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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:

Auto sales grew in 2014
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

When the economy in Michigan is hurting, you always hear politicians talking about diversifying the economy.

But when the auto industry is doing better and the economy in Michigan is riding along with it, that talk seems to disappear.

Well, not this time. Rick Haglund recently wrote about a report that indicates the auto industry might be hitting the brakes.

Haglund joined us today. He’s a freelance journalist and contributor to Bridge Magazine, MLive and others. Michigan Radio's auto reporter, Tracy Samilton, also joined us on the show.

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

A year after the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety introduced it, many automakers are still having trouble designing cars that can do well on the "small overlap" crash test.

A small overlap crash happens when just the corner of the front of a car hits something, like another car, or a tree or a pole.

That kind of a crash can bypass the "crumple zone" of the front of the car, which is meant to absorb the force of the crash, protecting the people inside the passenger compartment from death or injury.

IIHS recently tested 12 small new cars for small overlap protection; only one, the Mini Cooper Countryman, received the highest grade of "Good."

Five others, the Chevy Volt, the Ford C-Max Hybrid, the Mitsubishi Lancer, the Scion FR-S, and the Subaru BRZ, got the next highest mark of "Acceptable."

Because the Chevy Volt also offers buyers the option of a front collision warning, the Institute gave the car its Top Safety Pick Plus award.

Four cars got a "Poor" rating, including the Fiat 500-L, the Nissan Juke, the Nissan Leaf, and the Mazda 5.

Car dealership.
GM

We’ve all heard about one recall after another from General Motors. But what does that mean for the dealer? Lester Graham stopped by Victory Chevrolet Buick in Milan and talked to salesperson Sean Johnson about the recalls.

“It’s a lot more business in the service end of it,” Johnson said. “Negative wise, I think people are kind of scared to buy a GM product.”

General Motors has been in the news a lot, probably more than it wants to be. Daniel Howes, a business columnist at The Detroit News, wrote an article about the automaker's struggle to overhaul its culture in the wake of failed parts, recalls, government criticism, and more.

Howes described GM’s corporate culture in his article as “blame-shifting, lack of accountability, and a callous disregard for customers.”

He said changing the leadership and putting new people on the board of directors may be necessary, but is not enough to change the culture of the company.

General Motors

Today brought the fourth appearance for General Motors and CEO Mary Barra before angry members of Congress.

This time a Senate subcommittee took a deeper dive into the ignition switch recalls and didn't like what it saw in GM's legal department.

Michigan Radio's auto reporter Tracy Samilton followed the event.

According to Samilton, GM's chief counsel Michael Millikin was in the "uncomfortable Senate spotlight" today.

When senators asked why Millikin still kept his job, Barra said she "respectfully" disagreed with them, and she defended Millikin as a man of "incredibly high integrity."

She said Millikin "had a system in place." Unfortunately, in this instance "it wasn't brought to his attention."

An image from the consumer alert issued for the GM ignition switch recall.
NHTSA

DETROIT - General Motors says it has replaced faulty ignition switches on just under 20 percent of 2.6 million small cars that are being recalled.

The company has repaired just over 491,000 cars that are covered by the recall announced in February.

Switch maker Delphi Automotive says it has produced over 1 million parts and expects to have made 2 million by the end of August. GM says it expects all parts to be made by late October.

Delphi CEO Rodney O'Neal tells lawmakers his company has added three lines to speed up production.

Some car owners have complained it's taking too long for GM to finish repairs.

The switches can slip into the accessory position and unexpectedly shut off engines. That has caused crashes that killed at least 13 people.

IIHS / Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

A new analysis by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety finds that a disproportionate number of teenagers who died in car accidents were driving older, smaller cars.

Small, older model cars tend to be lightweight and lack electronic stability control and side air bags. 

Yet these are the cars parents typically buy for their teens, who are the least experienced drivers on the road. 

Russ Rader of IIHS says cost shouldn't be the only factor when choosing a car for a young driver.

Car dealership.
GM

Here's the main case to be made for annual car sales in the U.S. exceeding 18 million some day: 

Unlike other mature car markets (Europe), the U.S. population is still growing.  So....the more people there are, the more cars they will buy.  

