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5:00 pm
Mon July 29, 2013

New book gives behind-the-scenes look at big automakers

Bob Lutz has worked as an automotive executive for GM, Ford, Chrysler, and BMW.
Wikipedia

An interview with auto executive and author Bob Lutz.

While Detroit embarks on the beginning days of its bankruptcy, the city’s Big Three automakers are reemerging from their own financial crises. It was four years ago that GM and Chrysler filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

And as this month marks the 150th year after Henry Ford’s birth, we take a look at what it takes to run a big auto company, and the future of Michigan’s automakers.

Bob Lutz has held top positions at GM, Ford, Chrysler, and BMW. His most recent position was that of Vice Chairman of GM from 2001 to 2010.

His newest book gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the bosses Bob Lutz has worked for, some of the most legendary names in auto history. It's called Icons and Idiots, out from Portfolio/Penguin.

Bob Lutz joined us today to talk about his book.  

Listen to the full interview above.

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3:18 am
Mon July 29, 2013

July auto sales are expected to be very good

thecarconnection.com

Analysts are expecting a robust month for auto sales.

Jesse Toprak is an analyst with TrueCar.com.  He says July sales were good across all categories.

“But two extreme segments stand out, we see very high demand for small cars and small SUVS, and a very healthy demand for large pickup trucks,” says Toprak.

Toprak says the increase in pickup sales is being driven by small business owners, and an uptick in home renovations.

Auto
12:11 am
Mon July 29, 2013

Henry Ford at 150

Henry Ford with Model T in Buffalo, NY, 1921
Image from the Collections of The Henry Ford

Ford Motor Company celebrates the 150th anniversary of the birth of Henry Ford this week.

Bill Ford, Jr. is Henry Ford's great-grandson, and Executive Chairman of the company

Ford says the founder would have been pleased that his company is still a family business, 150 years later.

“I know Henry Ford would have been incredibly proud of the way his grandchildren led the company through the most difficult times,” says Ford

Ford Motor Company took out a $24 billion loan in 2006, using its trademark blue oval as part of the collateral.

Auto
6:30 pm
Thu July 25, 2013

GM makes $1.2 billion quarterly profit - same as Ford

General Motors logo in front of General Motors car
General Motors

General Motors is number two in global auto sales so far this year, just behind Toyota, and just in front of Volkswagon.

So why didn't GM make more money than its Dearborn rival, Ford Motor Company, in the second quarter?

Both companies made $1.2 billion, but Ford made that money based on a lower volume of sales.

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11:30 am
Wed July 24, 2013

Ford Motor Company makes $1.2 billion in second quarter

Campaign for new 2013 Ford Shelby GT500
Ford Motor Company's official website

Have you looked at a Ford financial report lately?

Ford Motor Company posted its 16th consecutive quarter of profitability on Wednesday.  The company made $1.2 billion dollars, driven by strong results in North America, combined with improved results in every other region of the world.

Ford is still losing money in Europe, as expected, due to the region's protracted recession.  But even in Europe, there is some good news.

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4:46 pm
Tue July 23, 2013

Ford, Toyota end collaboration on hybrid trucks

One of Ford's trucks, which has yet to be available as a hybrid model.
Ford

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) - Ford and Toyota are ending joint research into hybrid systems for trucks and SUVs. The companies said Tuesday that they will each develop the systems independently.

Ford and Toyota agreed to the partnership two years ago after the CEOs of both companies met by chance in an airport. Engineers talked frequently and paid visits to each other's labs.

But Ford product development chief Raj Nair said both companies need to focus on finishing development and putting the systems into vehicles. Ford wants to offer hybrid trucks and SUVs by the end of the decade.

There is currently no full gas-electric hybrid system on the market for rear-wheel-drive vehicles like trucks. The hybrid systems in Ford and Toyota cars are made for front-wheel-drive vehicles and don't have enough power for trucks. 

Ford Motor Company
11:52 am
Tue July 23, 2013

Ford turns to social media to fill white collar jobs

New Ford jobs initiative
Ford Motor Company

Earlier this year, Ford Motor Company announced it would hire 3,000 new white collar employees in 2013 to meet growing demand for its products, up from the originally planned 2,200.

