Auto

Economy
3:59 pm
Mon May 30, 2011

Borders prepares for important bankruptcy court date this week

Borders bookstore, Ann Arbor, Michigan
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Attorneys for Borders will be back in court this week  asking a judge to give the troubled Ann Arbor-based book store chain more time to exit bankruptcy protection.  When Borders filed for bankruptcy protection in February, the hope was the bookstore chain would be able to quickly turn itself around.   That apparently isn’t happening. 

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Economy
3:01 pm
Mon May 30, 2011

Keeping Michigan on track

A freight train rumbles through downtown Jackson, Michigan
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The future of Michigan’s passenger and freight rail services is the subject of a series of public hearings next month. Michigan has thousands of miles of rail lines. Much of it is owned by freight haulers. But the state has some input about the future of those rail lines.

The Michigan Department of Transportation is holding a series of six public hearings in June from Grand Rapids and Battle Creek to Detroit and Flint. 

Larry Karnes is with the Michigan Department of Transportation. He says they want the public’s input on what the future of Michigan’s rail service should look like.

 “It will include a look at some of the issues….and challenges facing the rail system…and needs….and then come up with some strategies for addressing those needs…in the future.”  

High speed rail will play some role in Michigan’s future rail planning. The federal government has committed about $400 million toward high speed projects in Michigan.

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Economy
3:01 pm
Sat May 28, 2011

Free gas giveaway in Battle Creek Sunday

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Sunday afternoon in Battle Creek a religious group plans to help about 20 poor families gas up their cars and trucks.  The group,  Free Gas USA, is providing 50 dollars-worth of gasoline to pre-selected families. 

Reverend William Stein founded Free Gas USA in 2008.    He says having some form of transportation is essential for struggling families. 

U.S. Treasury to sell Chrysler stock
4:49 pm
Fri May 27, 2011

Chrysler to be free of government ownership before General Motors

Fiat says it will buy the U.S. Treasury’s 6% stake in Chrysler.   

The announcement means Chrysler will be free of government influence long before General Motors will be. 

Fiat and the U.S. Treasury will negotiate the price over the next ten business days.   Fiat will own 52% of Chrysler once the deal goes through.     

Sheldon Stone is a restructuring expert with Amherst Partners.  He says the negotiations should go smoothly, since the federal government is highly motivated to get out of the car business.

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Economy
12:01 pm
Fri May 27, 2011

Ready....Set.....SUMMER

A view of Front Street, Traverse City, Michigan
(flickr farlane)

More than a million Michiganders are expected to spend part of the Memorial Day holiday weekend travelling to popular tourism destinations.  But they are expected to watch their spending too.  

A AAA Michigan survey found Michiganders plan to spend about 14% less on things like food and other amenities during their Memorial Day holiday travels this year.  The main reason - 4 dollar a gallon gasoline.

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Economy
1:01 am
Thu May 26, 2011

Foreclosed homes weighing down Michigan real estate market

Foreclosed homes continued to drag down Michigan home sale prices in the first quarter of the year.  Realty Trac reports nearly 32% of  homes sold in Michigan in the first three months of 2011 were repossessed homes.   

The average price for a foreclosed home was just a little more than $70 thousand.   The price is about a third less than similar homes on the market.  

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Auto/Economy
4:02 pm
Wed May 25, 2011

Congressman Peters invites McCain to see auto recovery himself

In 2009 McCain did not support the auto bailout.
User: Wigwam Jones Flickr

Now that Chrysler paid off its debt six years ahead of schedule, Michigan congressman Gary Peters is inviting Senator John McCain to see the automotive industry recovery for himself. In 2009 McCain said he’d like to meet anyone who believed Chrysler would survive.

Peters says he wants McCain to see the progress Chrysler has made in two years.

