Auto

Economy
3:19 pm
Thu February 24, 2011

Consumers Energy asks for energy surcharge reduction

Consumers Energy says it produces about five percent of its power from Michigan-based renewable projects.
newsmagazineblog.com

In 2008, Michigan enacted a new energy law. It requires power companies to produce 10 percent of their power from Michigan-based renewable sources by the year 2015.

Now Consumers Energy is asking state regulators for permission to reduce customers’ bills by about $55 million.

Consumers spokesman Dan Bishop says the company is on track to reach that goal, with about five percent of its power now coming from renewable sources.

And that’s why Consumers says it wants to put a little bit of money back into its customers’ pockets.

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Economy
11:58 am
Thu February 24, 2011

Pure Michigan funding bill on the way to governor's desk

Thinking of summer days along the Lake Michigan shoreline
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A bill that would fund the Pure Michigan ad campaign for the entire year will soon be on its way to Governor Rick Snyder for his signature. The Legislature has approved the additional dollars to keep the campaign on airwaves through the busy tourism months. 

Republican state Senator Geoff Hansen says the funding had to be approved this week before ad-buy costs go up. 

"It was more important that we got it done right now because every day that we delay this means that we’re going to have that less of a chance to buy the ads that we need. We can buy more now than we can in a week, so it was just so important to get it done.”  

The state will tap a venture capital fund to pay for the ads for the balance of this year. Hansen says lawmakers still need to find a permanent funding source for the Pure Michigan ad campaign. But he does not think they will deal with that issue until next year.

Auto/Economy
11:56 am
Thu February 24, 2011

More big recalls for Toyota

The 2006 Lexus GS 300 is part of the latest Toyota recall
IFCAR wikimedia commons

If you own a Toyota or a Lexus, your floor mat or the floor carpet could inadvertently help you put the pedal to the metal.

Toyota has announced two recalls and has amended it's 2009 "Potential Floor Mat Interference Recall."

Altogether, more than 2 million vehicles are involved.

The company says the recalls are "voluntary," but the federal government says it requested that Toyota recall these additional vehicles after their investigation into Toyota's unintended acceleration problems.

From USA Today:

This should be the end of it, according to NHTSA administrator David Strickland. "The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reviewed more than 400,000 pages of Toyota documents to determine whether the scope of its recalls for pedal entrapment was sufficient. As a result of the agency's review, NHTSA asked Toyota to recall these additional vehicles, and now that the company has done so, our investigation is closed."

Here are the cars involved in the recalls and amended recalls:

  • Lexus GS 300 - model year 2006 and early 2007
  • Lexus GS 350 All-Wheel Drive - model year 2006 and early 2007
  • Lexus  RX 330 - model year 2004 through 2006 and early 2007
  • Lexus RX 350 - model year 2004 through 2006 and early 2007
  • Lexus RX 400h - model year 2004 through 2006 and early 2007
  • Highlander - model year 2004 through 2006
  • Highlander HV- model year 2004 through 2006
  • 4Runners - model year 2003 through 2009
  • Lexus LX 570 - model year 2008 through 2011
  • RAV4 - model year 2006 through 2010

You can also check to see whether your car is recalled by entering your Vehicle Identification Number, or VIN on Toyota's website.

The company says Toyota and Lexus dealers will implement the new and amended recalls at no charge to the vehicle owners.

Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton is following this story and will have an update later today.

Economy
10:46 am
Thu February 24, 2011

Why don't YOU fix the state's budget woes?

The Center for Michigan wants you to play their game.
Image from the Center for Michigan's website

Try your hand at fixing the state's budget problems.

The Center for Michigan has released an interactive state budget calculator - YOU Fix the Budget.

The idea is similar to the New York Times interactive budget calculator for the federal government.

You can start by adding $1.2 billion to the state's budget woes by cutting business taxes, or you can leave business taxes alone and deal with the current budget hole the Center estimates at $1.4 billion.

Once you start, your options are to cut, cut, cut (cuts to education, cuts general government, cuts to prison and police, cuts to the public workforce, and cuts to welfare and health care) - or - you could raise taxes.

So far, of the 300 or so people who have participated - raising the Beer Tax is the most popular option.

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Economy
9:48 am
Thu February 24, 2011

Consumers Energy posts profit in 2010

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Consumers Energy has been busy this week reconnecting tens of thousands of customers who lost power during last Sunday's ice & snow storm.  So it could be argued the utility was due some good news.  Today CMS Energy announced the Jackson-based utility profits increased last year.   

