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Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Today’s announcement that General Motors plans to spend $300 million in Michigan is good news not only for GM employees, but also for auto parts suppliers.

GM had previously announced the automaker's plans to invest $240 million in its Warren transmission plant. The plant will make the electric drive unit for the next-generation Chevy Volt. 

Morgue File

 

The candidates for governor agree something needs to be done about Michigan's crumbling roads.

In our recent conversation with MSU economist Charlie Ballard, he reminded us that we're going to pay for road repairs one way or another. Maybe higher taxes or, in Ballard's case, paying now, with blown tires and bent rims.

But, is there some kind of silver lining to the crummy roads? Maybe for local repair shops?

Rick Kilbourn owns 4th Street Auto Care in Royal Oak. He's been in business since the 1970's.

Wikimedia

General Motors is redoubling its efforts to contact people who own cars with defective ignition switches and urge them to get the problem fixed.

The recall has given GM a black eye, after the automaker revealed in February that it knew about the defective switches for more than ten years.

A special GM compensation program has approved 29 claims, so far, for people killed or injured in accidents when the airbags did not deploy, presumably because the ignition switch moved into the "accessory" mode and shut down safety systems.

Car dealership.
GM

 

Gov. Rick Snyder has signed a law that mandates all sales of Michigan vehicles to go through franchised dealers. It's seen as a direct shot at Tesla Motors, which wants to sell its electric cars directly to consumers. 

The governor's move is welcomed by mainline automakers and dealerships. Snyder says Michigan law already prohibited automakers from selling directly to consumers.

Michigan Radio's auto reporter, Tracy Samilton, explains that dealerships could argue that the current franchising system benefits the consumers because it creates tougher competition.

 

The Tesla Model S, first introduced in June 2012
Tesla Motors

Tesla lost a battle today in its bid to sell its vehicles directly to consumers.

Governor Rick Snyder signed HB 5606 today, after fierce lobbying for and against the bill, which clarifies the language in the state's law requiring auto manufacturers to sell their cars through franchised dealerships, and not through direct sales.

Electric car company Tesla wants to use a direct-sales model for its vehicles.

The Governor said it was already illegal for a manufacturer to sell its cars directly to customers in the state of Michigan.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has a lot of Twitter followers.  1, 128,869 to be exact.

On Thursday, Musk sent a link on Twitter to a Tesla blog entry that urges people to ask Michigan Governor Rick Snyder not to sign a bill that requires cars to be sold through franchised dealerships.

Tesla wants to sell its cars directly, in company-owned stores.

So, has the Governor's office gotten many calls?  "Only about 900,000," quipped a spokesman.

The spokesman also says the Governor has "a bunch" of questions about the bill and is doing due diligence.

VW edging closer to its desired no. 1 spot.
user PMillera4 / Flickr

They're rounding the 7.5 furlong mark and the standings are:

  1. Toyota
  2. Volkswagen
  3. General Motors

The Associated Press breaks it down for us:

Volkswagen edged out General Motors for second place in the global auto sales race during the first three quarters of the year, but Toyota was expected to keep its lead to stay in first place.

GM said Wednesday that is sold 7.37 million cars and trucks worldwide from January through September. But VW said it sold 7.4 million to nudge GM out of second place.

Toyota won't release its numbers for the first three quarters until late October. But it was in first place in the first half with sales of almost 5.1 million, and it expects the full-year figure to be 10.1 million.

Toyota finished first last year with a record 9.98 million sales. General Motors Co. finished second and VW third.

User: Robert Heese / Flickr

Global automakers look to China to rev up their global sales, but growth in China's car sales slowed again in September. 

According to The Detroit Free Press, sales in passenger vehicles in China rose 6.4% in September from a year earlier, slowing from 8% in August and 13.9% in May. 

John McElroy is an auto analyst and host of the Autoline Daily webcast. He says the numbers are direct indicators of the economic health of the Chinese economy, which seems to be cooling down.

FCA

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles made its New York stock exchange debut on Monday, beginning trading at $9 a share, and closing at $9.02.

Not bad, for a tumultuous day on Wall Street, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell a full 1.6%.

FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne and FCA Chairman John Elkann rang the closing bell together - after giving a joint press conference.

Most of the questions and answers were in Italian.  So, it looks like I'm going to have to learn Italian if I want to continue to cover FCA.

GM CEO Mary Barra, center, at a Congressional subcommittee hearing on the GM ignition switch recall - April 2, 2104.
Sen. McCaskill / Flickr

DETROIT - A special compensation fund set up by General Motors has approved 27 death claims and 25 claims of serious injuries in crashes involving GM cars with defective ignition switches.

The update comes from Attorney Kenneth Feinberg, who was hired by GM to run the program.

Feinberg says he has received 178 death claims since August, including the 27 approved for payment.

1,193 injury claims have been received, including the 25 that have received compensation offers.

