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1:16 pm
Sun September 15, 2013

Heavy metal? It's as passe' for cars as it is for music

2013 SRT Viper
Chrysler

As tough new fuel economy regulations loom, automakers are scrambling to make their cars' powertrains - that's the engine, batteries, and transmission - as efficient as they can possibly be. 

But that won't be enough to meet the new standard of 49 miles per gallon average by 2025.

Cars will also have to be lighter, because in general, the lighter the car is, the less fuel it requires to move down the road.

So, automakers are looking at ways to use more aluminum and magnesium in their cars. 

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Auto
2:36 pm
Wed September 11, 2013

Victory for the UAW at a Volkswagen auto plant?

A Volkswagen concept car at the 2013 Detroit Auto Show.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

In what could be a victory for the Detroit-based United Auto Workers, a union official in Tennessee says a majority of workers at Volkswagen's assembly plant in the state have signed cards favoring the UAW’s representation in creating a German-style works council at the plant.

The official told the Associated Press that the cards are as legally binding as an election by the workers.

More from the AP:

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Auto
10:43 pm
Tue September 10, 2013

Government sells another $811 million in GM stock

(file photo)
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - The government is getting closer to selling all of its General Motors Co. stock.

The Treasury Department said in its August report to Congress that it sold $811 million worth of GM common stock last month.

The report dated Tuesday says the government has recovered about $35.4 billion of the $49.5 billion bailout it gave the Detroit automaker. That means taxpayers are still $14.1 billion in the hole.

Auto
2:34 pm
Tue September 10, 2013

Car buyers increasingly internet and app-savvy

smart phone car buying app
automotiontv.com

It's not just "Gen Y" consumers using their smart phone apps, social media, and the internet to decide what car to buy.

Four out of five people used a broad array of digital sources of information when narrowing down their search, according to a new survey by J.D. Power and Associates.

About half did not have a brand preference when they began their search.

Researcher Arianne Walker says car companies need to be everywhere - because consumers are.

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Auto
10:02 am
Tue September 10, 2013

Another big recall, this time it's Toyota

2011 RAV4
Toyota

(AP) Toyota is recalling 880,584 RAV4 SUVs and Lexus HS 250h sedans in the U.S. and Canada because a repair announced last year may not have solved a safety problem.

RAV4s from the 2006 through 2011 model years and 2010 Lexus HS250hs are involved.

Toyota says if rear suspension nuts aren't tightened properly after a wheel alignment, the arms can rust and separate from the vehicle, increasing the risk of a crash.

At least nine crashes and three injuries are related to the problem.

Stateside
5:09 pm
Wed September 4, 2013

While Detroit is going bust, the US auto industry is booming

Peter Martorano Flickr

There is no small touch of irony in the fact that as Detroit filed for bankruptcy, the U.S. car makers are enjoying boom times. Sales for the Big Three in July were the highest in seven years. GM, Ford and Chrysler are adding shifts and hiring workers. Good times.

But not for the city that gave birth to what we know as the U.S. auto industry.

Tom Walsh, business columnist for the Detroit Free Press, and Sonari Glinton, National Desk Reporter from NPR who has covered transportation and the auto industry, joined us today.

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Auto
10:54 am
Wed September 4, 2013

Automakers tally double digit sales gains in August

August was a good month for U.S. automakers.

Nearly all automakers are reporting double-digit sales gains as August shapes up to be another strong month for the industry.

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Auto
6:14 pm
Wed August 28, 2013

Toyota, already king of hybrids, to add 19 new models globally

Toyota's global hybrids - all in one place
Toyota

When Toyota first introduced the Prius in Japan in 1997 and in the U.S. in 2000, the company used its image as a maker of highly reliable, high quality cars to sell the new technology to early adopters.

"The Toyota halo was the closer," says Bob Carter, Toyota's Senior Vice President of Automotive Operations for Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), U.S.A. Inc. 

Now the opposite is true - Prius provides the halo for Toyota.

