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Auto/Economy
1:54 pm
Mon May 9, 2011

Ten high speed train and rail projects announced today

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Earlier today, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced the investment of over $2 billion in high speed rail projects around the country.

But what are the actual projects?

The entire list is available at the Department of Transportation's website, which has the full press release.

But here are some highlights (including full descriptions from the press release on the two Michigan projects.

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Auto/Economy
12:15 pm
Mon May 9, 2011

Officials investigate fuel tank problem on F-150s

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is looking at Ford F-150s from the 1997 through 2001 model years. It's investigating a fuel tank problem that could affect more than 2.7 million pickup trucks.
user cogdogblog Flickr

The government is investigating the safety of some Ford F-150 trucks.

From the Associated Press:

U.S. safety regulators are investigating a fuel tank problem that could affect more than 2.7 million Ford F-150 pickup trucks.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says on its website that the steel straps holding up the gas tank can rust and break, possibly causing a fuel spill and fire.

The agency says it is looking into trucks from the 1997 through 2001 model years. The F-150 is the top-selling vehicle in the U.S.

NHTSA says there are 243 reports of the tanks falling and causing two fires. No injuries have been reported.

The agency began looking at the problem last year when it had received 32 complaints.

Ford says it's cooperating with the investigation. Anyone with concerns should contact their dealer.

Auto/Economy
4:57 pm
Fri May 6, 2011

Train stations in Michigan celebrate "National Train Day" with Saturday events

Saturday is National Train Day and events are being held across Michigan, including at many Amtrak stations. 

Tim Fischer is with the Michigan Environmental Council. 

He says gas prices are going up and so is train ridership. 

But Fischer says the same can’t be said of state and federal investments in the U.S. rail system. 

" So we certainly do need more funding for our rail systems, they are important assets that we should not be abandoning."

Here is a list of events:

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Auto/Economy
4:20 pm
Fri May 6, 2011

Private companies hiring at faster-than-expected rate

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The new national employment report shows the economy is churning out new jobs as people return to the workforce to compete for them.

Governor Rick Snyder says that’s good for Michigan as he tries to convince state lawmakers to adopt his jobs strategy.

Private sector employment is considered a strong indicator of the strength of the economy and, for the first time in a long time, private companies are hiring at a faster-than-expected rate.

Governor Snyder says that’s good news.

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Auto/Economy
1:44 pm
Fri May 6, 2011

AP: Rising jet fuel prices motivate buyouts at Delta

F. Olastuen Flickr

Delta Air Lines is planning to offer "voluntary early retirements and buyouts" to its workers.

The reason? Rising jet fuel prices.

From the Associated Press:

Delta Air Lines Inc. says it will offer voluntary early retirements and buyouts to its employees because it must shrink to cope with high jet fuel prices.

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Economy
1:16 pm
Thu May 5, 2011

Michigan mortgage lender ends federal investigation into discrimination claims

A major home mortgage lender has reached a deal to end a federal investigation into alleged racial discrimination. The settlement will mean millions of dollars for housing programs in Wayne County.  

Citizens Bank is the largest bank holding company headquartered in Michigan and one of the 50 largest in the country. 

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Economy
9:47 am
Thu May 5, 2011

No progress for Midwest's housing market

Photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Things continue to look bad for the Midwest housing market. Seven of the lowest performing major markets in the nation are from the Midwest and Detroit leads the pack. Sean McSweeney is with Clear Capital, a national real estate valuation company. McSweeney says while Detroit faces many challenges, there are still reasons Detroit home owners should be hopeful. 

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Auto/Economy
11:53 am
Wed May 4, 2011

Driving habits remain as gas prices break records

Commuting in Chicago. Gas prices are rising, but driving habits don't seem to be changing as drastically as they did in 2008.
Phillip Capper Flickr

Gas prices continue to climb in Michigan. They reached a new record today hitting an average of $4.26.

From the Detroit Free Press:

Gas prices continue to climb in Michigan, with the average cost per gallon of regular gasoline jumping to $4.26 today from $4.22 on Tuesday.

Previously, the record price had been set in summer 2008. Tuesday's price broke that record.

A year ago, the average price per gallon in the state was $2.94.

In 2008, when gas prices shot up, demand for gasoline dropped as Americans adjusted their driving habits.

Some experts say that's not likely to happen this time around as Americans are not as shocked by the high gas prices.