The argument acknowledges that many young people are postponing buying cars, but says that's just because it's hard to get a job right now.  As soon as the economy improves, they'll buy cars, just like their parents.

But a new study by AlixPartners says that's ignoring a lot of trends that will push car ownership rates down.

A 2011 Durango.
IFCAR / Flickr

Chrysler says it is recalling 651,000 Jeep and Dodge SUVs in the U.S. because vanity mirror lights that have undergone repairs can short circuit and start a fire if not reassembled correctly.

The recall is for certain 2011 to 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango models. Chrysler says it has seen the problem only in lighted sun visor mirrors that have been repaired. But as a precaution, it says the recall applies to all of the vehicles.

The automaker says it knows of three injuries caused by the lighted mirror.

Chrysler will contact customers and let them know when they can have the problem fixed.

The recall will total 895,000 SUVs around the world. About 45,000 are in Canada, 23,000 are in Mexico and 175,000 are outside North America.

Chrysler says customers with additional questions can call their customer assistance center at 1-800-853-1403.

Ford Motor

The auto industry in Europe may be on the way back up, after hitting rock bottom last year, but its woes are by no means over, says Ford's head of Europe, Middle East and Africa, Stephen Odell.

Overcapacity is a persistent concern, he says.   Some European factories are still operating at about 70% of their capacity, although Ford itself has taken steps to reduce its factory and labor costs - having closed one Ford plant in the U.K. and soon to close another in Belgium.

Odell says the biggest factor depressing car sales is the 20 to 25% unemployment rates in southern European countries like Spain and Greece.

"I think the biggest inhibiters is probably employment levels," Odell told a roundtable of journalists in Dearborn.  "Which is why, in our forecast, we have a sort of modest and slow recovery for the next four to five years."

Odell says Ford does expect to regain profitability in Europe next year.

Flickr

The app-based, taxi-like services UberX  and Lyft are in talks with the city of Ann Arbor - after the city sent the companies a "cease and desist" letter. 

This is just the latest of many legal tangles across the country for the companies, which are operating in a new grey area of transportation-for-hire. 

The companies say they are "rideshare services."  State and local transportation officials call them "transportation network companies," but insist that many of the regulations applying to traditional taxis also apply to these new services.

Wikimedia Commons

There are many different auto museums – some dedicated to displaying cars with unique engineering and designs, and others dedicated to displaying the automobile’s impact on society.

Michigan's auto museums have had little success. Flint’s "Autoworld" theme park closed two years after opening, and the Walter P. Chrysler Museum closed its doors recently.

Europe has had a different experience.

Autostadt, which means “auto city” in German, is in Wolfsburg, Germany. It averages about two million visitors per year. BMW and Porsche also have notable museums in Germany.

Why do auto museums in Europe succeed, while those in the auto capital of the world have not?

“Europeans seem to have such a deep bond with their vehicles,” says Paul Eisenstein, publisher of  The Detroit Bureau. “They are seemingly more interested in the mechanicals and what have you. They have a tendency to be drawn to automotive exhibits, museums, parks, and everything at a much greater rate than Americans are.”

*Listen to our interview with Eisenstein at 3 p.m. today. We'll post the audio for that interview here around 4:30 p.m. 

Wikimedia Commons

30 years ago, "Autoworld" opened its doors on July 4, 1984 in Flint, Michigan.

It was an indoor theme park and museum dedicated to preserving and spreading automotive achievements.  

Bill Shea, editor and reporter for Crain’s Detroit Business, said that the attraction wasn’t that popular and visitors were confused about what Autoworld was.

Was it supposed to be a museum or a theme park?

This led people to ask why a group of people invested $80 million into the endeavor.

Organizers hoped Autoworld would revitalize the inner city of Flint, develop Michigan’s tourism industry, and preserve the automotive history in the city.

But, in 1987, the attraction closed its doors permanently. Here's a video of them imploding the building from ABC News:

*You can hear our interview with Bill Shea today at 3 p.m. We'll add the interview to this post at 4:30 p.m.

Atlanta Jeep Ram Dodge

Fiat Chrysler continued its climb back to health in June.  It was the 51st month in a row the automaker increased its U.S. year-over-year sales.

