Auto

Auto/Economy
12:48 pm
Thu August 4, 2011

President Obama expected to visit Holland next week

President Barack Obama
www.whitehouse.gov

President Obama is expected to visit Holland in one week from today. His visit coincides with the opening of a new Johnson Controls plant that will make batteries for electric cars.

Mr. Obama visited Holland last year to mark the ground-breaking of an LG Chem battery facility. Holland Mayor Kurt Dykstra says the president’s visit is a great opportunity for his community, and the state as a whole.

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Auto
6:39 am
Thu August 4, 2011

UAW President: Relationship with Detroit automakers has improved

Pobrecito33 Flickr

United Auto Workers President Bob King says the relationship between the union and Detroit car companies has dramatically improved.  That could help the two sides reach an agreement more quickly in ongoing contract talks.  And King hopes it will help him sell the value of his union to foreign auto companies in the U.S.

The UAW is a third the size if was in 1979 mostly due to the downsizing of the Detroit Three.  Future hiring by Detroit car companies will likely be modest.  So the UAW wants to unionize foreign auto companies in the U.S. 

Union President Bob King says most of the companies have agreed to meet with his group.  He says the union needs to overcome strong anti-union sentiment, and convince the companies that the new UAW wants to help them be profitable.

“Probably the biggest question in their mind is, is this for real, is this a passing fancy with the UAW or is this for real?”

Prolonged and contentious contract talks could throw a monkey wrench in the unions’ plans to try to unionize a foreign automaker.  But King and Detroit automakers say they’re negotiating in a spirit of cooperation.

Economy
1:01 am
Thu August 4, 2011

Detroit home sale prices may soon flirt with record lows

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Detroit home prices are on track to break their record lows this fall.   Detroit home prices are nearly 80% below where they were in 2005.   That’s actually a slight improvement.     Clear Capitol says Detroit home prices bottomed out in the first quarter of 2009, at the worst of the recession.

But Clear Capitol’s Alex Villacorta says sharp declines in home prices during the last three months and the weakening economy may push prices back down this fall. 

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Auto/Economy
11:36 am
Wed August 3, 2011

Changing Chicago, $1,000 at a time

Chicago Awesome Foundation chapter members Drew Bradford (left) and Matt Dorn (right) help the Little Free Library's Rich Brooks put the first library up.
Niala Boodhoo

The word “foundation” often makes people think of big money. But there’s a new group of philanthropists in Chicago who have smaller funds, but big hopes for changing communities.

They call themselves the “Awesome Foundation”. Except the foundation part isn’t exactly that serious, says Chicago chapter co-founder Chris McAvoy.

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Auto/Economy
5:49 pm
Tue August 2, 2011

New fuel efficiency requirements proposed by feds will be hard to meet, automakers say

New fuel efficiency requirements proposed by the federal government will be hard to meet, according to many people who work in the auto industry.

The Obama administration recently announced a tentative proposal to roughly double the miles per gallon average for vehicles by the year 2025. 

Charlie Klein with General Motors says most people don’t understand how hard it is to improve fuel efficiency, without sacrificing affordability.

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Auto/Economy
5:26 pm
Tue August 2, 2011

Could Americans be ready (finally) for diesel cars?

Some car companies -- like General Motors -- think Americans might be ready to buy more diesel cars, as gas prices rise.

GM will offer a diesel version of its Chevy Cruze in the U.S. next year.

Early diesels in the U.S. had performance problems, like engine knocking.

But Charlie Klein of GM says modern diesel engines are dramatically better than in the past.

"Those that have driven them, they are terrific to drive," says Klein.  "And of course they deliver terrific fuel efficiency."

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Auto Sales
3:54 pm
Tue August 2, 2011

GM, Ford, Chrysler all increase sales in July

General Motors headquarters, Detroit, MI
Spacing Magazine Flickr

Update:

GM sales rose almost 8% in July, while Ford sales rose 8.9% and Chrysler sales increased 20.1%.

From the Detroit Free Press:

The Detroit Three saw U.S. sales increase in July and gained market share, as a troubling economy and weeks of worries about the U.S. debt ceiling continued to hamper a recovery in auto sales.

Chrysler had its best July since 2007 to lead Detroit’s automakers with a 20.1% surge, off a 33% gain in sales to individual customers. General Motors’ U.S. sales rose 7.6% last month and Ford’s grew 8.9%. Japanese automakers continued to lose share to their American rivals as they recovered from the March earthquake and tsunami in their country.

