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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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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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4:40 pm
Thu July 19, 2012

Ford recalls 2013 Escapes with 1.6-liter engines

2013 Ford Escape
user Explorationofspace Wikimedia Commons

Ford Motor Company issued a media release today, alerting owners of a safety recall on 2013 Escapes with 1.6-liter engines. The release says the model has faulty fuel lines that could leak and cause a fire.

The car maker advises that its affected customers stop driving the cars immediately in order to allow dealerships to pick them up to remedy the problem, which will take about an hour, according to the statement.

More from the advisory:

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9:10 pm
Tue July 17, 2012

Share your car, says GM, and we'll help you do it (with Onstar)

RelayRide will allow car-renters unlock a vehicle they're renting with their smart phone
Onstar

General Motors says its On-Star customers can now use their GM cars to make some extra money - by renting out their vehicles.

Car-sharing allows someone to rent their personal vehicle to people who don't own one. Typically the borrower just needs a car for a few hours, for errands, grocery store visits or the like.

Now, GM car owners who subscribe to Onstar can rent out their cars through a car-sharing company called RelayRides.

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1:31 pm
Tue July 17, 2012

Chrysler will idle Mack Avenue Engine II plant

The the 3.7-liter, V6 engine built at the Mack Avenue Engine II is used in Jeep Liberty vehicles, seen here.
Jeep Liberty Facebook.com

The Detroit Free Press' Brent Snavely reported today that Chrysler plans to close its Mack Avenue Engine II plant in Detroit this September. The company plans to replace the engine built there with a different one made in Chrysler plants in Trenton, Mich. and in Saltillo, Mexico, reports the Detroit News.

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11:44 am
Tue July 17, 2012

Detroit asked to build a car that runs on natural gas

Honda Honda

Governors of 13 states that produce natural gas are asking Detroit car companies to make them a passenger car that runs on the fuel.

Advances in a drilling technique called horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, are making natural gas more plentiful.

The drilling technique has plenty of environmental critics, but Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper says it's safe when done properly, and he says natural gas is a better fuel than gasoline.

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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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