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Stateside
1:32 pm
Tue August 27, 2013

US car sales are up but customer satisfaction is down

Claes Fornell is the founder of the American Customer Satisfaction Index.
Wikipedia

An interview with Claes Fornell, founder of the American Customer Satisfaction Index.

There's been lots to celebrate in terms of sales for the U.S. car makers, bouncing back in a big way from their near-death experiences.

But those strong sales have the auto companies and their suppliers boosting production at a fast rate. And that could be having an unwanted effect---declining customer satisfaction with the vehicles they're turning out.

Claes Fornell, founder of the American Customer Satisfaction Index, joined us today to talk about the latest survey results.

Listen to the full interview above.

Auto
11:12 am
Tue August 27, 2013

People a little less happy with car companies - especially Detroit car companies

Customer satisfaction with car companies dropped slightly from last year, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ASCI).

The index tracks how happy people are with the things they buy. 

Satisfaction dropped even more for Detroit automakers.

Claus Fornell is the founder of the index.   He says two years ago, satisfaction with Detroit car companies and Japanese competitors was a tie.  Now, there's a gap again - and it's the widest in five years.

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Auto
11:45 am
Tue August 20, 2013

$5 campaign tries to restore original Model T plant

The Model T was made in a Highland Park facility that the Woodward Avenue Action Association wants to restore.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

A new campaign is underway to try and save the original Model T plant in Highland Park. The Woodward Avenue Action Association launched an online fundraising drive asking supporters to pledge five dollars to turn the old assembly line into a museum and visitor's center.

Five dollars was the daily wage Henry Ford paid his workers so they could afford to buy the car they made.

Deborah Schutt with the Woodward Avenue Action Association says the Model T factory is an important piece of Michigan history. Schutt wants to use National Archives footage of the plant in action to remind visitors of the state's automotive heritage.

"This is where Henry Ford instituted the five dollars a day wage," she said. "What that allowed them to do is actually purchase what it is that they produced, which had a profound effect and really launched the middle class in America."

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Auto
11:00 am
Sat August 17, 2013

Woodward Dream Cruise, Back to the Bricks lure classic car lovers

(file photo)
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

BERKLEY, Mich. (AP) - A big day has dawned in Michigan for classic car enthusiasts in the state that put America on wheels.

The Woodward Dream Cruise officially kicks off Saturday. But the rides - and the legions of folks who love them - have been out for days already along the Detroit-area thoroughfare.

It's the 19th year for the free event, which is hosted by numerous Oakland County communities along the route.

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Auto
9:58 pm
Fri August 16, 2013

Other automakers hope Ford's C-Max MPG downgrade doesn't hurt them, too

Sakor President Randy Beattie, in front of hybrid engine dynamometer
Tracy Samilton Michigan Radio

On Thursday, Ford Motor Company announced it is reducing the fuel economy label on its C-Max hybrid.

Ford's initial rating for the C-Max -- much vaunted in advertisements -- was 47 miles per gallon, in combined city and highway driving.

Now, the sticker will read 43.

Other automakers hope the potential embarrassment for Ford doesn't mean more problems for them.  Calculating fuel economy is complex and expensive enough as it is.

Just how do they get that number?

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Auto
2:55 pm
Fri August 16, 2013

GM recalls 292,879 Chevy Cruzes for braking issue

2014 Chevy Cruze Eco
General Motors

GM will recall 292,879 Chevy Cruze cars from the  2011 and 2012 model years for a potential intermittent loss of partial braking power.

GM says it's aware of 27 low-speed crashes, some of which could be linked to the problem, but no injuries.

The automaker says in rare instances, a driver might have to apply extra force to the brake to get the car to stop.

The recall is for Cruze cars equipped with the 1.4 liter gasoline turbo engine and automatic transmission.

Dealers will remove and replace a microswitch in the power brake vacuum pipe assembly.

Auto
2:24 pm
Thu August 15, 2013

The C-Max doesn't get the mileage Ford advertised

U.S. Representative John D. Dingell rides in a Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-in hybrid.
Ford Motor Company

The Ford C-Max's fuel efficiency isn't what the Detroit automaker advertised.

