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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.

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.

Auto sales are booming, but don't expect this to be a continuous growth period.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

When you look at much of popular media these days, it often feels as though the advertisers of America are eyeing that young audience. If you're over 55, you could certainly be forgiven for getting the idea that advertisers and agencies don't much care what you want to buy.

Well, a new study by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute proves that, at least when it comes to buying cars, it's those often overlooked, sometimes-invisible over 55's who are doing much of the buying.

The study found the 55-to-64 year old baby-boomers are 15 times more likely to buy a new car or truck than the 18-to-24 year olds.

John Wolkonowicz, an independent auto analyst, joined us from Boston today to talk more about why baby boomers seem to hold the key to success for automakers.

Listen to the full interview above.

A fingerprint on the Tesla Model S at the Detroit auto show.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

IHS Inc. announced on Monday that they would buy the automotive data firm R.L. Polk & Co. for $1.4 billion.

Polk has a long history in southeast Michigan.

Founded in 1870 in Detroit, the company started keeping statistical data on the automotive industry in the 1920s.

carhumor.com

The average fuel economy for U.S. built vehicles reached a new high in May, at 24.8 miles per gallon. This is good news for drivers when gas station signs are showing prices near and above $4 a gallon.

The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) says consumers are not only being more fuel-efficient savvy, but car companies are listening.

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GM Media

Late last year, the U.S. Department of Treasury announced it would sell all its remaining stock in General Motors in 12 to 15 months.

Today, the Treasury is announcing a plan for another big sell-off.

Officials say, "subject to market conditions," they intend to sell 30 million additional shares of GM common stock "in conjunction with GM’s inclusion to the S&P 500 index effective as of the close of trading on June 6, 2013."

Bull Doser / Wikimedia Commons

In a rare move, Chrysler is saying "no" to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on a recall.

The agency wants the Detroit automaker to recall 2.7 million vehicles.

NHTSA claims a defect increases the risk of fire in rear crashes involving Jeep Grand Cherokees built in the 1993 to 2004 model years  and in Jeep Liberties built in the 2002 to 2007 model years.

Chrysler says the agency's reasoning is deeply flawed and the vehicles are safe.

user: Cauldon Graphix / Flickr

Mad Men's Don Draper is known on the AMC show as being the best guy to create an ad campaign.

He's known for lines like, "What you call love was invented by guys like me...to sell nylons."

Don's company, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, has done creative campaigns for companies like Lucky Strike, Maidenform, Heinz and Hilton Hotels.

In the most recent season, much of the company's time was spent securing an auto client -- Jaguar.

denton-texas.olx.com

DETROIT (AP) - The federal government is investigating Ford F-150 pickups with EcoBoost engines after drivers reported that the engines lost power during acceleration.

The government estimates around 400,000 F-150 pickups from the 2011 through 2013 model years are involved.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has received 95 reports of engines losing power during hard acceleration, such as when passing. The incidents often occurred in rainy or humid weather. NHTSA has no reports of crashes or injuries.

Toyota

U.S. automakers have finally agreed on a uniform standard to determine the towing capacity of a pickup truck, veteran auto journalist Bill Visnic tells us in his article in Edmunds.com.

Except, now that they've created it, automakers are backing away from actually using it.

Car companies closed a lot of North American factories in the past ten years as the auto industry restructured.

That has made Jim Tetreault's job even more of an art and a science.

Tetreault is Ford's head of North American manufacturing.  He's responsible for maximizing the number of vehicles that any of the Detroit automaker's remaining plants can produce, while minimizing the downtime at each facility.

Chrysler

An anti-bias group says it has received a written apology from Chrysler and Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne for his use of a pejorative word to refer to Italians.

The Italian American ONE VOICE Coalition says Marchionne apologized for using the word "wop" during a press conference at the Detroit Auto Show.    Marchionne was commenting on the long-delayed introduction of the new generation of Alfa Romeos.  He stated, “I won't put an American engine into that car. With all due respect to my American friends, it needs to be a wop engine.” 

General Motors

Buick will be 110 years old on Sunday.  But the brand nearly didn't survive.

In 2009, GM's bankruptcy forced the automaker to cut brands.  The company tried to find buyers for Saturn, Hummer, and Saab, but eventually those sales fell through.

The company also decided it had to choose between Pontiac, and Buick.  Pontiac's customers on average were younger - that's a desirable thing for a brand - and it was outselling Buick.  Yet, GM chose Buick.

Subaru

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports "not stellar" results for the latest group of vehicles to undergo a new "small overlap frontal crash" test.

The test sees how well a vehicle protects an occupant in a situation where just a part of the front of the car hits something. One example would be two vehicles approaching each other, and one strays a little bit over the center line, causing an offset accident.

DETROIT (AP) - Three Ohio drivers are suing Ford Motor Co., claiming the company's six-cylinder EcoBoost engine is defective.

The lawsuit says the 3.5-liter V6 EcoBoost engine can shudder, shake and rapidly lose power while drivers are trying to accelerate. It says more than 100 drivers have complained about the engine to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

GM archives

Every school child knows the name Henry Ford, and his contribution to the auto industry.