Auto/Economy
12:36 pm
Wed May 25, 2011

Were the auto bailouts worth it? (poll)

The 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee has won awards and is one of the vehicles contributing to Chrysler's resurgence. The company announced that it paid off it's TARP loans yesterday. Today, a public radio program is asking whether the bailouts were worth it.
Steve Carmody

It's your turn to chime in on the auto bailouts - online or on-air.

Today, in the second hour of the public radio call-in program Talk of the Nation, host Neal Conan will ask the question "was the auto industry bail out worth it?"

It will air on Michigan Radio today at 3 p.m.

Here's how the show's producers phrase the question:

When taxpayers bailed out GM and Chrysler, many complained it was waste of money, and not the right role of government. Now, Chrysler pays off the last of its $10 billion loan with interest. After GM paid down billions that it borrowed from the US treasury. The auto industry bail out-- was it worth it? Next Talk of the Nation from NPR News.

You can call the program at (800) 989-8255 - and here's the inside scoop on how best to get on the air. You can also send the show's producers comments or questions online.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett reported that U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner recently said the the government will most likely lose money on its investment in the domestic auto industry, but making money on the investments was never the main goal - Geithner said they had two objectives:

"One is to get these companies back in private hands as quickly as we can, it makes no sense for the government to be in there a day longer than is necessary, but we also want to recover as much of the taxpayers’ money as possible."

So what do you think? Were the bailouts worth it?

Economy
10:51 am
Wed May 25, 2011

Snyder signs legislation backing up plan to pay Ecorse's debt with bonds

As Micawber said in the Charles Dickens novel David Copperfield:

"Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery."

The city of Ecorse ran into misery when it spent more than it was taking in.

An emergency manager appointed to oversee Ecorse's finances in late 2009 found the city was overspending. To make up for the overspending the city spent $2.4 million in revenues collected from the Ecorse Public Schools, and $4.2 million collected on behalf of Wayne County.

In 2010, a judge told the city that the money had to be repaid - a prospect that would have forced the city to raise taxes significantly and "devastated the local economy," according to Governor Snyder's office.

Now, Governor Snyder has signed legislation which supports the city in its plan to sell bonds to pay off the debt overtime.

In a press release, the Governor said:

“Ecorse didn’t get into financial trouble overnight.  Trying to undo years of mismanagement in one fell swoop would create an overwhelming burden on city residents and businesses that are already struggling,” Snyder said.  “The goal is to get Ecorse back into financial health in a responsible way.”

The Governor's office said the city could have issued bonds without state approval, but the new legislation "gives greater assurance of repayment to those who will purchase Ecorse’s bond debt."

Auto/Economy
10:14 am
Wed May 25, 2011

General Motors to add 2,500 jobs at Detroit-area factory

General Motors' headquarters in downtown Detroit. GM's North American president, Mark Reuss says the company "is dedicated to helping rebuild this city."
user paul (dex) Flickr

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - General Motors Co. will add 2,500 jobs at a Detroit-area factory that now makes electric cars, investing $69 million so the plant can make two new Chevrolet sedans.

The factory, which straddles the border between Detroit and the small enclave of Hamtramck, now makes the Chevrolet Volt and its European counterpart, the Opel Ampera.

But GM announced on Wednesday that it will upgrade the factory so that it can run around the clock making the new Malibu midsize car and a revamped version of the aging Impala large sedan.

About 1,200 of the jobs will be new hires, since GM still has to recall about 1,300 laid-off workers in the U.S.

But in Michigan, which has among the highest unemployment rates in the nation, 1,200 new jobs is big news.

GM announced on May 10 that it would create or keep about 4,000 jobs by investing $2 billion in 17 factories in eight states.

The Detroit-Hamtramck announcement adds to previous expansion announcements in Bowling Green, Ky.; Toledo, Ohio; and Flint and Bay City, Mich.

"Filling this plant with new work is very satisfying because GM is dedicated to helping rebuild this city," Mark Reuss, the company's North American president, said in a statement.

