Auto

People buy more fuel-efficient cars
10:11 am
Fri July 15, 2011

Emissions from new cars drop since 2007

user: ifmuth flickr.com

Emissions from new vehicles dropped 12% between 2007 and this year, according to a new index by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. 

But it’s unclear if that trend will continue in the future.

For decades, there was little increase in the fuel efficiency of the new cars people bought. 

That changed starting in 2007.  Consumers turned to more fuel-efficient cars and they drove fewer miles, lowering overall emissions. 

But it probably wasn’t environmental concerns that caused the shift. 

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Economy
4:46 pm
Thu July 14, 2011

Metro Detroit ranks No. 9 in millionaires

jdurham MorgueFile

 Never mind the recession or the near collapse of the auto industry just a couple of years ago.

A report in the Wall Street Journal finds that Detroit and its suburbs have plenty of people whose bank accounts are very healthy.

Michigan Economic Development Corporation spokesman Joe Serwach says Michigan is holding its own.

“Detroit came in at No. 9, ahead of San Jose, which surprised me," Serwach says. "I would have thought Silicon Valley would have had more. But we had 92,100 millionaires.”

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Auto/Economy
4:39 pm
Thu July 14, 2011

Borders faces liquidation after lead bid falls through

Borders bankruptcy auction set for July 19
Jennifer Guerra Michigan Radio

It’s been a busy 24 hours for Ann Arbor-based Borders: The bankrupt bookstore chain has gone from having a potential buyer to talk of liquidation.

The auction to sell Borders is still scheduled for Tuesday, July 19th.  But the lead bidder, known as a "stalking horse," has pulled out. That bidder was Najafi, a private equity from Arizona a firm.

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Economy
4:02 pm
Thu July 14, 2011

Bill would ban employers from discriminating against unemployed applicants

A proposed law would forbid employers from accepting applications only from people who are already employed.
earl53 Morguefile

You have to have a job in order to get a job at some companies in America -- and it’s not against the law for them to say that right in their employment ad.

State Rep. Jim Ananich, D-Flint, has proposed a bill that would forbid discrimination against the unemployed.

“I just assumed that was something that wouldn’t be held against somebody," Ananich says. "Usually when you’re applying for a job, it’s because you don’t have one. So to tell someone that they can’t even be an applicant just doesn’t seem fair.”

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Economy
1:01 am
Thu July 14, 2011

Home foreclosure filings down (and that's a problem?)

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The number of home foreclosures tumbled in Michigan during the first half of the year. One analyst says that’s bad news.  

Realty Trac reports that home foreclosure filings dropped by about 20 percent during the first six months of 2011. One in 74 homes in Michigan received a foreclosure notice between January and June. 

Rick Sharga is with Realty Trac. He says continuing questions about problems with foreclosure paperwork has slowed down the number of properties being repossessed by banks. Federal and state regulators are expected to announce a deal soon clearing major lenders from intentional wrongdoing involving faulty paperwork that mistakenly evicted people current on their mortgages. 

Sharga says the delay in foreclosure filings has slowed the recovery in Michigan’s real estate market. 

 “What over 60% of buyers are looking for right now are bank owned properties or foreclosure properties.   So it might be a little of a ‘Catch-22’ here…where we need a higher inventory of these distressed properties to get the buyers off the sidelines.”  

Sharga says it may take until 2015 to clear the huge backlog of homes in the foreclosure process which will continue to be a drag on the home sale market.

UAW weighs in on CAFE
1:36 pm
Wed July 13, 2011

Closed meeting at Solidarity House could result in new CAFE rules

The United Auto Workers is hosting an important, unpublicized meeting about CAFE standards today at Solidarity House in Detroit.  

CAFE governs car fuel efficiency in the U.S.

The meeting could help the government decide how fuel efficient cars must be by the year 2025. 

The UAW, Detroit car companies, the federal government, and environmental groups will likely try to reach a compromise on future CAFE requirements, somewhere between a 47 and 62 miles per gallon average.    

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Economy
12:36 pm
Wed July 13, 2011

Russian steelmaker gets US loan for Michigan plant

Making steel at the Severstal North America plant in Dearborn.
Severstal North America

DETROIT (AP) - The U.S. Energy Department says it has loaned $730 million to the North American arm of one of Russia's largest steel companies to modernize its Detroit-area plant.

