Auto

Economy
9:53 am
Wed November 9, 2011

Michigan Supreme Court to hear arguments in foreclosure case

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

On Thursday, the Michigan Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case that could affect a large number of  home foreclosures.    

The Court of Appeals ruled that mortgage lenders should not have used a national industry agency to file the foreclosures. The lower court found the Mortgage Electronic Registration System, or MERS, had no standing to file the foreclosure paperwork.    

“Anytime you’re going to take the fast track on foreclosing and take another person’s property…you need to be able to do it correctly…and right ….and legitimately," sais Lorray Brown, an attorney with the Michigan Poverty Law Program.

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Michigan and China
9:07 am
Wed November 9, 2011

Michigan and China: A roundup of our stories

The Chinese flag.
Philip Jagenstedt Flickr

Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton has been reporting recently on a series of stories about Michigan's evolving relationship with China.

From cars to crops to hats, these sometimes unusual Chinese connections could have a big impact on the state's economic future.

Here is a brief roundup, in case you missed any of the stories.

October 11: Selling American cars, China-style

Chinese dealerships with their aggressive sales staffs, shiny floors, and canned music may evoke their American counterparts, but Tracy Samilton says U.S. automakers are trying to cash in on China's booming demand for cars by tailoring their approach to suit local tastes and attitudes.

From working to maintain a solid brand reputation (the opinions of family and colleagues is probably the most important factor for Chinese car buyers), to explaining features to inexperienced drivers, Detroit car companies are betting on China as a key to their futures.

October 11: Tiny cars to tackle big problems

Megacities like Beijing and Shanghai already struggle with dense smog and days-long traffic jams clogging roads and highways, but  China's voracious appetite for cars and steadily increasing urban population only promise to make things worse.

Tracy Samilton reports that, among other solutions, General Motors' China division is experimenting with small electric vehicles that seat two, roll on two wheels, and can drive themselves, not to mention take up one fifth the parking space needed for a regular car.

October 14: Ford and the case of the Chinese official's hat

While Ford is currently working hard to be a top competitor the Chinese auto market, they lag behind other international automakers including General Motors.

Tracy Samilton tells us that part of the reason for this gap can be traced back to hats.

More specifically, in the early 1990s, Ford lost out on a contract to supply Chinese officials with a fleet of limousines because the unusual body shape of the Taurus knocked the hats right of the dignitaries' heads.

October 23: Exchanging students and changing perspectives

Engineering students in Shanghai and Ann Arbor are learning more than what is printed in their textbooks thanks to a University of Michigan Joint Institute program that sends Michigan students to study in China and brings Chinese students here to do the same.

Students from both sides of the program told Tracy Samilton about local hospitality, the allure of college football, and that a big part of the experience is about learning from their host culture and not just in the classroom.

November 7: From Michigan's fields to Chinese dinner tables

Detroit cars are certainly a major component in Michigan's economic connection with China, but as Tracy Samilton reports, there is also an increasing Chinese demand for Michigan crops and other food products.

Chinese livestock producers use Michigan grown soybeans and wheat as feed, but consumers are also developing a taste for Michigan foods from blueberries to cereal to baby food, bolstered in part by U.S. safety and quality standards.

November 8: Pure Michigan in China?

Both the Michigan tourism industry and the state capitol are hoping to make Michigan a destination for international tourists, especially for those  from China.

While some, including Governor Snyder have big plans to attract Chinese visitors by showcasing Michigan's natural beauty and automotive history, others say that most Chinese people probably haven't even heard of Michigan, and as Tracy Samilton reports, bad translations are not helping.

And an audio documentary...

As a way to bring these stories together, a team of Michigan Radio producers created an audio documentary on the Michigan-China connection that features content from all of these stories along with interviews with Kenneth Lieberthal, the Director of the John L. Thornton China Center, Wei Shen, Managing Director of Bridge Connect, and Rebecca Linland, the Director of Automotive Research at HIS Automotive.

- John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Auto/Economy
2:35 pm
Tue November 8, 2011

The Michigan-China Connection (an audio documentary)

Cars, agriculture, tourism, it’s all fair game for people who want Michigan to tap into the Chinese market.

But what does that really mean and who really stands to benefit?

Governor Rick Snyder recently led a Michigan delegation to China.