The long streak of sales gains is being led by the Jeep and RAM brands. 

Jeep sales rose 28% compared to last June, and RAM sales were up 14%.

"In spite of two fewer selling days in June versus a year ago, we were able to increase our sales 9% and post our strongest June sales in seven years," said Reid Bigland, head of U.S. sales for Chrysler.

The automaker remains weak in terms of small and midsize car sales.  The Dodge Dart has performed well under expectations, selling only 7,225 in June. 

But the company has higher hopes for the new Chrysler 200, which began shipping to dealers in late spring.

General Motors

General Motors' sales rose 1% in June - despite two fewer sales days in the month, despite a delayed recall scandal, and despite the company issuing a record number of recalls.

The Detroit automaker's sales were the best for June since 2007.

Karl Brauer is an analyst with Kelly Blue Book. 

He says the media and Congress have displayed an intense interest in GM's admission that it delayed an ignition switch recall for eleven years. 

Customers aren't paying as much attention.   

"Most people look at this recall as old GM and old models that has nothing to do with what's in the showroom right now," says Brauer.

GM recalled an additional 7.36 million cars  for what it calls "unintended ignition switch rotation."

That's the same problem at the root of an earlier recall of cars with a defective ignition switch. In February, GM recalled 2.6 million Cobalts, HHRs, Saturn Ions and other small cars with a defective ignition switch.

In both recalls, the car's ignition switch can suddenly turn off, which disables the power steering, power brakes, and air bags.

The new recall is for:

An image from the consumer alert issued for the GM ignition switch recall.
NHTSA

GM will pay a minimum of $1 million to victims of serious or fatal crashes involving cars with a faulty ignition switch. 

GM admits it delayed a recall of small cars with a defective switch for 11 years. 

GM says 13 people died and 54 were injured when the ignition switch turned off, disabling the power steering, power brakes, seat belt pretensioners and air bags. 

But attorneys for victims' families say there are many more such cases. 

The program is run by Kenneth Feinberg, who oversaw similar programs for victims of the BP oil spill and 9/11.  He says it won't be easy to determine who's eligible.

"So many of these accidents occurred long ago," Feinberg says. "The car is gone, and we've gotta come up with circumstantial evidence."

But Feinberg says he will work with families who wish to file claims, or their attorneys, to guide them through what kinds of evidence would substantiate a claim – such as police reports, medical reports, black box data, and witness statements.

The program will also pay for victims' lost earnings and long-term care.

Ford Motor Company

Alan Mulally will hand over his Ford CEO job to Mark Fields next Tuesday. 

Fields has been with Ford since 1989 and the chief operating officer since 2012.

Mulally came to Ford as an auto outsider and many questioned his ability to turn the struggling company around.

Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes was one of the doubters. Howes is now happy to say he was wrong. And Mulally has created big shoes for Fields to fill

General Motors

General Motors CEO Mary Barra appeared this week before a House subcommittee that is investigating the automaker's ignition-switch debacle.

Barra didn't sugarcoat the fact that GM bungled this terribly. She freely admitted their engineers knew about the switch problems 12 years ago, but didn't connect that to the airbag malfunction linked to at least 13 deaths.

And Barra had a litany of changes she's instituted in response, including firing 15 high-level employees.

Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes says this has to go deeper.

“Members of Congress, to put it gently, (are) skeptical that a company like this with the track record that it’s had, particularly in the last five years, would be able to do that,” Howes said.

Howes says with exception of the president of GM, those at the top of the company are longtime General Motors people.

Hyundai

The increased complexity of cars is causing an uptick in problems reported in the first 90 days of ownership, according to an annual survey by J.D. Power.

Problems reported by owners in the first 90 days rose 3% for 2014 model year cars over last year. 

The group says that's because of the increased complexity and features in new cars, especially when it comes to voice recognition and Bluetooth syncing. 

The harsh winter also caused some extra problems with paint, engine performance, and heating systems. 

user: harry_nl / flickr

The word from Europe is new car sales were up in May.

It's the ninth straight monthly increase, which is good news for the U.S. carmakers who've been watching their bottom lines suffer through the European sales slump.