GM said last week it would shut the plant down for four weeks starting in June, reconfiguring it to increase Volt and Ampera production from 16,000 cars per year to 60,000 next year in order to meet strong demand.

The shutdown also will let GM add equipment to build the 2013 Malibu midsize sedan at the plant starting next year. The car also will be built in Kansas City, Kansas.

In addition, GM said it will build a long-overdue new version of the Impala at the Detroit-Hamtramck plant.

GM will stop producing two other big cars at the factory, the Cadillac DTS and Buick Lucerne, later this year.

Economy
6:50 am
Wed May 25, 2011

Survey: Tourists, travelers spent more than $17 billion in MI

A newly released survey has found that tourists and travelers spent an estimated $17.2 billion in Michigan last year.
Bug Girl Flickr

A newly released survey has found that tourists and travelers spent an estimated $17.2 billion in Michigan last year.

That's up 14 percent from $15.1 billion in 2009. The Michigan Economic Development Corp. on Wednesday released results of the survey. The survey found $12.6 billion was spent on travel for leisure and $4.6 billion was spent on business travel.

The survey also found that spending by out-of-state visitors rose 21 percent. It says 152,600 jobs were generated by Michigan's tourism industry in 2010, up 10,000 from 2009.

The national survey was conducted by D.K. Shifflet & Associates in McLean, Va.

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Auto/Economy
3:12 pm
Tue May 24, 2011

Chrysler celebrates after paying back government loans

Chrysler CEO Marchionne said "we owe a debt of gratitude to those whose intervention allowed Chrysler Group to re-establish itself as a strong and viable carmaker."
user socialisbetter Flickr

Chrysler got itself out from under the higher interest loans from the U.S. and Canadian governments today - sooner than it had planned to.

Company officials are celebrating today at Chrysler's Sterling Heights assembly plant.

From the Detroit News:

The automaker has repaid $5.1 billion in loans, as well as $1.8 billion in interest and other fees, releasing Chrysler from all monetary commitments to the governments less than two years after the bailouts kept them in business. Chrysler went to the capital market for lower-interest financing to get out from under the government loans that carried interest rates as high as 20 percent. The refinancing — which is much like refinancing a home mortgage — will save more than $300 million annually.

In a statement, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said: 

Chrysler’s early repayment of its outstanding TARP loans is an important step in the turnaround of this company and the resurgence of the auto industry. Because President Obama made the tough decision to stand behind and restructure the auto industry, America’s automakers are growing stronger, making new investments, and creating new jobs today throughout our nation’s industrial heartland."

The U.S. Treasury gave a total of $12.5 billion to Chrysler under TARP’s Automotive Industry Financing Program. After today's payment, Treasury officials say "Chrysler has returned more than $10.6 billion of that amount to taxpayers through principal repayments, interest, and canceled commitments." The U.S. Treasury continues to hold a 6.6 percent stake in Chrysler. Those shares could be sold when Chrysler's stock goes public or if the Treasury decides to sell its shares to another investor. In their statement today, Treasury officials said the government is "unlikely to fully recover its remaining outstanding investment of $1.9 billion in Chrysler."

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Auto/Economy
1:22 pm
Tue May 24, 2011

Japanese manufacturing base growing in Battle Creek

Governor Rick Snyder (third from the left) joins local elected officials and Japanese business executives in cutting the ceremonial ribbon dedicating the new Toda America facility in Battle Creek

A Japanese company that makes a key component for lithium batteries formally opened its new manufacturing plant in Battle Creek today.  It’s just the latest Japanese firm to set up shop in Battle Creek. 

Local dignitaries joined Japanese business executives in cutting a ribbon outside Toda America’s new facility in Battle Creek.  Toda America is a consortium of Japanese companies. 

Tetsuo Ozaki is the president of Toda America.   He says the company plans to expand its operations in Michigan, as the electric car industry in the United States grows.  