According to the Associated Press, this afternoon, Ford Motor Company will announce a change in the model's gas mileage, according to a Ford source who knows about the company's plan. The AP reports the source didn't want to be identified as the announcement has not been made public yet.

The AP writes that the move comes after an investigation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which enforces mileage estimates. The Ford source said that mileage estimate could be cut from 47 to 43 mpg. 

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Auto
2:58 pm
Wed August 7, 2013

New frontal offset crash protection proving a difficult engineering challenge

Result of Nissan Sentra's frontal offset crash test
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

The Honda Civic was the only one out of a group of small cars to get a "good" rating on the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's new small overlap front crash test. 

The safety group gives cars a "good, acceptable, marginal, or poor" rating for how well a car protects drivers and passengers in different kinds of crashes.

The small overlap situation happens when just the front corner of a car near the headlight hits something, so the force of the impact is not absorbed by the front bumper, engine and hood.

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Auto
1:06 pm
Tue August 6, 2013

Sales of electric vehicles climb higher and prices drop

California remains the best market for the Chevy Volt.
GM

GM announced today that the price of a Chevy Volt will drop by $5,000:

The 2014 model will start at $34,995...

If consumers include federal tax credits ranging from $0-$7,500 (depending on individual tax liability), pricing could start at $27,495.

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Auto
11:10 am
Mon August 5, 2013

Air museum hopes to save 'Rosie the Riveter's' factory

A real-life 'Rosie the Riveter' in 1943. She worked at Vultee-Nashville, Tennessee. The plane is an A-31 Vengeance dive bomber.
Alfred T. Palmer U.S. Government

The historic Michigan factory where the iconic Rosie the Riveter and thousands of other women built B-24 bombers during World War II could face the wrecking ball two months from now.

A modest nonprofit is trying to raise enough money to salvage some of the massive plant, which Ford sold to General Motors after the war. The Yankee Air Museum figures the factory is the perfect place to start anew, after a devastating fire destroyed its collections in 2004.

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Auto
11:09 am
Sat August 3, 2013

American Axle co-founder Richard Dauch dies at 71

Richard Dauch
Purdue Krannert School of Management

BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. (AP) - American Axle & Manufacturing co-founder and board chair Richard Dauch has died. He was 71.

The Oakland County medical examiner's office says Dauch died Friday of cancer at his Bloomfield Hills home.

A statement on the Detroit-based auto supplier's website reads: "Our thoughts and prayers are with Dick's family and friends."

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Auto
4:26 pm
Tue July 30, 2013

Group vying to save Ford's historic Highland Park buildings

Model Ts being unloaded from 2nd floor at Highland park
Ford Motor Company archives Ford

A preservation group has less than 60 days to raise enough money to save part of Henry Ford's historic Highland Park site.

The massive complex is where Ford built millions of Model T's on the first moving auto assembly line.

Ford sold the buildings to a group of investors in 1981.

Deborah Schutt is with the Woodward Avenue Action Association, which faces an October 1 deadline to complete its fundraising to buy the complex's Administration building and Executive Garage building.

"We actually have people that come from Europe and Asia that show up at the guard shack and want to come in and see Ford's Highland Park, because they've all read about it in their history books. They're amazed that they're unable to come in and access such a historic resource. People could be so proud of their heritage, we've gotta quit knocking it down!"

Schutt said the long-term hope is to use the site as part of an auto tourism center for southeast Michigan. 

Schutt envisions a bus tour, that could start from the Piquette factory, Ford's second factory, where Model Ts were laboriously hand-built, to the Highland Park facility, where they were assembled on a moving assembly line.  The final stop would be Ford's Rouge factory in Dearborn, which the company renovated, and where Ford 150s are currently assembled.  

Schutt said the project in no way is competition for Ford's Greenfield Village, which Henry Ford built to showcase the way of life that he knew as a boy - and a way of life that his inventions helped to destroy. 

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