He says strong economic ties between Michigan and what is now the world’s fastest growing economy are essential to Michigan’s economic growth.

Part 1

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Tourism
10:58 am
Tue November 8, 2011

Pure Michigan in China? Not for awhile, say tourism officials

No Great Lakes promotions in China... yet
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

Michigan’s agriculture industry is busy expanding in China.  But the same can’t be said for the state’s tourism industry.  At least not yet.  A million Chinese tourists are expected to visit the U.S. this year.  But only a relative handful will come to the Great Lakes State. 

Fran Wiltgen helps her son Joe, run his business, Joe's Bar and Grill, in South Haven, Michigan.

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Auto/Economy
5:13 pm
Mon November 7, 2011

Manufacturing "not dead yet; not at all" in West Michigan

At least 35 companies looking to fill manufacturing positions were at a career fair at Grand Rapids Community College Monday.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

At least 35 West Michigan companies are looking to fill manufacturing jobs. The companies were scouting out new workers at a manufacturing job fair in Grand Rapids Monday.

This is the first time Grand Rapids Community College has held a job fair specifically for manufacturers. Michael Kiss has been with the college for 25 years. He’s heads the school’s Department of Manufacturing and Applied Technology. "There's 35 companies here, but probably another 100 that are looking to hire," Kiss said.

He says they decided to host the fair because he’s been flooded with calls from companies this year that are trying to fill jobs in the manufacturing field.

Isn't manufacturing dead?

It’s not dead yet; not at all,” 40-year old Grand Rapids resident Eric Mallett says about manufacturing.

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Economy
10:23 am
Sun November 6, 2011

UMH nurses ratify 3-year contract

med.umich.edu

Nurses at the University of Michigan Hospital have ratified a contract that includes wage increases over the next three years.

The Michigan Nurses Association represents the 4,000 nurses at the Ann Arbor hospital.

The union says nurses will have a stronger voice in staffing and technology issues.

An MNA statement says charge nurses will have a say in determining whether more staffing is needed to meet specific patient needs.

Some nurses could see pay increases of $5 to $10 per hour in the last year of the contract.

Economy
1:58 pm
Thu November 3, 2011

Poverty growing, changing around the Midwest

A report released today shows poverty is on the rise in Midwestern suburbs.
Mike McCaffrey flickr

Stereotypes of people living in poverty are persistent.

But Alan Berube of the Brookings Institution says these stereotypes are becoming less accurate.

A report released today by the Institution shows poverty is growing and affecting many it didn’t touch before.

Some highlights from the report:

  • Concentrated poverty rose in Midwestern cities, but the number of people living in very poor neighborhoods is rising faster in the suburbs.
  • Poverty still affects communities of color in the inner cities. But, over the last decade poverty has grown among the number of well-educated white people living outside cities.
  • In the last decade concentrations of poverty have crept back up. That's where 40 percent of the people in a particular neighborhood live below the federal poverty line. These kinds of concentrations were on the decline up until 2000.
  • These concentrations of poverty almost doubled in the Midwest over the last decade. 

See more highlights, and read the entire report, at the Brookings Institution website.

Inform our coverage: How has the growth in poverty touched your life?

Economy
1:01 am
Thu November 3, 2011

Michigan home sale prices are rising

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan home sale prices increased by more than 6 percent in the last three months. But home prices are not rising everywhere.  

Alex Villacorta is with Clear Capital. He said Michigan’s average home sale prices are still 65 percent below their peak of a few years ago, before the recession.  But Villacorta said prices are finally moving in the right direction. 

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Economy
9:46 pm
Wed November 2, 2011

Marathon offers to buy out homeowners

Linda Chernowas says she has health problems related to living in her polluted industrial neighborhood. But she says Marathon's offer isn't enough for her to get a comparable house elsewhere.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Michigan’s only oil refinery is offering to buy out homeowners near its Detroit facility as it wraps up a major expansion project. The company is offering a minimum of $40,000, plus half a house’s appraised value. There’s also money to help people with moving expenses, and some other bonuses.

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Auto/Economy
5:49 pm
Wed November 2, 2011

House approves helmet law repeal; future of bill uncertain

Motorcycle riders travelling without helmets.
Turtlemom4bacon Flickr

The state House has approved a measure to repeal Michigan’s motorcycle helmet requirement for riders who are at least 21 and have two years experience.

