Auto

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.

Read more
Auto
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.

Read more
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

Auto
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.

Read more
Auto
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.

Read more
Auto
2:45 pm
Tue May 15, 2012

Former Ford Chairman and CEO Harold "Red" Poling dies at 86

Harold "Red" Poling, former Ford Motor Company Chairman and CEO.
Ford

Harold A. Poling, a former Ford Motor Company chairman and CEO who was credited for reviving the company in the 1980s, died at age 86. The Detroit Free Press reports Poling passed away on May 12 in Pacific Grove, Calif.

Ford Motor Company released this statement after the news of Poling's death.

“Red Poling was an extraordinary leader who had a profound impact on Ford Motor Company and everyone who worked with him.  With a list of accomplishments that span 43 years, including leading the company through a remarkable turnaround during the 1980s and 1990s, Red was respected by all for his leadership, his passion for being the low-cost producer and  his genuine affinity for people.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”

The Detroit News reports Poling made difficult decisions in the 1980s, including decisions that led to plant closures and layoffs, that returned the company to profitability.

But earlier than most American car executives, he studied Japanese practices such as just-in-time parts delivery.

"I took some very harsh actions back then," he told The Detroit News in 1993. "Ford was losing large sums of money, and there were no road maps for turning a company around. So it was all up to me."

Poling focused on quality. During the 1980s, Ford was counting on the new Escort to shore up sagging sales. But Poling delayed the introduction of an automatic transmission for the car until quality problems had been solved.

He also delayed the introduction of the Taurus by nine months until quality issues had been resolved.

The Detroit Free Press reports when Poling retired in 1994 "the company was preparing to launch a new Mustang, introduce its first minivan with the Windstar and sell the tiny Aspire subcompact car," and that he was part of a management team that "approved $3 billion to develop the Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable." 

As a child, Poling said he spent a lot of time with his father who was a mechanic. “We’d grind valves, change piston rings and clutches and do lots of other jobs. It was serious work but to me it was interesting.”

One of four children, he enlisted in the Navy and then went to graduate from Monmouth College before receiving his MBA from Indiana University.

The Freep reports Poling's "all-time favorite car was the 1932 Ford Model A, the first car he bought, used, but in good shape."

Auto
5:38 pm
Mon May 14, 2012

German auto parts company to expand in Michigan

A German auto parts company says it will open a third plant in Michigan.

Brose North America -- Brose is pronounced "Brose-uh" -- says Governor Rick Snyder's recent trade mission to Germany is part of the reason. 

Snyder visited Italy and Germany during a trade mission in March. 

Brose officials say talks about a Michigan expansion began "in earnest" during the Governor's visit to the company's facilities in Wurzburg, Germany.

Brose says it plans to buy a former Chrysler Mopar plant in New Boston near Detroit, to meet new demand in North America for seating and doors, after winning new contracts with Chrysler and Ford. 

The company expects to hire an additional 450 people in the next five years to work at the new plant and Brose's two other factories in Auburn Hills and Warren.  

Auto
6:12 pm
Wed May 9, 2012

Chevy Volt vs. Nissan Leaf

The Nissan Leaf plug (left) and the Chevy Volt plug (right).

There's a lot of excitement around electric vehicles. But so far sales have not been great.

Michigan Radio’s auto beat reporter Tracy Samilton decided to get some firsthand experience driving two electric vehicles - the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Volt.

JW: So while we are calling them electric cars there are some fundamental differences in how they work.

TS: The Leaf is a pure electric vehicle it only runs on the battery and when it runs dry you have to recharge the battery to get more out of the car. And the Volt has a battery, and you run on that as an electric car for about 35 miles, and then after that it has a generator that runs on gasoline that provides more electricity so the car can keep running. So Chevy calls it an electric car with extended range.

JW: And after spending that week with the Leaf and the Volt, what did you think?

TS: Well, they’re two totally different cars and I had two totally different experiences as you can imagine. When I got the Volt, that week that they gave it to me I actually have a vacation arranged in Pennsylvania. Well because it has the extended range I could actually take the volt to the camp sight, some 400 and some miles away. And I plugged it into my cabin, which had electricity. You know most of this was done on the gasoline but I was able to get it recharged in my cabin.