GM knew about faulty ignition switches in Chevrolet Cobalts and other small cars for more than a decade but didn't recall them until February of this year. The switches can slip out of the "on" position, which causes the cars to stall, knocks out power steering and turns off the air bags.

Feinberg will accept claims until Dec. 31.

Jimmy Settles, UAW vice president and director of the national Ford department said, “today we celebrate the commitment to excellence that the hardworking men and women of the Rouge demonstrate every day.”
Ford Motor Company

One of the best selling vehicles of all-time will have a brand new, aluminum-centric design.

Ford announced today that it will add 850 workers to help build its new F-150 pickup truck.

More from the Associated Press:

The company says 500 of the workers will go to the Dearborn Truck plant, where the F-150 is assembled. Three hundred workers will go to the Dearborn Stamping plant and 50 workers will go to Dearborn Diversified, which makes axles and other parts.

Inside Chrysler Group’s Toledo (Ohio) Assembly Complex
User: Chrysler Group / Flickr

There's a meeting today at Chrysler Headquarters in Auburn Hills.

It's between the CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Sergio Marchionne and some nervous officials from Ohio.

Detroit News Business Columnist Daniel Howes says the concern is Ohio might lose the production of the Jeep Wrangler. 

At an auto show last week, Marchionne suggested that Chrysler may take Wrangler to an all-aluminum, unibody construction. Some expect that will likely shift the model's production from its long-time home in Toledo to Michigan or Illinois.

AAA

"Hands on the wheel and eyes on the road" is the rule of thumb often touted by U.S. automakers as the best way to stay safe on the road.

But the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety says people's minds have to be on the road, too, and the often complicated, hands-free voice systems in many cars are too distracting.

Will Cadillac become a global luxury brand on a par with Germany's Big Three?
User: Erik Daniel Drost / Flickr

 

These are challenging times for the executives who run the luxury brands at General Motors and Ford.

Lincoln has been on wobbly legs for years, and Cadillac is lagging behind the competition, especially the German luxury competition.

Detroit News Business columnist Daniel Howes has been following the Michigan automakers' struggle with the luxury business. He says these companies have largely failed to get luxury buyers to take their products seriously. 

"Lincoln has failed for a long time, in a large part because Ford was not willing to spend the money to make Lincoln differentiated enough. A lot of people will tell you today that Cadillac has got the best product, but the problem is the sales are not producing," says Howes.

media.ford.com

This year marks the 50th birthday of a car that has carved out a big place for itself in American automotive history: the Ford Mustang.

Today on Stateside, we'll take a 50-year look back at the history of the pony car and look ahead to the newest generation. The 2015 Mustang is heading to showrooms next month.

Jay Follis is an automotive historian. He's director of marketing at the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners in Barry County, and he's looked at the history of the Mustang in the current issue of Michigan History Magazine. Follis says before the introduction of the Mustang, Ford didn't plan on anything new.

General Motors

Ford Motor Company Executive Chairman Bill Ford, Jr. has long been a leader on the issue of climate change.

He was the first executive of a major auto company to call for global action on the threat, more than 15 years ago.

So it may come as a surprise that his company did so poorly on this year's CDP S&P 500 Climate Change Report.

The group gives Ford a "D" for the actions it is taking to prepare for climate change. 

Here's another thing that may come as a surprise: 

DETROIT (AP) - General Motors is recalling 221,558 Cadillac XTS and Chevrolet Impala sedans because the brake pads can stay partially engaged even when they're not needed, increasing the risk of a fire.

The recall involves Cadillacs from the 2013-2015 model years and Impalas from the 2014 and 2015 model years. There are 205,309 vehicles affected in the U.S.; the rest of the vehicles are in Canada and elsewhere.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

 

When General Motors appointed Kenneth Feinberg as its so-called "compensation czar," it was clear the automaker hoped to have Feinberg determine damages to victims of the ignition-switch debacle, pay, and move on.

But as Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes writes today, things are not working out that way:

General Motors

GM CEO Mary Barra will receive an Appeal of Conscience Award on September 23rd from the interfaith organization Appeal of Conscience Foundation.

Barra is being honored for her leadership in the wake of a shocking revelation in late January that General Motors had delayed a potentially deadly ignition switch recall for ten years.

The switches could be knocked out of the run position into the accessory position when the cars went over a bump.  That disabled safety features, including airbags.

General Motors

General Motors is adding a third shift to its Wentzville, Missouri plant to meet expected demand for the midsize trucks that are built there.

GM is introducing new versions of its midsize trucks, the Chevrolet Colorado and the GMC Canyon.

The new shift is expected to start work in early 2015.

The automaker says dealers have ordered 30,000 Colorados already, "which is very high for early orders."

2007 Cobalt, one of the recalled models
GM

For months, General Motors has estimated 13 people were killed as a result of accidents linked to a faulty ignition switch in Cobalts, HHRs, Saturn Ions, and some other small cars.

