakers have not caught up to their Asian competitors when it comes to quality  -- but American vehicles are still highly rated. 

A company that measures consumer satisfaction says Lexus drivers reported the fewest problems during the first three months of ownership.

Dave Sargent is a vice president at J.D. Power and Associates. He says Jaguar and Porsche tied for second  and General Motors' Cadillac came in third in the quality survey.

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1:01 pm
Tue June 19, 2012

GM recycling reaches a milestone

General Motors saves hundreds of millions of dollars a year recycling. Everything from old lead acid batteries to wooden pallets.
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

General Motors is celebrating an environmental milestone. The company says a Lansing autopart distribution center is the automaker’s 100th facility to go “landfill free.”

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10:56 am
Fri June 15, 2012

New Schedules Push Graveyard Shift Off The Clock

A worker builds cars on the assembly line at Ford's Chicago Assembly plant, which has adopted the "three crew" work schedule. The new third shift can increase efficiency in factories, but it can also wreak havoc on sleep needs and home lives.
Scott Olson Getty Images

Originally published on Thu June 14, 2012 10:54 pm

As car companies struggle to meet growing demand, the third shift is making a comeback. But many factories running on three shifts are doing it differently from in the past. And that new "three crew" shift pattern could make what's normally a hard job even harder.

At Ford's Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, employees work 10-hour shifts four days a week. The so-called A crew gets days, while the B crew gets afternoons. But the C crew shift rotates its start time every week. On Fridays and Saturdays, workers start at 6:00 a.m. On Mondays and Tuesdays, they start at 4:30 p.m.

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2:03 pm
Tue June 12, 2012

GM shareholder meeting today amid sagging stock numbers

The track of GM stock prices since the IPO in November in 2010.
screen grab WSJ MarketWatch

Update 2:03 p.m.

General Motors CEO Dan Akerson told stockholders at today's annual meeting that "he regrets GM's stock hasn't done well." GM's stock price is hovering around $22 a share.  

That's a big drop from 2010, when GM held an initial public offering and the stock sold at about $33 a share.

"I mean it's great we had a good year last year, why is the stock down? Because there's uncertainty into the future.  The most obvious is, uh, Europe," said Akerson.

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5:43 pm
Wed June 6, 2012

Honda Fit's 82-mile range leads the pack

Honda is back in the battery electric car business.

The company's Fit EV is rated as having the longest range of any electric vehicle sold in the U.S. so far. 

Federal regulators say the Fit EV can go about 82 miles on a fully charged battery. 

That's six miles more than the electric Focus and nine more than the Nissan Leaf. 

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5:52 pm
Tue June 5, 2012

A-123 hires, then fires, then hires again

Michigan lithium-ion battery company is hiring again - after slashing its workforce last year.

A-123 says it plans to hire up to 400 people in the next few months.[A-123 has one factory in Romulus and one in Livonia.   The advanced batteries are used in cars, trucks, and buses, as well as large storage units for the electric power grid.

Jobs at the company peaked at about a thousand, but several hundred jobs were cut last year as orders fell.

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12:46 pm
Fri June 1, 2012

AP: The Canadian Auto Workers union says General Motors Canada to close plant in Oshawa, Ontario

GM MEDIA

OSHAWA, Ontario (AP) - The Canadian Auto Workers union says General Motors Canada plans to close its consolidated plant in Oshawa, Ontario, by June 2013. Chris Buckley, a local union president, says GM gave the union notice Friday. The closure of the plant that produces the Chevrolet Impala and the Equinox could mean 2,000 layoffs.

GM is scaling back its overall operations in Canada as part of a North American restructuring that began two years ago under bankruptcy court protection. In Canada, GM has already closed a truck plant in Oshawa and a transmission factory in Windsor, Ontario.

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Auto
10:42 am
Fri June 1, 2012

Toyota sales recover strongly in May as overall U.S. sales rise

Chrysler Media

Toyota reported a sales increase in May of 87% compared to the same month a year ago - when the company's vehicle production had plummeted due to the tsunami hitting Japan in March.  

There were more selling days this month than last May, but it is still a robust recovery from the disaster, which reduced inventories on Toyota dealer lots and sent some customers to other car companies.

Toyota remains number three in overall sales in the U.S., however, just behind Ford, which saw its sales increase 13% in May.

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2:54 pm
Fri May 25, 2012

Judge to auto dealers: Tell buyers about bad credit histories

Analysts say car sales are climbing.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

A federal judge issued a ruling today telling auto dealers to inform buyers when they have negative information on their credit report, even if the loan is handed off to a bank or finance company.

Car buyers with bad credit histories often have higher interest loan terms.

The National Automobile Dealers Association wanted car dealers exempted from a provision in the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

From the Detroit Free Press:

The FTC concluded that the auto dealers actually use the credit report even if they do not physically obtain it, and so must provide the notice to consumers. NADA sued the FTC, challenging this interpretation. The court agreed with the FTC's position in its ruling.

"This ruling will make it easier for consumers to learn about unfavorable information in their credit reports," said Stuart Delery, acting assistant attorney general for the civil division. "The auto dealer is in the best position to provide this information because the dealer interacts directly with the consumer."

The Freep reports the National Automobile Dealers Association plans to "appeal to the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit."

Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton recently reported that Chrysler's sales have been buoyed by loans to buyers with less-than-stellar credit histories:

Chrysler's new car sales have been improving faster than almost any other car company in the U.S. in recent months. But the company has also been relying on subprime borrowers more than almost any other car company. That's according to Edmunds.com.