Billy Durant never achieved anywhere near Ford's fame. 

Durant was one of the progenitors of the company we now know as General Motors.

Durant's role in the building of the American auto industry could become better known, depending on just what GM decides to do with Durant's first factory in Flint.  GM recently acquired the building for an undisclosed amount.

automotiveauto.info

This morning, the New York Times reported on the slow and steady increase of Chinese companies setting up in metro-Detroit.

The NYT's Bill Vlasic reports it has been a largely unannounced trend – and given the public opposition experienced by Japanese automakers – it is most likely an intentionally quiet entrance.

Chinese-owned companies are investing in American businesses and new vehicle technology, selling everything from seat belts to shock absorbers in retail stores, and hiring experienced engineers and designers in an effort to soak up the talent and expertise of domestic automakers and their suppliers.

Overall, most Chinese suppliers are interested in expanding their direct business with Detroit car companies. Many Detroit car companies rely on low-wage countries like Mexico to get common car parts. Chinese companies are trying to change that.

Elio Motors

As you read this article, just remember, people laughed at Henry Ford, too, when Ford said he wanted to make a motorized vehicle that anyone could afford to buy.

More than 100 years later, Paul Elio has the same dream.  

While Ford's Model T had four wheels, Elio's car has three -- two in front, and one in the back.  And the car will seat only two people, but not side by side.  The passenger seat is directly behind the driver's seat.

That configuration, Elio says, largely explains the car's eye-popping fuel economy of about 84 miles per gallon on the highway. 

Chrysler made a lower-than-expected profit of $166 million in the first quarter, a decline of 65 percent from last year.  It was not just analysts whose expectations weren't met; the CEO of the company admitted disappointment.  

Sergio Marchionne said he knew the company would be "limping" in the period, due to retooling of the Toledo plant and preparations to launch the new Cherokee, but "we just didn't know how much."

Chrysler putting $20M into northwest Ohio plant

Apr 27, 2013

Automaker Chrysler plans to put close to $20 million into one of its northwest Ohio plants.

Chrysler says the work at the machining plant just outside Toledo will go toward new equipment and tooling. The investment won't bring any new permanent jobs though.

The spending will increase capacity for a torque converter for the new 2014 Jeep Cherokee.

The plant near Perrysburg makes torque converters and steering columns for several Chrysler plants in the Midwest as well as Canada and Mexico.
 

wikimedia commons

Ford released it's first quarter report with record pre-tax profits of $2.4 billion in North America.

"Ford has a product portfolio that's clicking on all cylinders, pun intended," said Daniel Howes.

Howes is the Detroit News business columnist and spoke with Michigan Radio's Cynthia Canty about Ford's future.

The U.S. Treasury is following through on its announcement late last year that it will sell its remaining stake in General Motors in an "orderly" fashion, within 12 to 15 months.

The U.S. Treasury held a 22 percent stake in GM on December 19, 2012.

Since January, the agency has sold 58,392,078 shares of GM stock at an average price of $28.04 each, reducing its GM ownership to 18 percent.

If the Treasury continues the sell-off at that same pace, it will sell its last remaining stock by early April 2014.

Transport Canada / National Safety Council

U.S. traffic safety regulators have proposed voluntary measures to keep drivers from being distracted by in-car touchscreens.

In a study, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that the tasks associated with hand-held phones and other portable devices increased the risk of getting into a crash by three times.

Regulators fear in-car devices could lead to distracted driving as well.

The government's voluntary guidelines establish recommended criteria for electronic devices installed in vehicles at the time they are built.

The guidelines seek to limit the time a driver must take her eyes off the road to manipulate a device to two seconds at a time - and twelve seconds total to complete the task.

The voluntary guidelines also recommend turning off several operations while the vehicle is in motion:

  • Manual text entry for the purposes of text messaging and internet browsing;
  • Video-based entertainment and communications like video phoning or video conferencing;
  • Display of certain types of text, including text messages, web pages, social media content.

In a press release, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said:

"Distracted driving is a deadly epidemic that has devastating consequences on our nation's roadways," said Secretary LaHood. "These guidelines recognize that today's drivers appreciate technology, while providing automakers with a way to balance the innovation consumers want with the safety we all need. Combined with good laws, good enforcement and good education, these guidelines can save lives."

A spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers told the Associated Press they're concerned regulations on in-car devices would encourage more use of mobile devices while driving.

The National Safety Council put out a report on "understanding the distracted brain" in which they write "Multitasking is a myth."

Human brains do not perform two tasks at the same time. Instead, the brain handles tasks sequentially, switching between one task and another. Brains can juggle tasks very rapidly, which leads us to erroneously
believe we are doing two tasks at the same time. In reality, the brain is switching attention between tasks – performing only one task at a time.

Here's one example of a distracted brain:

Robert Donovan / Flickr

There are regular-old recalls, and then there are big recalls.

This recall fits in the big recall category.

Reuters reports four Japanese automakers are recalling 3.4 million vehicles sold around the world because of faulty airbags supplied by the Takata Corp.