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Auto/Economy
10:52 pm
Tue May 3, 2011

Chrysler surviving

A new kind of customer began showing up at Schultz Motors of Milan after Chrysler ran a defiant, two-minute ad during the Superbowl -- young guys who’d never owned a Chrysler before.  But they wanted the car rap star Eminen was driving in that ad. 

Tyler Schultz says it helps that the 200 is a more appealing car than its predecessor the Sebring.

"The interior is very well-appointed, it's very driver-friendly, and you can see the list price is $24,000.  So with the incentives on top of that it comes in really affordable.  So this car’s got a lot of bang for the buck."

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Auto/Economy
3:50 pm
Tue May 3, 2011

Automakers release sales numbers today

The Chrysler 200 helped lead the "best month for Chrysler Group mid-size sedans since March 2008."
IFCAR wikimedia commons

Sales numbers for April are coming in today, and there are more signs that the American public has pent up energy to buy new cars. As they did in 2008, higher gas prices are driving demand for smaller, fuel efficient cars. U.S. Automakers are more prepared for that demand this time around.

Update 3:50 p.m.

Chrysler announced the "best April sales since 2008" - a 22% increase compared with sales in April 2010. The company sold 95,703 cars in April.

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Economy
3:01 am
Tue May 3, 2011

Michigan gas prices hit record high

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Michigan gasoline prices have reached a record high. According to GasBuddy.com, the price for a gallon of gasoline has never been this high in Michigan. 

Patrick DeHaan is a senior petroleum analyst with GasBuddy. He says the old record was $4.25 a gallon. DeHaan says the price at the pump in large parts of Michigan is now higher than $4.29 a gallon. He says refinery problems are causing gasoline supplies to drop in the Midwest.

DeHaan says Michigan motorists should be aware, we may not have reached that peak pump price yet. 

 “Whatever you expect…can change.  And so, if there is another issue like this we could see prices continue higher.   But history tells us that prices will reach a new peak sometime in May.”

DeHaan does not expect the death this week of Osama bin Laden will have an affect on gas prices.

Auto/Economy
5:31 pm
Mon May 2, 2011

Japanese parts shortages will likely show up in April car sales

Car sales in the U.S. likely went up about ten percent last month, compared to the same month a year ago. 

U.S. sales for April will be reported Tuesday.

Analyst Jesse Toprak of Truecar.com says sales would have been better, but the disasters in Japan greatly diminished the supply of car parts, especially for Honda and Toyota.

Both companies have drastically slowed production of cars, and the slowdown could continue through the rest of the year.

Toprak says Japanese car companies typically do well when gas prices increase.

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Auto/Economy
2:03 pm
Mon May 2, 2011

Chrysler makes money for the first time since 2006

Chrysler posted a profit in the first quarter of this year:  $116-million.

It's not a lot of money.   But any amount of profit is a morale-booster when a company has been through the ordeal of bankruptcy.

The profit compares to a loss in the first three months of 2010 of $197-million.

Chrysler has been steadily reducing its losses every quarter since it went through bankruptcy in 2009. 

But this is the first clear indication that Chrysler and Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne's turnaround plan for Chrysler is getting the company back into reasonable financial shape.

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Economy
12:59 pm
Sun May 1, 2011

Bus ridership is up in Michigan (but so are fuel prices)

"Get on the bus" that's a refrain heard more and more in Michigan as people are forced to find other ways to get around as gasoline prices move into record high territory.
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

It appears rising gasoline prices are getting more people to ride public transportation in Michigan.  But that’s a double edged sword for local bus systems.  

It will be a few months before all the numbers are in, but Clark Harder with the Michigan Public Transit Association says, demand for bus service is up.   He says more and more people are opting to take the bus, because it’s getting too expensive to fill up their own gas tank. 

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Economy
1:30 am
Sun May 1, 2011

Michigan farmers waiting for fields that are too wet to plant

Michigan farmers hope to get their Spring planting season underway this week.  Till now, farmers’ fields have been too wet to plant corn and soy beans

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Auto/Economy
2:17 pm
Fri April 29, 2011

Why are Michigan's gas prices so high?

We’ve been hearing for weeks about gas prices rising around the country. 

The national average reached $3.909 today according to AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report.

Michigan, with an average of $4.116, is more than 20 cents higher than the national average.

When we tweeted the new state and national gas prices on Wednesday, one of our Twitter friends asked why Michigan's average was higher.

The answer may be a combination of state taxes and delivery costs.

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Auto/Economy
9:55 pm
Thu April 28, 2011

Treasury Sec. Geithner: Bailout never intended to yield profit

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner United States Treasury Department

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner says the government will almost certainly lose money on its investment in the domestic auto industry.