GM forecast July industrywide sales of light cars and trucks were flat from the previous year and slightly better than June. Consumers stayed out of showrooms amid news of climbing unemployment and bitter debate over raising the U.S. debt ceiling to prevent the country from defaulting on its loans tonight. President Barack Obama signed legislation today to prevent that scenario after the Senate approved the bill.

*

Original post:

From the Associated Press:

General Motors says its U.S. sales rose nearly 8 percent last month, led by fuel-efficient vehicles such as the
Chevrolet Cruze car.

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Auto
4:02 pm
Mon August 1, 2011

Chrysler and Fiat cultures are merging well

A top Chrysler executive says Fiat and Chrysler have made good progress at merging their two cultures. 

The Italian car company was put in charge of the Detroit car company two years ago. 

This is Chrysler’s third attempt after failed mergers with German car company Daimler and an investment group, Cerberus Capital. 

Chrysler’s head of World Class Manufacturing Massimo Risi says it helps the companies have a lot in common, especially the ability to survive.

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Changing Gears
11:26 am
Fri July 29, 2011

Road Trip: Orrville, more than a company town (Part 5)

John Schmid vice president of Smith Dairy in Orrville, OH. The family adopted the business name Smith before World War I—a time when the German-sounding Schmid was not an asset.
Dan Bobkoff Changing Gears

Our Changing Gears team has been on the road this week traveling to some of our company towns in the Midwest.

Changing Gears is a Michigan Radio project looking at the economic transformation of the industrial Midwest.

Our final stop is Orrville, Ohio: A place that seems like a company town, but there’s long been a whole lot more going on in Orrville.

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Auto/Economy
10:54 am
Fri July 29, 2011

Luxury cars may not be as enjoyable as people think

Black Bentley
UggBoy UggGirl PHOTO//WORLD//TRAVEL Flickr

University of Michigan researchers suggest owning a luxury car, like a BMW or Lexus, is not as enjoyable as people think. Norbert Schwarz is with Michigan’s Ross School of Business.  Schwarz says most people appreciate a luxury car when they are driving for pleasure.

"A luxury car is indeed more pleasant than an economy car, but most of the time it really makes no difference whatsoever except for these very very rare episodes when you take your car for a fun drive and you really attend to your car, which is less than 2% of your driving."

Schwarz says consumers who are test driving a car should consider how often they will drive the car only for pleasure.  

-Traci Currie - Michigan Radio Newsroom

Economy
4:46 pm
Thu July 28, 2011

Cities, townships, counties brace for rough couple years

Members of the Michigan Municipal League gather for a Q & A session with Governor Rick Snyder on Thursday.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The next two or three years “are going to be rough” for local governments in Michigan. Governor Rick Snyder told a group of city managers and county executives he’s sensitive to that.

The main cause of budget problems for local governments is a declining tax base. Home values are down and there are fewer businesses since the recession. Townships, cities, and counties get most of their money from property taxes. 

Governor Snyder says he knows the tough times are not over for municipalities.

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Economy
2:16 pm
Thu July 28, 2011

Snyder says Michigan “reasonably prepared” in case of U.S. default

Governor Rick Snyder spoke to the Michigan Municipal League at The Heritage Museum and Cultural Center in St. Joseph Thursday morning.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Congress has until Tuesday to reach a deal on raising the debt ceiling to avoid default on some federal loans and other obligations.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder says a possible default has him concerned.

“One of the challenges is (the federal government) haven’t told us exactly what it’ll mean. So we’re prepared for a number of scenarios.”

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Auto/Economy
2:00 pm
Thu July 28, 2011

AP: Parts problem hurts Ford Focus sales

Ford Focus being assembled at the Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne. The Associated Press reports that a shortage of dashboards is slowing production.
Sam VarnHagen Ford Motor Co.

DETROIT (AP) - Two people familiar with the matter say Ford Motor Co. can't build as many hot-selling Focus cars as it wants because of equipment problems at a parts factory.

The people say machinery that makes a key dashboard part doesn't work all the time and has slowed production at the Focus factory near Detroit. The company has taken the unusual step of flying in
parts from Europe. But the people say Ford is still running short on dashboards.

The problem has forced dealers to put customers on waiting lists. The redesigned Focus was Ford's top-selling U.S. passenger car last month.

The people didn't want to be identified because they aren't authorized to speak about the matter. A Ford spokesman would not comment.

Detroit
11:11 am
Thu July 28, 2011

Detroit Works Project, Mayor Bing's Plan to improve the city

Nobody can dispute that Detroit doesn’t work very well anymore. There is vast poverty, unemployment, and blight. Plus a litany of other problems, most of which are well-known.

The question is, what do we do about them? What can anyone do about them? Within the last few years, the city has also been forced to face another unpleasant truth. There are too few people.