The move announced on Thursday is the largest recall ever for airbags made by Takata, the world's second largest supplier of airbags and seatbelts. Shares of Takata tumbled almost 10 percent in Tokyo trading.

The recall is the largest since Toyota pulled back more than 7 million vehicles in October. The scale of the recent safety actions underscore the risk of huge global supply chain problems as automakers increasingly rely on a handful of suppliers for common or similar parts to cut costs, analysts have said.

Here's the problem with the airbags according to Toyota:

The involved vehicles are equipped with front passenger airbag inflators which could have been assembled with improperly manufactured propellant wafers.  Improperly manufactured propellant wafers could cause the inflator to rupture and the front passenger airbag to deploy abnormally in the event of a crash.

The recall affects Toyotas, Hondas, Nissans, and Mazdas manufactured in or after 2000.

Go to these links to find out if your vehicle is under recall:

Honda recalls

Toyota recalls

Nissan recalls

Mazda recalls

1958 Chevrolet Impala.
GM

It has been one of the best selling cars of all time.

Since its inception in 1958, GM has sold more than 14 million Impalas (putting it in tenth place on 'best selling cars of all-time' lists).

It looked like this back then:

Today, the tenth version of the Impala is being made at GM's Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant, and at the Oshawa Assembly plant in Canada.

Here's a photo of the new Impala rolling down the Oshawa assembly line:

GM

Two of the plants are in Michigan (Flint and Bay City), one in Toledo, and one in Bedford, Indiana.

The auto industry is working on squeezing more miles to the gallon out of the internal combustion engine, and that's what these investments are about.

The $332 million will go toward upgrading manufacturing plants to produce six and eight speed transmissions, small "Ecotech" engines, and a new V-6 engine.

GM recently announced that it will redesign, refresh or replace nearly 90 percent of its vehicles in the North American market between now and 2016.

In addition to the investments in Flint, Bay City, Toledo, and Bedford, IN, GM says it's also upping previously announced powertrain investments by $46 million. Plants in Romulus and Saginaw will see that investment.

From Ford's press release:

Since 2009, GM has announced nearly $1.8 billion of investments for the six Powertrain facilities.

“We are investing in technologies and manufacturing capabilities that produce high-quality, fuel-efficient vehicles and components for our customers,” said Diana Tremblay, vice president of GM North American Manufacturing.  “Today’s announcement demonstrates GM’s commitment to growing the business and strengthening the plant communities where we receive so much support.”

GM says its investments won't lead to new jobs, but will retain 1,650 jobs at the facilities.

The plant in Flint will see the biggest investment. $215 million will be invested in the Flint Engine Operations plant for the 3 and 4 cylinder Ecotec gasoline engines.

Nathan Boomey of the Detroit Free Press reports Flint welcomes the news:

The investment marks a dose of good news for the Flint community after GM recently announced plans to shut down its Grand Blanc Weld Tool Center, displacing 343 employees...

“The investment we’re making is to obviously put in the required capacity or adjustment to the capacity to create more fuel-efficient products for our customers,” Jones said.

Boomey reports GM declined to reveal when the investments will occur, or what cars will receive the new engines and transmissions.

In their release, GM said the new "8-speed [transmissions] will be used in numerous GM vehicles by the end of 2016."

user futureatlas.com / Flickr

AAA Michigan is reporting falling gasoline prices in Michigan.  In the last week, prices have fallen about 12 cents to a statewide average of about $3.68 per gallon.

The auto club says the average is about 37 cents per gallon less than last year at this time.

The cheapest price is apparently in the Marquette area, where it's about $3.57 a gallon.

The highest average price is in the Ann Arbor area at about $3.71.

For more info click here.

- Chris Zollars, Michigan Radio Newsroom

NHTSA

There are plenty of apps for smart phones if you want to play games or catch sales at the stores.

But more and more, the smart phone is becoming a safety device as well.

Recently, the American Red Cross launched an app that will warn you if a tornado has been spotted in your area.

Now, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is in the app business.

NHTSA has launched a new app that will tell you if there is a recall for your vehicle.  You can also register a safety complaint about your vehicle through the app.

Colorful used cars
Zelda Richardson

In a recent study by L.R. Polk, none of the top ten car companies that women prefer were domestic.

Susan Ianni, the general manager of Gordon Chevrolet of Garden City, argued otherwise.

"Women here love domestic cars," she said. "It's in other parts of the country where the problem lies. Women aren't even looking at domestic cars. They aren't even on their shopping list. Women are going for the car they're driving which is probably a foreign car, so they're going back to that dealership and not giving domestic cars a chance."

So what was this study getting at and why do some women prefer foreign cars?

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

General Motors is considering spending nearly $40 million to expand its Lansing Grand River plant.

On Monday, the Lansing city council will consider granting tax abatements to GM.

The abatements are tied to the automaker’s plan to spend $38 million to expand its Lansing Grand River plant. The expansion would add about 150 jobs.

GM already makes its Cadillac ATS at the plant.   The ATS recently won the North American Car of the year award at the North American International Auto Show. 

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