When it comes to the Leaf, it’s a different kind of vehicle, I could not have done that.

Read more
Auto/Economy
10:15 pm
Thu May 3, 2012

Fast-charging charging system could reduce "range anxiety" for electric cars

Ford Motor Company has teamed up with seven other car companies to develop a faster method of recharging electric cars.

Fast-charging could help reduce the problem of what some call "range anxiety." 

One drawback of an electric car is how long it takes to recharge the battery - up to 7 hours for some electric cars. And if you push the car to its range limit you risk being stranded; that causes range anxiety. 

Mike Tinskey is associate director of vehicle electrification at Ford. He says it's hoped that eventually, "We can get to a point when we can charge just as quick as you can fuel up a conventional car with gasoline."

The new system isn't that fast, but it's a lot faster than charging on a 120 or 240 volt outlet. 

It will take about 20 minutes to get an 80% charge on a depleted electric car battery .

Other companies involved in developing the new system are Audi, BMW N.A., Chrysler, Daimler, General Motors, Porsche, and Volkswagen ...

Auto/Economy
1:59 pm
Thu May 3, 2012

Ford opens new $450 million plant in Thailand

Ford's new plant in Rayong, Thailand.
Ford

Ford Motor Company celebrated the official opening of its Ford Thailand Manufacturing (FTM) plant in Rayong, Thailand. It's the company's second plant in Thailand.

The $450 million passenger vehicle manufacturing plant "will serve as the foundation for Ford’s plan to introduce eight new vehicles to the ASEAN region by mid-decade," according to a company press release.

The ASEAN region includes the countries of Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and VietNam.

Ford officials said no other auto company has invested more in Thailand over the last five years:

“The opening of this new, world-class facility is the latest example in our aggressive growth plan for this region, which represents Ford’s largest industrial expansion in half-a-century,” said Joe Hinrichs, president of Ford Asia Pacific and Africa. “The world-class One Ford vehicles produced here will be part of our plan to launch 50 new vehicles and powertrains in Asia Pacific and Africa by mid-decade.”

Ford officials said the new facility in Thailand includes "one of the world's fastest stamping presses, and the latest in automotive manufacturing robot technologies. The plant is capable of producing 6 different vehicles simultaneously.

This allows the company to bring new vehicles to market faster, and test new vehicles while maintaining full production speed.

 

The company released this video of the plant:

Auto/Economy
11:26 am
Thu May 3, 2012

Auto parts maker to buy plant in Saline, Michigan, employ 500 people

The Saline, Michigan parts plant acquired by Faurecia.

A French auto parts maker says it plans to buy a parts plant in Saline, Michigan. Faurecia SA says the interior components plant will be part of a joint venture.

From the Associated Press:

Faurecia and Rush Group announced Thursday that they're creating Detroit Manufacturing Systems, a joint venture to build and automotive interior components in Detroit.

The companies say the venture expects to employ about 500 people in Detroit within the next three years and will make parts at first for Ford Motor Co.

Here's more from a Faurencia SA press release:

Faurecia will acquire the Saline business, which generates $1.1 billion annual sales supplying cockpit modules, instrument panels, door panels and center consoles for 12 vehicle programs assembled at eight Ford plants throughout North America. With this acquisition, Faurecia’s objective is to create a new operation that is optimized for efficient production, in line with the Faurecia Excellence System.

In conjunction with the Saline acquisition, Faurecia will enter into a new joint venture with Rush Group Ltd., one of the Rush Group of companies that together comprise one of the largest Native American and woman-owned businesses in North America. The joint venture, called Detroit Manufacturing Systems (DMS), will do injection molding, assembly and sequencing of interior trim components from a new facility in Detroit. Rush Group will hold the majority of the capital and the management of DMS, while Faurecia – with 45% of the capital – will bring its technology and manufacturing expertise to the joint-venture. As a result, the Saline plant will focus in the future on core technologies such as injection molding, skin manufacturing and foaming operations with annual revenues of nearly $400 million.