Opponents of the helmet law have been trying to get rid of it since it was adopted in 1976.

State Representative Paul Opsemmer supports the repeal. He said Michigan has a stricter helmet law than any neighboring state and that has had an effect on tourism.

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Economy
2:00 pm
Wed November 2, 2011

Mixed economic messages: It's all about perspective

automotiveauto.info

If the constant stream of what seems like contradictory economic news leaves you feeling confused, join the club.

Headline No. 1: “Midwest economy slows.”

No. 2: “Michigan surpasses 48 states in growth.”

And No. 3: “Michigan has fourth-highest number of layoffs.”

These are all true stories about the third quarter.

Bob Tomarelli is an analyst with IHS. He says the stories just reflect different aspects of the economy.

“It is doing better," Tomarelli says. "It is recovering at a decent pace, a very quick pace. But things are still not great because it was hit so very hard.”

Tomarelli says most of the 100,000 jobs added in the third quarter were in professional business services and manufacturing. But he says that boost is probably temporary.

So while they are getting a nice short-term burst that’s adding to payrolls and creating some jobs, or at least bringing some jobs back, it is not expected to keep up at that pace, and in the long run is actually expected to decline.”

Most of Michigan’s 29,000 layoffs were in government and financial sectors.

Changing Gears
9:06 am
Wed November 2, 2011

Empty Series: The economic and social cost of emptiness (Part 1)

It's been estimated that 27 percent of the buildings in Detroit are vacant. Some experts say that figure has been improving of late.
Tim Beckett Flickr

This week, Changing Gears kicks off a look at Empty across our region. During November, we’ll be looking at empty buildings, empty property — and how we can fill things up again.

In the first part of our series, I explore the economic and social cost of emptiness.

Things may be better in some neighborhoods, but problems still abound.

The numbers

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October U.S. auto sales
5:54 pm
Tue November 1, 2011

October U.S. auto sales up, especially at Chrysler

U.S. auto sales rose again last month, as pent-up demand for cars continues to overcome low consumer confidence in the economy. 

Chrysler’s sales increase was especially strong, as customers continue to return to the smallest of the Detroit Three car companies. 

The company's sales rose 27 percent over October last year. 

It was also the 19th straight month of sales increases for Chrysler.  

Michelle Krebs of Edmunds.com says Chrysler finally has new products to sell, like the new Jeep Compass, which outsold its predecessor by 566 percent. 

Krebs says Chrysler is also running good ads for its cars, like the instantly iconic Superbowl ad starring Eminem and the Chrysler 200.

"And it’s caused people to at least know that the company still exists," says Krebs, "when many people did not think the company would survive after its bankruptcy, and it’s catching the attention of buyers."

Nissan sales rose 18 percent, while sales declined nearly 8 percent at Toyota and 1 percent at Honda.  Both companies are recovering from inventory shortfalls related to the tsunami in Japan last spring.

Auto/Economy
2:01 pm
Tue November 1, 2011

Old General Motors facility sold to industrial contractor

The Associated Press reports that an industrial contractor has bought a former General Motors facility in Pontiac with plans to use the 6-acre property for an expansion.

More from a Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response (RACER) Trust press release:

An industrial contracting company has purchased the former GM ACG Penske facility on Oakland Avenue, with plans to expand its business at the six-acre property.

The RACER Trust sold the property, which includes a 32,000-square-foot building with multiple truck bays, to Lee Contracting, headquartered across the street from the ACG Penske facility, at 675 Oakland Ave.

Lee Contracting Founder and President Ed Lee said he plans to expand his more than 200-employee company, and the former ACG Penske property provides a perfect fit. “This was a great opportunity to build upon our business right here in Michigan,” he said. “Having this great site right across from our current facility provides us with a base to continue expanding the business.”

Lee Contracting is a single-source contractor specializing in complete turnkey solutions for industrial and manufacturing clients.

Terms of the sale were not disclosed.

Auto/Economy
10:28 am
Tue November 1, 2011

Robots for the sick and elderly, Toyota unveils a plan

Toyota officials demonstrated their violin playing robot back in December of 2007. The company plans to sell robots that can help the sick and elderly.
screen grab from YouTube video

Officials from Toyota Motor Corporation say the company will start selling robots that help elderly and sick people. The Associated Press reports the company is "aiming for commercial products sometime after 2013."