The company has hired 1,500 and now, at the halfway point, Ford is starting a social media campaign to find the remaining workers. Of the 3,000 new jobs, 2,400 will be technical professionals who will work in product development, manufacturing, quality, purchasing and information technology. 

Auto
3:56 pm
Thu July 18, 2013

A close-up look at a Willow Run WWII bomber in flight

The "Yankee Lady" moments before it took off at the Willow Run Airport.
Alana Holland Michigan Radio

The old GM Willow Run assembly plant, the same plant where Rosie the Riveter once worked, is in danger of being demolished. That is, unless the Yankee Air Museum can raise $4.5 million dollars in the next 15 days, as Tracy Samilton reported.

We also interviewed Dennis Norton, founder of the Yankee Air Museum, and Ray Hunter, the current Chair of the Museum, about their efforts to save the plant on Stateside.

The museum hopes to use the old plant to house its collection of exhibits and historic planes.

One of these planes is the B-17G "Yankee Lady," a bomber developed for the United States Air Force during World War II. The Yankee Lady is one of the few remaining models of the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bombers that remain flyable today.

Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton and Alana Holland got to experience first hand this historic plane in action. View the slideshow above for a look at the Yankee Lady in flight.

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11:36 am
Thu July 18, 2013

Air Museum hopes to save part of historic plant where Rosie the Riveter worked

The Yankee Lady is a WWII-era B-17G bomber.
Alana Holland Michigan Radio

With the touch of a button, a massive two-story-tall bay door opens slowly, as an insistent alarm sounds, to reveal part of the former Willow Run bomber plant near Ypsilanti, Michigan. A heavy waft of must and dampness rushes out from the dark interior.

Once, scores of B-24 bombers exited these bay doors, on their way to aid the American war effort. 

"It works better than my garage door back home," says Grant Trigger with a grin, as the more than 60-year-old doors lift.

Trigger is the Michigan Cleanup Manager for RACER Trust, which handles the vacant GM Willow Run Assembly Plant, along with scores of other properties abandoned by the automaker as part of its bankruptcy reorganization in 2009. 

The factory began its life as a Ford Motor Company World War II factory, famous for being the place where Rosie the Riveter worked. GM later bought the plant and converted it to make automobiles.

But soon it will be demolished, unless a modest museum can raise more than $4.5 million in the next 15 days.

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5:43 pm
Tue July 16, 2013

Detroit's Jefferson North auto plant 'defies conventional wisdom'

The big white complex is Jefferson North
Credit Google Maps

Chrysler's Jefferson North auto plant is one of the most successful in the world, and one of the last to remain in Detroit. You probably won't envy its zip code though, if you zoom in and take a look at the surrounding neighborhoods, much of the city blocks are empty and overgrown.

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12:42 pm
Mon July 15, 2013

Chrysler celebrates two big investments in the future

Sterling Heights Assembly line worker
Chrysler

When Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne was given control of Chrysler in 2009, it wasn't just the Detroit automaker's cars that needed to be improved. Many of Chrysler's factories were sorely in need of upgrades, too.

This week, Chrysler will give tours to media to show off an $850 million renovation of the Sterling Heights Assembly plant, which includes a built-from-the-ground-up new paint shop.

On Thursday, Chrysler will offer media a chance to see the upgraded Toledo Assembly plant, where the new Jeep Cherokee is being built.

Auto
1:17 pm
Thu July 11, 2013

Auto industry execs optimistic but still not hiring

Ford executives announce Russian expansion
Ford Motor Company

Consumers aren't the only folks to get scared and pull tight the purse strings during (and after) deep recessions.

Auto industry executives do it, too.

A survey by EY (formerly Ernst and Young) found that despite a dramatic increase in optimism about the economy, many auto industry executives say they're delaying big investments in acquisitions, equipment, and jobs.

52% in the most recent EY survey said the economy is improving - up from 22% just six months ago.