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Economy
9:06 am
Thu February 24, 2011

Sales of foreclosed homes slowed in 2010 in Michigan

Fewer homebuyers were interested in buying a previously foreclosed home in Michigan last year. The result is an increasingly high number of bank-owned homes just sitting on the real estate market.  

Just under 41 thousand formerly foreclosed homes sold last year in Michigan.  That’s down by a third compared to 2009 and 2008.  The prices paid for those homes also dropped.

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Auto/Economy
9:01 am
Thu February 24, 2011

GM has a very good year

GM's Headquarters in downtown Detroit. The newly formed company made $4.7 billion in profits last year.
user paul (dex) Flickr

General Motors says it earned $510 million in the fourth quarter and $4.7 billion last year as it continued an impressive comeback from bankruptcy.

It was the company's first profitable year since 2004 and GM's best performance since making $6 billion in 1999 during the pickup truck and SUV boom.

GM says fourth-quarter net income was fueled by strong sales in China and the U.S. as the global auto market began to recover. GM says net income per share was 31 cents, including $400 million in charges mainly for preferred stock dividends and for buying preferred stock from the U.S. government.

The quarterly profit was less than the two previous quarters. GM says expenses were higher because it launched two new vehicles. Revenue for the quarter was $36.9 billion.

budgets
4:02 pm
Wed February 23, 2011

Grand Rapids city, schools, search for new ways to save money

Eric DeLong says teaming up to purchase office supplies could save both entities money, "We both use a whole lot of paper."
pawpaw67 Creative Commons

Grand Rapids city and school district officials have met regularly for more than a decade to come up with ways to share services and facilities to benefit one another. Now, state budget concerns are pressuring them to look even harder for those cost-saving solutions.

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Economy
3:13 pm
Wed February 23, 2011

Some Blue Cross rates to rise; hikes not as steep as requested

The Michigan Attorney General's office negotiated lower price hikes for individual policy holders.
echealthinsurance.com

Some Michiganders who buy their own health insurance will pay more for their policies beginning in May.

But the price hikes aren’t as steep as they could have been.

Blue Cross Blue Shield had planned premium increases of as much as 21 percent.

But the Michigan Attorney General intervened.

“Through negotiations we were able to slash that in most cases by about 60 percent, so the increases ended up being about 60 million dollars smaller just in the first year alone,” says John Selleck, a spokesman for the attorney general's office.

Auto/Economy
2:14 pm
Wed February 23, 2011

GM expected to announce $5 billion profit for 2010

A view from the General Motors headquaters in Detroit.
user santoshkrishnan creative commons

General Motors is expected to formally announce its first ‘full-year profit’ since 2004 on Thursday. It was just two years ago General Motors had to seek bankruptcy protection.    Now, the automaker is expected to announce a 5 billion dollar profit for 2010.

Aaron Bragman is an automotive analyst with IHS Global Insight.  He gives a big part of the credit to the federal government for helping GM through bankruptcy. 

“I don’t think we’d be in the place where we’re at right now if the government had not intervened and actually funded their bankruptcy.  We’d be in a very different place.”

 Bragman says 2011 might be another good year for GM, because of rising gasoline prices. 

 “Chevy is bringing several small vehicles to market.  The new Spark is on the horizon.  The new (Sonic) is coming this year.   So we’re actually seeing a lot of these small cars coming…and now we’re seeing a market force that may actually drive people to go an buy them.”

Bragman says high gasoline prices may hurt Chrysler, because it doesn’t have as many high- mileage vehicles to offer car buyers.

Economy
1:05 pm
Wed February 23, 2011

Allen Park to lay off entire fire department

All 25 members of the Allen Park fire department have been told to expect pink slips.
flickr

There may soon be no firefighters available in Allen Park.

The city council has voted to lay off the entire fire department.

A movie studio-deal gone bad is getting some of the blame for Allen Park’s financial troubles.

The Detroit suburb bought an old Visteon facility in 2008 for almost $25 million, banking on a plan to lease the property to Unity Studios.

The deal flopped  and now Allen Park is broke.

Last night, the city council announced all 25 of the city’s firefighters, plus its interim chief will be getting pink slips.

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Commentary
12:30 pm
Wed February 23, 2011

State of Detroit

You may think I am a little crazy, but while I was listening to  Mayor Dave Bing’s State of the City address last night, what kept running through my head was an ancient rock and roll song.

An early hit called Chantilly Lace, by a now half-forgotten artist called the Big Bopper, whose main claim to fame is dying in the same plane crash that killed Buddy Holly more than half a century ago.