From the Associated Press:

Toyota unveiled its ambitions for high-tech health care Tuesday, displaying experimental robots that the auto giant says can lift disabled patients from their hospital beds or help them walk.

The company aims to commercialize products such as its "independent walk assist" device sometime after 2013 – seeking to position itself in an industry with great potential in Japan, one of the world's most rapidly aging nations.

Prices and overseas sales plans are still undecided.

Several years ago, the company demonstrated a violin playing robot:

The 1.5-metre tall Violin-playing Robot, equipped with a total of 17 joints in each of its hands and arms, uses precise control and coordination to achieve human-like agility. It could also be used to assist with domestic duties or nursing and medical care.

Here's a video of Toyota's robot playing Pomp and Circumstance:

DETROIT
9:04 am
Tue November 1, 2011

Bus crisis in the Motor City leaves riders stranded

Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

James Hill lives in Detroit and uses the bus every day. And he says he’s learned to dedicate hours to getting from point A to point B.

People who need to catch the bus to work or school in Detroit are in a jam. On any given day, about half the city’s buses are parked, waiting for repairs. That, in turn, means hours-long waits at bus stops.

Hill said he took the bus to visit his son in the hospital a couple of weeks ago. He left the hospital at 4 o’clock in the afternoon…

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Transportation
3:57 pm
Mon October 31, 2011

Detroit to Chicago in less than 4 hours? 3 upgrades for Michigan passenger rail

The 135 miles of rail line from Dearborn to Kalamazoo will be owned by the state of Michigan. The state is purchasing the line from Norfolk Southern Railway with the help of federal stimulus money. Once completed, the upgraded line will increase speeds.
MDOT

Most of the upgrades are happening along the Detroit to Chicago route. That's because this line was designated as a high speed rail corridor by the federal government back in 1992.

With that designation comes federal grant dollars.

And recently, it has meant hundreds of millions of federal stimulus dollars.

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Transportation
6:37 am
Mon October 31, 2011

Snyder, federal officials to address rail summit

Michigan Municipal League Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder and federal transportation officials will speak today at a conference in Lansing on improving rail service in Michigan.

Michigan has 540 miles of publicly owned rail.

The governor has called for improving and expanding that system to move people and cargo more quickly and efficiently. He said he will seek more federal dollars and wants part of vehicle registration fees to be used for improving mass transit. 

“He believes very strongly that infrastructure is very important both to Michigan’s economy and to the future and that rail is very important to that mix, both passenger and freight," said Sara Wurfel, the governor's press secretary.

The state recently won a federal grant to purchase and upgrade 140 miles of track to be part of accelerated rail service between Detroit and Chicago. The governor’s plans for the state include making Michigan a central point in a regional business corridor that runs from Chicago to Toronto.

October Auto Sales
10:05 pm
Sun October 30, 2011

Another good car sales month, despite poor economy

The U.S. economy is still ailing, but it looks like auto sales had another good month, in part due to the recovery of Honda and Toyota. 

Michelle Krebs of Edmunds.com said overall U.S. auto sales rose about 11-percent in October, compared to the same month last year. She said it appears Honda and Toyota are finally making progress at boosting inventories, after the tsunami in Japan that happened last spring.

"And so we think that a lot of people that were destined to buy Hondas and Toyotas put off their purchases and we think that pent-up demand is coming into the market," Krebs said.

Car sales were up at Chrysler, Ford and GM, too. Chrysler's sales could be up by 27% compared to October a year ago; Ford up by about 8%, and GM by about 7%.

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Economy
4:56 pm
Fri October 28, 2011

Flood of welfare appeals hit state

Hundreds of people have appealed to the state to keep their cash assistance benefits. More than 11,000 families are set to lose those benefits next week.

Sheryl Thompson is with the state Department of Human Services. She says people who file appeals within 10 days of receiving a cut-off notice can have their benefits continue while the case is decided, although "if the department’s decision is upheld then they will need to repay those benefit amounts."

The department is required to make a decision within 65 days of when an appeal request is filed.

New state rules strictly enforce a four-year limit on cash assistance benefits.

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