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Economy
7:04 am
Tue May 24, 2011

Chrysler set to pay back federal loans today

Chrysler is set to pay back its federal loans in full today.
Ricardo Giaviti Flickr

Chrysler will pay back its federal loans in full today. Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton reports:

It's another milestone in the company's long struggle to recover from bankruptcy. Chrysler will wire-transfer nearly $6 billion to the U.S. Treasury and $1.5 billion to the governments of Canada and Ontario. Chrysler used some cash from Fiat for the transaction - and refinanced the rest with loans from private banks and investors.

The move will save Chrysler $300 million a year in interest and is one more step towards independence from the government.

The U.S. Treasury still holds about eight and a half percent of Chrysler stock. Fiat could end up buying that stock in the future. As of today, Fiat owns forty-six percent of Chrysler.

The news is making headlines this morning:

Changing Gears
12:30 pm
Mon May 23, 2011

Feeling the bounce from the Oprah Winfrey Show

The Oprah bounce. Many small business owners have felt the boost when their product makes Oprah's Favorite Things list.
Alan Light Flickr

This week marks the last we’ll be seeing of new broadcasts of the Oprah Winfrey Show.

I’m someone who basically has grown up with the show (to be exact, the nationally syndicated show has run for 25 years).

It’s spawned the empire of all things Oprah – including her magazine and now her own cable network.

Over the years, Oprah’s singled out many products for her Favorite Things list.

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Changing Gears
11:13 am
Mon May 23, 2011

Give Americans more authority, Toyota told

The Toyota North American Quality Advisory Panel found Toyota paid less heed to problems reported by its customers, regulators and outside experts, than it did to those inside the company.
user danielctw Flickr

Toyota’s reputation for quality suffered a significant blow the past two years in the wake of millions of recalls.

Now, a blue-ribbon panel of outsiders says the Japan-centric carmaker must give its managers and employees in North America more authority to jump on problems, in order to prevent another such crisis.

The Toyota North American Quality Advisory Panel also said it found Toyota paid less heed to problems reported by its customers, regulators and outside experts, than it did to those inside the company.

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Auto/Economy
11:18 pm
Sun May 22, 2011

Suppliers like working with Toyota best but Ford becoming more popular

Ford, GM and Chrysler are getting along with their suppliers better than they used to.  

But an annual study says the companies have a ways to go to catch up with their Japanese counterparts. 

John Henke is President of Planning Perspectives, which studies the working relationship between parts suppliers and their customers, the car companies. 

He says that relationship has long been adversarial for the Detroit Three, which means suppliers often don’t give them the best prices for parts, or the first crack at new technologies.

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Economy
3:01 pm
Sat May 21, 2011

Memorial Day weekend may mean a little less 'green' for Michigan's tourist destinations

A couple goes for a walk on a pier over Lake Huron in Alpena, Michigan
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

More than a million Michiganders are expected to get-a-way to some of the state’s favorite tourist spots next weekend.  But they are not expected to spend much money Memorial Day weekend.  

The AAA surveyed its members recently and found many plan to spend less of their vacation budget on restaurants and other amenities.  

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Economy
5:18 pm
Fri May 20, 2011

Michigan teens face (slightly less) high unemployment this summer

About a third of teens looking for work this summer won't find it.
Thewmatt Flickr

30% of Michigan teens hoping to find work this summer…won’t. That’s according to the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget.

Bruce Weaver is an analyst for the state. He says the rate has actually declined from last year:

“ The unemployment rate for teens reached a thirty year high, in the summer of 2010.”

He says teens will have a tough time finding jobs because of the high unemployment numbers for adults:

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Economy
4:00 pm
Fri May 20, 2011

Michigan's gas pain easing

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A gasoline industry analyst expects Michigan’s gas prices will continue to decline through the Memorial Day weekend. Gas prices peaked at well over $4.25 a gallon this month.  But for the past few weeks, gas prices have declined steadily. 

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