Transportation
10:46 am
Thu May 3, 2012

Detroit Metro Airport lands good ranking in "Best and Worst" list

Travel and Leisure magazine

You gotta give them a lot of clicks to find the ranking on their page (can someone say pageviews!), but once you finally get there, you'll see that readers of Travel and Leisure ranked Detroit Metro Airport (DTW) as the 3rd best airport in the country.

Detroit’s airport is at the top of its game, ranked No. 1 in terminal cleanliness, design, location, lounges, and business centers. It came in third for service and staff communication and fourth in baggage handling. As Delta’s second largest hub and the carrier’s primary gateway for Asia, that’s no mean feat. The airport fell short only when it came to public transportation options—not surprising considering you’ve landed in the Motor City.

Viable public transport to Detroit Metro has always been a problem. Some are making attempts to improve the situation.

Just recently, the public transportation system in Ann Arbor, the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, announced a partnership with a private company, Michigan Flyer, to provide cheaper transit to the airport.

Twelve bucks will get you from A2 to DTW. That's better than a typical $40 to $50 cab ride.

The best airport named by readers was Minneapolis (MSP)... the worst was New York's LaGuardia (LGA) - JFK and Newark airports also ranked poorly.

Sound about right to you?

Auto/Economy
5:51 pm
Tue May 1, 2012

April car sales up, but not for all

U-S car sales rose about two percent in April from the same month last year.

That's better news than it sounds, according to Michelle Krebs of Edmunds dot com. She says there were three fewer selling days this April than there were last year.

Krebs says small car sales remained brisk in April, because of high gas prices. But she says sales of midsize cars like the Honda Accord and Chevy Malibu are also increasing.

Read more
Auto/Economy
3:51 pm
Tue May 1, 2012

Michigan is home to the Motor City, but what if young people stop driving?

user (Buchanan-Hermit) wikimedia commons

In a state like Michigan, with a history that's virtually inseparable from that of the automobile, it might be hard to imagine a life without cars. But according to  a recent report, an increasing number of the nation's young people are choosing to drive less or not to drive at all.

The report found that:

Read more
Commentary
11:51 am
Tue May 1, 2012

Commentary: More companies betting on Detroit

There’s an old Russian saying that, even, if you covered the world with asphalt, eventually a crack would form.

And in that crack, grass would grow. I was reminded of that yesterday by an Italian businessman my age, a man who is betting on green shoots coming through a town caked with many layers of asphalt. His name is Sergio Marchionne, and he is the CEO of a company called Fiat. Three years ago, he did something many at the time thought stupid. He took over a dying bankrupt company.

Read more
Auto/Economy
6:07 pm
Mon April 30, 2012

Chrysler factory to stay open this summer to make more Jeep Grand Cherokees

Chrysler says its Jefferson North Assembly Plant in Detroit will forgo the traditional two-week shutdown this summer.

The unusual move will help the company keep up with strong demand for the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango. 

Sales of the new Durango are up 33% from last year, and sales of the new Grand Cherokee are up 44%.  

The factory's employees are already working nine hour shifts plus two Saturdays a month, but Chrysler spokeswoman Jodi Tinson thinks they don't mind.

"Considering where we have been over the last couple of years, I think there is a very positive feeling that these vehicles are being so well received," says Tinson.   "And they (workers) are reaping the benefits by being able to work some overtime."

Chrysler had been planning to hire 1,100 new workers at the plant next January but will move that ahead to this November.

Auto/Economy
11:23 am
Mon April 30, 2012

Chrysler begins producing the Dodge Dart this week

Chrysler unveiled the Dodge Dart at the North American International Auto Show earlier this year.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

The Dart will help make Chrysler a full-line auto company once again. It's a compact car, or so-called "C-segment," car.

It's the first vehicle to combine a U.S. design with a Fiat chassis or platform.  The last small car Chrysler made was the Dodge Caliber and that was not very successful.

Chrysler and Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne thinks the Dart will do much better.

"We are looking forward to a successful launch of a C-segment sedan, which is a piece of the market that we've been absent from for a long period of time, so we're expecting great volumes in terms of the Dart for the remainder of the year," said Marchionne.

A version of the Dart that gets 41 miles per gallon is expected later this year.

Pages