But Geithner told business leaders in Detroit today  that making a profit was never the objective. He says the aim of the Troubled Asset Relief Program – or TARP – was twofold:

"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."

Geithner says, on the whole, he expects the TARP investments in all sectors – including banking and insurance – will yield a profit.

Economy
12:33 pm
Thu April 28, 2011

Business is solid for three Michigan companies

Roger Penske says the first quarter results for the Penske Automotive Group "exceeded my expectations."
Ted Van Pelt Flickr

Three big corporations in Michigan released their first quarter results today and according to the numbers, business is booming.

Dow Chemical exceeds expectations (Midland, Michigan)

The company says "sales rose 20% to $14.7 billion versus the year-ago period, with double-digit increases in all operating segments and all geographic areas."

As Andrew Dodson of Booth-Mid Michigan pointed out, analysts had expected Dow to achieve $13.8 billion in sales.

Dow's earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (a measure of a company's operating cash flow) went up more than $600 million to $2.4 billion, "the second highest quarter in the Company's history," according to Dow.

CMS Energy reports net income of $135 million (Jackson, Michigan)

CMS Energy's principal business is Consumers Energy. The Jackson-based company's reported income of $135 million translates into $0.52 per share, for the first quarter of 2011. That's compared to a net income of $85 million, or $0.34 per share, for the same quarter last year.

From the company's press release:

The first quarter results reflect colder than normal winter temperatures that boosted natural gas and electric sales at the company’s Michigan utility, Consumers Energy. Those sales increases partially were offset by costs the utility incurred in restoring service to electric customers after a series of unusually severe winter storms.

Penske Automotive has strong quarter (Bloomfield Hills, Michigan)

Penske Automotive Group Chairman, Roger Penske, said, "our first quarter results exceeded my expectations. I am particularly pleased with the same-store retail revenue growth generated in all lines of our business.

From Businesswire:

[Penske] reported a 51.7% increase in first quarter income from continuing operations attributable to common shareholders to $36.4 million, which compares to income from continuing operations attributable to common shareholders of $24.0 million in the first quarter last year. Earnings per share from continuing operations attributable to common shareholders increased 50.0% to $0.39 per share from $0.26 per share in the first quarter last year. Total revenue in the first quarter increased 15.3% to $2.9 billion, including an 11.6% increase in same-store retail revenues, due in large part to increases in new and used retail vehicle unit sales.

Auto/Economy
9:23 am
Thu April 28, 2011

Chrysler intends to repay government loans by end of June

Chrysler's headquarters in Aurburn Hill, Michigan. The company says it plans to pay back government loans by the end of June.
user fiatontheweb Flickr

Just ahead of a visit from U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Chrysler says it intends to pay back the government loans it received by the end of June. Geithner was one of the main architects of the government bailouts for Chrysler and GM.

From the Detroit News:

Chrysler Group LLC today confirmed its intention to repay its $7.4 billion in loans to the U.S. and Canadian governments by the end of June, as long as market and other conditions remain conducive.

In a statement prior to CEO Sergio Marchionne hosting a visit from U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner later today, Chrysler said it plans to repay its government loans with a new term loan facility and newly issued debt securities that will be sold to institutional investors in a private offering.

The Detroit Free Press reports Chrysler wants to pay back the debts because the interest rates on the government loans are high:
 

Marchionne has said he wants to refinance Chrysler’s debt because the interest rate is higher than commercial market rates. The effective interest on the borrowings from the U.S. is as high as 14% and as much as 20% on the Canadian debt.

In order to find investors, the Detroit News reports that senior executives will head out on a "road show" to court financial institutions. They report the automaker is currently working with Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp.

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Economy
6:53 am
Thu April 28, 2011

U.S. Treasury Secretary to visit Southeast Michigan

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will visit the Detroit Economic Club today.
Center for American Progress Flickr

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will visit Michigan today. He'll make an appearance at the Detroit Economic Club. Geithner will speak with Detroit's political, business and community leaders about the economy, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

Geithner's appearance Thursday afternoon is part of the Detroit Economic Club's 2010-11 meeting season.

President Barack Obama swore Geithner in as the 75th treasury secretary in January 2009. He was deeply involved in the negotiations that led to billions of dollars in government loans being given to General Motors and Chrysler.

Detroit and Michigan have suffered as much as any city or state economically over the past few years. Thousands of workers have been laid off as businesses have been forced to close or downsize.

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