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Economy
9:57 am
Wed February 23, 2011

Rising gas prices & Michigan's economy

A Comerica Bank economist says rising gasoline prices shouldn’t hurt Michigan’s economic progress…too much. Unrest in the Middle East is forcing global crude oil prices to rise, which is pushing up gas prices in Michigan and elsewhere.    

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Economy
10:53 am
Tue February 22, 2011

Middle East unrest may be felt in higher gasoline prices this summer

Fill 'er up?
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Unrest in the Middle East may soon affect gasoline prices in Michigan. Crude oil prices are approaching one hundred dollars a barrel, which is expected to increase the cost of gasoline globally.

Nancy Cain is with AAA Michigan.   She says it’s too soon to predict whether or not the price for a gallon of regular unleaded will reach four dollars, like it did two years ago.

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film incentives
7:49 pm
Mon February 21, 2011

Study looks at Michigan film incentives

People wait for tickets during Traverse City's film festival.
Andrew McFarlane Creative Commons

A new study shows Michigan’s tax incentives for the TV and film industry generated close to 4,000 fulltime jobs last year with an average salary of $53,700.  

Larry Alexander is President & CEO of the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau, one of several bureaus across the state that helped commission the study.

“Diversifying Michigan’s economy by investing $84.7 million- and generating over a half a billion dollars of economic activity and nearly 4,000 high paying jobs- sounds like a pretty good deal to us.”

Rick Hert heads the West Michigan Film Office. He says talk about limiting the film incentives in the past reached Hollywood and caused some producers decide not to come to Michigan.

 “This is much bigger. This is a new governor of the state of Michigan and his comments are doing more than reverberating, they’re putting a clamp on the future of this industry.”

Hert is thankful the governor didn’t totally remove the incentives, but worries they’ll be too limited to keep attracting producers.

Hert says he understands the state is broke and that legislators have some tough calls to make.

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Auto/Economy
11:32 am
Mon February 21, 2011

A small car gets big results for global safety

Ford's global small car, the Ford Fiesta, has received the equivalent of a five-star safety rating in virtually all the regions of the world in which it is sold - China, New Zealand, Australia, Europe, and the United States.   The subcompact car also received a "Top Safety Pick" award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which nonetheless warns drivers that in general, larger vehicles are safer vehicles.   

Auto/Economy
5:20 pm
Fri February 18, 2011

Wayne State to offer energy storage courses this fall

Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Wayne State University will offer certificate programs in advanced energy storage. Courses will focus on things like electric vehicle batteries, and updating the electric grid to handle electric vehicle charging.

Jay Baron is the president of the Center for Automotive Research. He says the car industry is clamoring for engineers with those skills:

"When you speak to any of the auto companies, they will tell you: if you’ve got a field of study that has the term 'battery' or 'energy storage' in it, you’ve piqued the interest. My daughter is looking for a job, and I’ve told her if there’s any way she can get 'battery' into the title of her degree, she’d do much better."

Baron says several universities are retooling their engineering programs to incorporate more battery-related course offerings.

But he says there are lingering questions about the long-term viability of the electric vehicle market.

Economy
4:52 pm
Fri February 18, 2011

Borders Books liquidation sale begins Saturday at closing stores

A look inside a Borders Bookstore
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The company handling the liquidation sales at some 200 Borders Books stores announced today the sales will begin Saturday.   Hilco Merchant Resources of Chicago issued a press release saying the liquidation will begin with 20 to 40% on all merchandize with some exceptions. Over $350 million of inventory including books, magazines, music and movie media, calendars, posters and more will be liquidated.  

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Economy
4:14 pm
Fri February 18, 2011

State Senate approves bill giving control over Sunday AM liquor sales to local governments

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The state Senate approved a measure this week that would allow local governments to once again prohibit Sunday morning liquor sales. 

The measure would allow local governments to opt out of the Sunday morning liquor law approved by the Legislature late last year. Lawmakers who sponsored the new measure say the opt-out was always supposed to be included in the original package, but was accidentally left out because it was slapped together and approved during hasty lame-duck negotiations. 

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Auto/Economy
3:11 pm
Fri February 18, 2011

Power and Performance: A Changing Gears Special Program

Di Bedard Flickr

The Changing Gears special program "Power and Performance" examines the roles of leadership and the economic fortunes of three Midwestern cities: Cleveland, Chicago and Detroit.

Can a strong mayor change a city by sheer will? Is quiet determination a better course of action? What difference has the quality of leadership made across the Great Lakes?

The show, hosted by Mike McIntyre, takes a look at how these cities are adapting to face new issues and also examine what problems they have that resist easy solutions.

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