The government and Severstal North America on Wednesday officially announced plans to upgrade and expand facilities in Dearborn that make steel for the auto industry. They say the project will employ around 2,500 construction workers and create 260 factory jobs.

The money comes from a $25 billion low-interest loan program created in 2007 to help car companies retool older factories to build green cars.

Severstal bought the Dearborn factory in 2004.

Auto/Economy
11:46 am
Wed July 13, 2011

Developing electric vehicle charging stations (and where you can find them now)

The location of electric charging stations online now in Michigan.
Google Maps and the U.S. Department of Energy

One group in west Michigan wants to encourage more people to buy electric cars by building more charging stations.

From the Grand Rapids Press:

The West Michigan Strategic Alliance is proposing the development of at least 4,000 charging stations across eight counties. Alliance President Greg Northrup is seeking approval from county boards in Kent, Ottawa and Muskegon for the project, which would be financed through the sale of bonds and be repaid over a 10-year period.

“We’ve got $3 billion invested in battery projects in West Michigan,” Northrup said. “Why shouldn’t we have the infrastructure to go with it?”

So those are 4,000 proposed electric charging stations.

How can you find charging stations that are online now?

Google and the U.S. Department of Energy to the rescue. You can enter your address on the DOE's website to find alternative fueling stations near you.

Fast Company says "eventually, this Google/DOE partnership will serve as the primary EV charging station data source for GPS and mapping systems (like the one that may be in your car already)."

Economy
4:01 pm
Sat July 9, 2011

Ethanol subsidies & Michigan corn growers

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Michigan corn farmers may be losing a ‘safety net’.   The Congress is expected to vote soon on ending ethanol subsidies.    The move is expected to save the federal government $1.3 billion this year. 

Ethanol in the United States is mainly produced using corn.  Michigan farmers increased their corn production in recent years as federal mandates required ethanol in gasoline.  

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Economy
1:01 am
Fri July 8, 2011

Detroit home prices plummeted in first half of 2011

But at what price?
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Detroit home prices posted sharp declines during the first 6 months of 2011, according to a new report.  And the decline is expected to continue during the next 6 months.  Clear Capital reports Detroit’s home sale prices were down 19.8% during the first half of the year compared to the first six months of 2010. 

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Economy
11:15 am
Thu July 7, 2011

Pfizer may sell animal health, nutrition units

NEW YORK (AP) Pfizer says it may sell its animal health and nutrition business in the next two years so it can focus on expanding its low-cost pharmaceuticals unit.

Pfizer says it will also consider transactions including spinoffs and may pursue different strategies for each business. It said any transactions could take one to two years to complete.

The businesses brought Pfizer Inc. $5.5 billion in revenue in 2010, about 8 percent of its total. The Animal Health unit makes vaccines, medicines, diagnostics and other items to prevent and treat diseases in livestock and pets, and the nutrition unit makes infant and pediatric products.

The New York drugmaker say it will focus on its established products business, which makes drugs that are off-patent or are losing patent protection.

Changing Gears
10:57 am
Thu July 7, 2011

Canadian oil is boosting midwest economy, but at what cost?

Marathon is upgrading its Detroit refinery to process more heavy crude from the Canadian oil sands.
Adee Braun Changing Gears

Green energy is often said to be the future of the Midwest economy. But old fashioned fossil fuels could be having a bigger effect on the region’s jobs and corporate bottom lines.

This is not conventional oil, though.

It’s a thick, tar-like crude from the oil sands in Alberta, Canada.

It’s sent here by pipelines, many which cross our rivers and the Great Lakes, and that has some worrying about a bigger risk to the region.

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Auto/Economy
11:43 pm
Wed July 6, 2011

Oakland County Exec lays out three-year budget

Brooks Patterson
Oakland County

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson says the county’s budget is balanced for the next three years.

 Patterson laid out his recommendations for a triennial budget to Oakland County Commissioners Wednesday night.

 Patterson says that long-term planning has been key to maintaining the county’s AAA bond rating, even as property tax revenues plummet.

 Patterson says the county has also managed to avoid cutting employee salaries and mass layoffs.

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Labor
5:35 pm
Wed July 6, 2011

Farmers Insurance employees in Grand Rapids to receive back wages after investigation

The U.S. Labor Department found "significant and systemic violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act's overtime and record-keeping provisions" at Farmers Insurance offices around the country - including offices in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Officials at the U.S. Labor Department say "Farmers Insurance Inc. has agreed to pay $1,520,705 in overtime back wages to 3,459 employees."