There were 1.1 million new cars registered in the European Union, an increase of 4.3%.

Increased auto sales include:

·         7.7% in the United Kingdom

·         5.2% in Germany

·         17 % in Spain

Stateside’s partner, BBC Business reporter Russell Padmore, says the big reason for the uptick in sales is an "aging car fleet.” During the debt crisis, Europeans held off from buying new cars to save money. Now they can’t hold off any longer. 

*Listen to full interview above. 

General Motors CEO Mary Barra.
Dave Pinter / flickr

General Motors CEO Mary Barra was back on Capitol Hill today.

She was there to offer more testimony on the growing ignition switch recall problem which has been linked to 13 deaths and the recall of some six million GM vehicles.

Mary Barra was not alone. She came with independent investigator Anton Valukas and his 300-page report.

Detroit News Washington Bureau Chief David Shepardson says Valukas was able to answer questions about the report while Barra could focus on what GM was going to do in the future.

“Overall, the questioning was a lot gentler than last time, because the committees didn’t express frustration with Mary that she was not able to answer so many different questions,” Shepardson said.

“There are really no questions they could answer with the exception of the why.”

*Listen to full interview above.

user paul (dex) / Flickr

The recall notices just keep coming.

The ignition-switch crisis took a big new turn Monday as General Motors recalled 3.4 million cars.
That's on top of the 2.6 million small cars already called back for ignition switches that can slip out of the "run" position if the key is carrying extra weight and is somehow jarred. That could cause the engine to stall and kill power steering, power brakes, and air bags.

The problem has been linked to at least 13 deaths and over 40 crashes. However, GM sales have not been greatly affected.

This latest recall comes as CEO Mary Barra prepares for what will undoubtedly be a rough session tomorrow on Capitol Hill before the House Energy and Commerce's Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee.

*Listen to full interview above.

General Motors has found another problem with ignition switches in vehicles.

In what's sure to become extra ammunition in Wednesday's Senate committee interrogation of GM Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra, the automaker this week is recalling 3.16 million mostly older model vehicles to replace slotted keys with keys with a hole.

The company says the fix will prevent the cars from inadvertently turning off if there is extra weight on the key ring and the car goes over a bump.

The cars involved in the recall:

The Lincoln MKZ was advertised as "the most fuel-efficient luxury hybrid in America." Not any more.
Michael Gil / Wikimedia Commons

You think Ford was a little embarrassed last year after having to reduce its mileage claims for the Ford C-Max? Now they have to reduce those claims for six 2013 and 2014 models (claims on the C-Max have to be reduced again).

All of Ford's 2013 hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles are affected, as well as most 2014 Fiesta models.

Here's a little damage control from Ford's Raj Nair:

36th Constitutional Convention

Dennis Williams is the new president of the United Auto Workers Union, and members appear to be very optimistic about the leadership.

Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes told Stateside that the union views Williams as somebody who can be an innovative bargainer and bring a new perspective.

Howes in his column today said that Dennis Williams has his work cut out for him to correct the mistakes of his predecessor, Bob King. 

Williams is the first UAW president who never headed one of union’s main three departments: Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler. He is also the first who has never worked in an auto plant.

*Listen to full interview above. 

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

GM shareholders meet today at the automaker’s Detroit headquarters—with protesters circling outside the Renaissance Center.

The protesters include family members of people who died in GM cars that have since been recalled.

GM has acknowledged 13 deaths as a result of faulty ignition switches. But victim’s advocates say that number is much higher, possibly more than 100.

Laura Christian’s daughter, Amber Marie Rose, died when the airbag in her 2005 Chevy Cobalt failed to deploy.

Wikipedia

"We failed."

That was the painful self-assessment from General Motors today, as CEO Mary Barra unveiled the findings of an internal investigation into the automaker's ignition switch crisis.

The defective switches are linked to at least 13 deaths and 47 crashes over more than a decade.

Today Barra spoke to GM employees at a town hall meeting broadcast around the world.

Michigan Radio's auto reporter Tracy Samilton was at the town hall, and she joined us on today’s Stateside.

*Listen to our conversation with Tracy Samilton above. 

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