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3:56 pm
Tue July 9, 2013

Infographic gives us a short history of the U.S. auto industry

Timeline of the U.S. auto industry.
Credit bizbrain.org

We here at Michigan Radio follow the ups and downs of the U.S. auto industry.

Our auto reporter, Tracy Samilton, stays on top of the recalls, the TARP money, and the competition from overseas.

But there's nothing like stepping back for a little perspective.

This infographic by BizBrain.org gives us a snapshot of the U.S. auto industry over the last 90 years.

Let us know if you think anything major is missing from this timeline.

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5:32 pm
Tue July 2, 2013

GM and Honda to co-develop hydrogen fuel cell powertrain

GM, Honda To Co-Develop Next-Gen Fuel Cell Technologies
media.gm.com staff

General Motors and Honda are joining together to develop cars that run on hydrogen.

The two companies are leaders in fuel cell technology, which is still many years away from being viable --and affordable.

GM and Honda have had some joint projects before, although combining fuel cell car programs is the most ambitious.

The two companies together have only about 200 of the cars on the road, which generate electricity in a hydrogen fuel cell.

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5:33 pm
Wed June 19, 2013

General Motors vehicles have fewest problems in first 90 days

This year's vehicle Initial Quality Survey by the business tracking firm J.D Power and Associates is a bit of a stunner.

The survey asks people how many problems they had with their car in the first 90 days of ownership.

The top auto company was GM. 

The company's GMC brand was second only to Porsche.  That's the first time GMC has ranked anywhere near that high in the history of the survey.   Chevy was fifth, also a dramatic rise in the rankings.

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4:01 pm
Tue June 18, 2013

Solar car team at UM reveals its new car called 'Generation'

2013 Solar Car "Generation" Unveiling at the Renaissance Center in Detroit, MI on June 18, 2013
Photo: Joseph Xu, Michigan Engineering Communications & Marketing www.engin.umich.edu

The Solar Car team at the University of Michigan unveiled its newest car today.

The car is called “Generation” and it will represent the U of M team in The World Solar Challenge this fall.

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3:49 pm
Tue June 18, 2013

Google and Ford have cars driven by robots, but will cars think for themselves someday?

Ford's new transit van being tested using robotic driving components.
Ford YouTube

Ford Motor Company recently started testing its cars with the help of robots.

The company does robotic testing on vehicles for durability at the Michigan Proving Grounds in Romeo, according to a recent story from MLive.

Michael Wayland reported that Ford has used robots to test drive eight of its vehicles, including several truck models as well as the Fiesta.

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Auto
3:05 pm
Tue June 18, 2013

Chrysler officials change their minds, will go forward with Jeep recall

2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee, one of the model years recalled.
Chrysler

It was called a "rare and risky" move to refuse a recall after the government requested it, but it seemed Chrysler was poised to do just that today.

Now, the automaker says executives have "resolved their differences" with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and will voluntarily recall the vehicles in question.

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Auto
10:06 am
Tue June 18, 2013

Chrysler expected to formally refuse Jeep recall today

Chrysler

DETROIT (AP) - Chrysler is expected to file papers Tuesday explaining its refusal to recall 2.7 million older Jeep SUVs.

The U.S. government asked Chrysler earlier this month to recall Grand Cherokees and Libertys because the position of the fuel tank leaves it susceptible to rupture in a rear-end crash. The ruptured tank can spill gasoline, which can ignite if an ignition source is present.

The agency says 51 people have been killed in accidents involving the older Jeeps.

But on June 4, Chrysler publicly rejected the recall, saying the Jeeps are safe and the government is creating a new standard for gas tank strength. Tuesday is the deadline for Chrysler to file its formal response to the government's request.

Auto
1:53 pm
Fri June 14, 2013

Chrysler to change pension system for 8,000 salaried workers

Chrysler is freezing contributions to its U.S. defined benefit pension plans for salaried employees, and will switch to a defined contribution plan instead.

Chrysler will determine the amount it will contribute - and that amount is not being publicly disclosed - and employees will choose from a number of investment strategies, such as stocks and bonds, annuities, etc.

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