 

Samilton reports that the loans are riskier, but people still tend to pay them:

People are much more likely to default on a subprime house loan than a subprime car loan.

One analyst said the bigger risk for auto manufacturers is that more subprime loans might tarnish a brand's image.

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Auto
2:28 pm
Thu May 24, 2012

Canadian railway strike could affect U.S. automakers

Ian Britton creative commons

A strike by Canadian railway workers threatens to slow or shut down production at some U.S. auto plants.

5,000 Canadian Pacific Railway workers walked off the job early Wednesday because of a dispute with management over a new contract.

Large numbers of finished vehicles and auto parts come to U.S. factories via Canadian Pacific.

Ford and General Motors say they don't expect the strike to affect production - at this time.

Chrysler says it is actively working to mitigate any impact to its operations through alternative shipment methods, such as trucks.

The longer the strike goes, the greater the chance it could affect the U.S. auto industry.  The Canadian Labor Ministry says it has the authority to intervene and will do that if the two sides haven't reached a deal by Monday.

Auto
1:26 pm
Wed May 23, 2012

Auto loan delinquency rates reach record low

Screen grab from TransUnion.com

Fewer Americans are falling behind on their car loan payments.

That's according to a new report from the credit agency TransUnion. They say that in the first quarter of 2012, the amount of payments 60 or more days overdue fell by 22 percent compared to the same period last year.

Those findings mark the tenth consecutive quarter that auto loan delinquency rates have declined, something that could benefit car buyers by prompting banks to make more loans.

A press release from TransUnion quoted Peter Turek, automotive vice president in the agency's financial services business unit:

"Auto loan delinquencies continue to perform exceptionally... We are seeing increases in both lending and leasing across the board, along with a higher number of loans originated in the non-prime risk segments."

Turek said that TransUnion expects delinquency rates for the rest of the year to remain low, but said that "a slight increase from this record-low level would not be surprising and should not be construed as a negative event."

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

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10:47 pm
Tue May 22, 2012

Chrysler boosts sales with subprime borrowers

Chrysler-Group flickr

Chrysler's new car sales have been improving faster than almost any other car company in the U.S. in recent months.

But the company has also been relying on subprime borrowers more than almost any other car company.

That's according to Edmunds.com.

People with good credit can usually find a car loan with a four percent interest rate.

But a growing number of Chrysler's customers have poor credit - and their loans have 10 percent interest rates.

Edmunds analyst Jessica Caldwell says it's definitely boosting Chrysler's sales, but there are risks.

"I think subprime can tarnish your image in a way," she says.  "If you have a high percentage of subprime borrowers, people start to catch on or think that perhaps your brand isn't as prestigious as you would want to think it is."

Even though subprime car loans are riskier, there is still a relatively low rate of default.

People are much more likely to default on a subprime house loan than a subprime car loan. 

Auto
8:37 pm
Tue May 22, 2012

Ford gets investment-grade credit rating, blue oval back

To mark the return of the Ford Blue Oval and investment grade status, Bill Ford, Jr. joined over 1000 employees outside of Ford World Headquarters in Dearborn to form a human Blue Oval.
Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company has its "Blue Oval" back, after a second ratings firm upgraded Ford to "investment grade."

The trademark and other assets were put up as collateral for loans in 2006. Those loans got the company through the recession and a restructuring without a bankruptcy.

Bill Ford, Junior is the Board's Executive Chairman, and the great-grandson of Henry Ford. He says it's a "once in a lifetime" event.

"When we pledged the Blue oval it was enormously emotional for me and my family," Ford said. "Because we weren't just pledging an asset, we were pledging our heritage."

The ratings upgrade means Ford will likely have a larger pool of bond investors. The company will also have lower borrowing costs.

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5:11 pm
Wed May 16, 2012

Electronic stability control proposed for big rigs

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration may soon require big rigs and other large trucks to have electronic stability control systems.

The technology could prevent a lot of accidents and rollovers. 

NHTSA already requires electronic stability control systems on passenger cars. The systems are able to automatically apply the brake on individual wheels. 

It's estimated electronic stability control reduces accidents where the driver loses control of the car by at least 40%.  There could be a similar benefit for big rigs, busses and other large trucks.

Russ Rader is with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

"The technology is available, it's not expensive, and we should get it on large trucks."

NHTSA says a rule could become final within two to four years. 

The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute estimates at least 4,600 truck accidents could be prevented if electronic stability control were required, and at least 126 lives saved per year.

Auto
7:30 am
Wed May 16, 2012

Retirees await details of Ford’s offer to pay pensions in lump sum

From left to right Ford retirees Larry Mcknee, Robert Matsui, Allan Yee, and Bill Reckinger meet up Friday afternoons for golf.
Alex Schulte Michigan Radio

90,000 white collar Ford retirees will soon have a big decision to make. Should they stay in the auto company’s pension plan? Or take their chances with a lump sum payout instead?

The offer Ford Motor Company announced in late April is believed to be the first of its kind for such a large ongoing pension fund.

Lump sum the buzz at Ford retirement clubs

In Michigan there are more than 30 clubs for Ford retirees. The lump sum option is the conversation at retiree club meetings right now.

“Retirees are going to have to make a decision about mortality, about death; their own. That’s not something we do every day,” Ford retiree Charles White said. White worked at the Dearborn campus for 29 years in engineering management. He retired in 1996.

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