But it appears the estimate was low.

GM has established a special voluntary compensation program for victims or families of victims who can prove serious or fatal accidents were linked to the defective switch.

The program began taking claims on August 1.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

General Motors is taking the lead in producing cars that can almost drive themselves.

The "driver-assist" and "vehicle-to-vehicle" technology enables cars to communicate with other cars and roadside sensors. That should help drivers avoid accidents and reduce traffic congestion.

GM CEO Mary Barra announced Sunday the automaker will begin offering V2V as an option in the Lansing-built Cadillac CTS starting with the 2017 model year.   

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

General Motors is being accused of not caring about the working conditions in its plants in Columbia and India.

About two dozen protesters plan to hound GM CEO Mary Barra at events tied to this week’s auto technology conference in Detroit.

Paige Shell-Spurling is organizing the protests.  She says GM is ignoring problems with unsafe factories that have left dozens of workers seriously injured.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A veritable "who's who" of the global automotive industry has signed on to support the University of Michigan’s new automated vehicle initiative.

The “Mobility Transformation Center” is a public-private center that will look at how to make automated vehicles commercially viable.  

Ford Motor Company

To most of us, 2017 is three years away.

To the auto industry, it's just around the corner.  The fast-paced industry develops its vehicles three to five years ahead of when they will be on the market.

So, there's already a lot of talk about what's going to happen during the midterm review in 2017.

That's when everyone gets together to determine if the nation's ambitious new fuel economy standards for the years 2022-2025 are technologically feasible - without making vehicles so expensive we can't afford them, or so impractical we don't want them. 

Car dealership.
GM

Customer satisfaction with new cars declined for the second year in a row. 

This year, satisfaction with new car purchases declined a little more than one percent, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index. 

Founder Claus Fornell says car companies are churning out cars pretty fast these days to meet the high demand.  That may be increasing quality problems - and  recalls.

"It's a nuisance or worse, for consumers," says Fornell, "and therefore, it's not surprising that customer satisfaction is lower for those people who have had a recall."

But Fornell says satisfaction with cars is still quite high compared to most industries. That's because there's been a dramatic improvement in car quality.

"Compared to let's say 20-25 years ago, all these products are very good.   It is not low satisfaction compared to other industries, but it is going in the wrong direction."

David Villa

Propane production in the U.S. is booming - and so is business for a small Michigan company that retrofits vehicles to run on the fuel.

Albert Venezio is Chairman of Icom North America.  Icom N.A. has 25 employees and is based in New Hudson, Michigan.

Albert Venezio, the company's North American Chairman, says propane, otherwise known as autogas, is cheaper and cleaner than diesel or gasoline, and it's ideal for fleets, delivery vans, and school buses. 

One big customer is Metro Cars at Detroit Metro Airport.  The company has converted all its vehicles to run on the Icom system.  The system allows cars to switch between propane or gasoline as needed.

"We can reduce their  fuel costs at least a dollar a gallon, sometimes as much as $2 a gallon, and we reduce emissions probably in the 30-50% ratio, and they use a domestic fuel," says Venezio.

Propane is found wherever natural gas is found.  The natural gas fracking boom has caused a plentiful supply of propane.

Venezio says the U.S. may have enough propane deposits to fuel 5 million vehicles annually.   Right now, about 200,000 vehicles in the U.S. can run on propane. 

The numbers of propane vehicles are much higher in Europe, where taxes make diesel and gasoline fuels very expensive.

Vehicles running on propane get about 10% lower fuel economy - but the fuel produces about a third  lower CO2 emissions - and zero particulate matter. 

Alden Jewell / Flickr

Pickup trucks are the most profitable and popular vehicle in the United States, keeping hundreds of thousands of American farmers, ranchers, and small companies in business.

And Ford's F-150 is the king of all the pickup trucks. It's been the best-selling vehicle of any kind for decades.

On Friday evening, the last 2014 model year F-150 pickup truck rolls off the assembly line at the Dearborn Truck Plant.

Then the work begins to prepare the plant to build the next version – a groundbreaking truck with a mostly aluminum body. 

Wikimedia

With the venerable Woodward Dream Cruise just days away, thousands of metro Detroiters are pulling the

covers off the precious classic American car in the garage, and buffing her to a shine.

Few of us know that Swedes share the same love affair.

A few weeks ago, Vegas Tenold attended the 30th annual "Power Big Meet" in Vasteras, Sweden.  He writes for the New York Times:

GM

Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill has introduced bills that could subject auto companies and auto executives to tough new penalties for delaying a recall.

McCaskill, a Democrat, has been leading an investigation into GM's ignition switch recall scandal.  The company admits it delayed a recall of 2.6 million small cars for ten years - and at least 13 people died as a result.

McCaskill's Motor Vehicle and Highway Safety Enhancement Act of 2014 would:

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