Too few, that is, for a city of Detroit’s physical size. You could tuck Manhattan and Boston within its borders and still have room left over. Once, Detroit was a bustling city of nearly two million people.

They weren’t packed together like sardines, but were spread out, largely in well-maintained single-family homes. That was sixty years ago, and pretty much everything is different now.

The census showed that there are barely seven hundred thousand people left. In some cases, one of two families remain on blocks otherwise filled with vacant or burned-down homes. There began to be talk about “shrinking” or “consolidating” the city.

People talked about ways to get people to move from the worst areas to more hopeful neighborhoods, to make it easier to provide city services. The mayor announced that his team would identify four to ten stable neighborhoods as part of a project he called “Detroit Works,” and then build up and further strengthen them.

This all made good, sound logical sense.

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Changing Gears
10:16 am
Thu July 28, 2011

Road Trip: Norwalk saves its company (Part 4)

Saving Norwalk Furniture means about 150 locals have jobs again.
Dan Bobkoff Changing Gears

When a company bears the name of its hometown, it can be hard to separate the two. Such is the case with Norwalk Furniture and the town of Norwalk in Northern Ohio. Sue Lesch is the town’s mayor.

“It really is our flagship company,” said Sue Lesch, Norwalk’s mayor. “It’s the company we’re proud of. We’re known for furniture all over the country.”

For more than a hundred years, Norwalk Furniture made custom-order sofas and chairs in its Ohio factory. For a long time, it was the biggest business in town, employing about 700 in this town of 17,000.

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Economy
6:53 am
Thu July 28, 2011

Rating agency moves state’s economic outlook from ‘stable’ to ‘positive’

In the midst of a heated debate in Washington D.C. over the U.S. debt limit and with the country facing a possible credit downgrade, Michigan’s economy is getting a pat on the back. Fitch Ratings has revised its outlook for Michigan bonds from ‘stable’ to ‘positive,’ the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

The New York ratings agency left the state's overall bond rating unchanged Wednesday at AA-, an investment-grade rating that's three steps below the top AAA rating.

Gov. Rick Snyder met with analysts at Fitch, Moody's and Standard and Poor's on June 13 to discuss the state's growing economy and how the 2011-12 budget eliminates ongoing deficits without one-time fixes.

Fitch took note of the budgeting changes. It says its positive outlook also reflects efforts to put away more in the state's rainy day fund and "grow reserve levels."

The state lost its top AAA bond rating from Standard and Poor's in 2003.

As the Detroit News reports, on Tuesday Governor Snyder told reporters that, "Lawmakers in Washington should look to Michigan 'as a good role model for success' as they try to resolve a battle over raising the national debt ceiling that is approaching a crisis."

Economy
1:01 am
Thu July 28, 2011

Michigan cities seeing foreclosure filings decline

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The number of foreclosure filings dropped significantly in cities across Michigan during the first six months of the year.   Daren Bloomquist, with Realty Trac, says this not necessarily good news.  

 “We’ve probably seen the peak of foreclosure activity in this cycle.  But it may take a while to really to clear the decks and get all the foreclosures that have built up over the last few years sold on to the market.”

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Economy
6:29 pm
Wed July 27, 2011

Whole Foods to open in Detroit in 2013

Fresh vegetables and fruit
Jennifer Guerra Michigan Radio

Whole Foods is coming to Detroit.

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Michigan History
5:48 pm
Wed July 27, 2011

A look back: UAW, Detroit auto workers and labor relations

UAW History
Screenshot from UAW website www.uaw.org

Once again Michigan Radio’s political analyst Jack Lessenberry unleashes his knowledge of Michigan history. This time we get a historical perspective about negotiations between the United Auto Workers and Detroit automakers.

Contract talks have already started between the UAW and General Motors, Chrysler and Ford. But these talks are a little different this time around.

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Economy
1:50 pm
Wed July 27, 2011

Delta profit falls, 2,000 taking buyouts

Delta Airlines is cutting back.
Andrey Belenko Flickr

Delta Air Lines says some 2,000 workers have taken voluntary buyouts. In a cost-cutting move in response to high fuel prices, it will scale back its flight schedule more than planned this year.

The high cost of jet fuel was the main reason Delta's second-quarter net income fell by 58 percent compared to a year ago. It earned $198 million, or 23 cents per share. Fuel costs were up 36 percent.

At the same time, revenue rose 12 percent as Delta raised fares to try to pay the increased fuel costs.

Delta would have earned 43 cents per share if not for one-time items including severance costs and reducing its facilities. On that basis, profit was below forecasts.

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