From the Department of Labor press release:

Through interviews with employees and a review of the company's timekeeping and payroll systems, investigators found that the company did not account for time employees spent performing pre-shift work activities. Employees routinely performed an average of 30 minutes of unrecorded and uncompensated work — such as turning on work stations, logging into the company phone system and initiating certain software applications necessary to begin their call center duties — per week.

Because employees' pre-shift work times were excluded from official time and payroll records, they were not paid for all hours and are owed compensation at time and one-half their regular rates for hours that exceeded 40 per week.

The agreement affects call center employees who worked between Jan. 1, 2009, and May 10, 2010, at Farmers' "HelpPoint" facility in Grand Rapids.

It also affects employees who worked between Jan. 1, 2009, and Feb. 1, 2010, at a Farmers' "ServicePoint" facility in Grand Rapids.

Changing Gears
1:52 pm
Wed July 6, 2011

Who Cares About Great Lakes Dredging? These Guys. (slideshow)

Engineer Tom O'Bryan says dredges like this one are basically big vacuums, chewing up sand.
Kate Davidson Changing Gears

We brought the story of the Great Lakes dredging backlog to your radio and computer screen.

But sometimes, you need more of a visual. (Even more than my 18 million ovens post.)

So click through to my slideshow to meet some of the people affected by sediment buildup in regional shipping channels.

Auto/Economy
1:07 pm
Wed July 6, 2011

Youngstown mayor will lead President's office for auto communities

Jay Williams
(courtesy of the city of Youngstown, Ohio)

The mayor of Youngstown, Ohio  is the new head of a government office that helps communities hurt by cutbacks in the auto industry.  Mayor Jay Williams starts as head the Office of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers in August.  

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Auto/Economy
11:27 am
Wed July 6, 2011

Dow Chemical teams up to make battery electrolytes

Midland, Mich. (AP) - Dow Chemical Co. and Japanese chemical company Ube Industries Ltd. said Wednesday they've agreed to form a joint venture to manufacture electrolytes for lithium-ion batteries
which are increasingly being used in cars among other things.

The 50-50 joint venture, named Advanced Electrolyte Technologies LLC, is expected to be finalized later this year pending regulatory approval.

Dow said the joint venture will allow it to expand its alternative energy offerings.

"The growing demand for alternative energy production and energy storage systems places technologies such as advanced batteries for electric/hybrid vehicles and power generation at the very center of the global mega-trends," said Heinz Haller, Dow executive vice president and chief commercial officer.

The joint venture's first manufacturing facility is expected to be built at Dow's home base in Midland, Mich. for startup next year.

Economy
10:43 am
Wed July 6, 2011

When an inch means a ton (or 267 tons, to be precise)

Chart courtesy of the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force

Who knew an inch could make such a difference?

In our piece this week on the Great Lakes dredging backlog, we introduced you to Mark Barker, president of The Interlake Steamship Company.  I called him “a man who measures revenue with a ruler.”

To see what that really means, check out the nifty chart from the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force (above).

It shows how much cargo a ship can hold for every inch of water it occupies. For the biggest vessels – the “thousand- footers” – one inch of draft corresponds to 267 tons of cargo. That’s why every bit of clearance matters to shippers trying to get the most bang from every trip.

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Auto/Economy
5:39 pm
Tue July 5, 2011

Car leasing makes comeback

The availability of car leases practically disappeared during the recession.

But LeaseTrader.com says customer credit is recovering - and so is car leasing. 

John Sternal is Vice President of Marketing Communications for LeaseTrader.com.  He says more than 20 percent of new vehicles are now leased, including many small cars.

He says car leasing is more popular than ever before, because of a shifting attitude toward car ownership.

"Gone are the days when the majority of people will buy a car and hold onto it for fifteen years," says Sternal.

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Ford sued over Sync
5:33 pm
Tue July 5, 2011

Company sues Ford Motor, alleges Sync patent infringement

A technology company has sued Ford Motor Company over patent infringements related to some of Ford’s hottest new products, including Sync.

The lawsuit says Eagle Harbor Holdings met with Ford starting in 2000 to discuss using Eagle Harbor’s voice command software and other patented technology. 

Eagle Harbor's General Counsel, Jeff Harmes, says Ford’s hands-free phone system, Sync, uses some of that technology.   But he says Ford broke off talks with Eagle Harbor in 2008.    

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