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Economy
4:07 pm
Mon August 8, 2011

Consumers Energy seeking rate hike

Consumers Energy customers may see their monthly electric bills increase by the end of the year.  The Jackson-based utility wants to increase the average customer’s bill by more than seven dollars a month.  Jeff Holyfield  is a Consumers Energy spokesman. 

“The increase we have requested in this rate case primarily reflects the major investments…nearly a billion dollars that  Consumers Energy is making to maintain and improve service to its 1.8 million electric customers and to improve the environment.”   

Auto/Economy
3:02 pm
Mon August 8, 2011

Personal finance: When friends, family and finances mix

Should you lend money to friends and family?
user penywise morguefile

The current credit crunch has made it harder for people to get loans from a bank. Gone are the days when you could walk into your local bank branch, flash your credit score and walk out with a loan. So many are turning to their friends and family for help...but is that a good idea?

To lend, or not to lend

When Pete and Michelle Baker wanted to buy a new house, they needed money for a down payment. Their down payment was tied up in their old house, which they hadn't sold yet.

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Economy
1:38 pm
Mon August 8, 2011

President Obama will make a statement on the downgrading of US credit

user: Beverly & Pack flicker.com

The White House has announced President Obama will make a statement shortly. We expect the president to address the downgrading of US credit. Click the "listen live" button above, to stream special coverage from NPR. 

MIS tests connected vehicles
10:32 am
Mon August 8, 2011

MIS to help test connected vehicle technology

About 100 people will “start their engines,” at the Michigan International Speedway this week. But it won’t be for a race. The MIS is lending its track to the U.S. Department of Transportation to test vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems.

Connected vehicle technology allows cars to communicate with other cars and the road.

Devices installed in a car warn a driver that a crash is imminent or that they’re about to run a red light.

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Economy
4:01 pm
Sun August 7, 2011

National Farmers Market Week

This was taken at the Allendale Farmers Market summer 2008. The Allendale Farmer's market is open for business Tuesdays and Fridays from 11 am - 4 pm. This is only during the summer which is from about the 2nd week of June to the last Friday in October.
user tami.vroma Flickr

This is national farmers market week.   The number of farmers markets in Michigan has grown tremendously during the past decade, from 90 in 2001 to more than 250 today. 

Dru Montri is the director of the Michigan Farmers Market Association.   She says farmers markets have grown to meet consumer demand. 

Auto/Economy
3:22 pm
Fri August 5, 2011

West Michigan groups teaming up to attract businesses, jobs

A former GM stamping plant in Wyoming would be a good candidate for the special incentives. US-131 and a railway line run right next to the property.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Two economic development groups, one from Grand Rapids and another in Muskegon are asking the state of Michigan to approve a regional economic development corporation. It could provide marketing and tax incentives for a narrow purpose; to attract businesses that need property with two or more modes of transportation.

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Auto/Economy
2:59 pm
Fri August 5, 2011

Honda recalling 1.5 million vehicles in U.S.

Wikimedia Commons

Honda is recalling about 1.5 million vehicles in the U. S. to update the software on the automatic transmission to decrease the possibility of transmission damage.

The recall affects certain 2005-2010 4-cylinder Accord,2007-2010 CR-V and 2005-2008 Element vehicles.

The company said Friday that without the change, the transmission's secondary shaft bearing can be damaged when the car is shifted too quickly. Honda said that can happen when a driver tries to get the vehicle dislodged from mud or snow.

Auto/Economy
10:40 am
Fri August 5, 2011

Technology's Role in New Fuel Efficiency Standards

Last week, when the government announced the new fuel efficiency standards for 2025, I heard a number of Detroit auto buffs snort that they were unrealistic, utopian, and impossible.

“There’s no way they can get a corporate fuel economy average of fifty-four miles a gallon, no way,” one man told me.

Well, my technical knowledge of cars is limited to knowing where to find the owner’s manual when one of those warning lights comes on. But I do know something about the history of technology, and the general pattern is this:

If the experts say something is going to happen in five years, that usually means it is happening somewhere, right now, and will be widespread within a year and totally triumphant in eighteen months.

If they say that something is technically impossible, that means that the first practical application may not appear for a year or so. There are exceptions, of course.  But just consider this:

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UAW negotiations
12:02 am
Fri August 5, 2011

GM may ask for (and get) pay-for-performance clause in UAW contract

GM CEO Dan Akerson and UAW President Bob King shake hands at opening of 2011 contract talks
General Motors

A top GM executive said Thursday that the automaker wants to peg United Auto workers' pay to their job performance. Workers who turn out quality vehicles would benefit financially.

"We want to pay for the performance," GM North American President Mark Reuss told reporters at an industry conference.   “All of those things that I get measured on, I want everybody else measured on, too.”

That would be a big change at GM, where the current UAW contract expires Sept. 14.

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Auto/Economy
5:59 pm
Thu August 4, 2011

National homeowner's assistance expo in Detroit

The nation’s largest home mortgage counseling agency is in Detroit for a five-day stop.

The Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America will be at Cobo Center through Monday as part of its “Save the Dream” tour.

NACA offers homeowners with unaffordable mortgages a chance to modify their mortgage terms directly with lenders.

NACA communications director Darren Duarte says the organization is able to “hold banks accountable” through binding contracts.

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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

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