Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

GM shareholders meet today at the automaker’s Detroit headquarters—with protesters circling outside the Renaissance Center.

The protesters include family members of people who died in GM cars that have since been recalled.

GM has acknowledged 13 deaths as a result of faulty ignition switches. But victim’s advocates say that number is much higher, possibly more than 100.

Laura Christian’s daughter, Amber Marie Rose, died when the airbag in her 2005 Chevy Cobalt failed to deploy.


"We failed."

That was the painful self-assessment from General Motors today, as CEO Mary Barra unveiled the findings of an internal investigation into the automaker's ignition switch crisis.

The defective switches are linked to at least 13 deaths and 47 crashes over more than a decade.

Today Barra spoke to GM employees at a town hall meeting broadcast around the world.

Michigan Radio's auto reporter Tracy Samilton was at the town hall, and she joined us on today’s Stateside.

*Listen to our conversation with Tracy Samilton above. 

GM executives answer questions during this morning's press conference.
GM / YouTube

Update 3:30 p.m.

Texas attorney Bob Hilliard represents about 70 families suing GM in a variety of state and federal courts.  

He says his clients were “stunned” to hear GM CEO Mary Barra admit the problem was a result of "incompetence and neglect."

“I don’t think that GM can come into a court of law anymore and argue it wasn’t their fault,” says Hilliard. He says the only thing GM can argue now is “what is the value of the loss.”

But Hilliard says he does worry GM will claim it's not liable for problems predating its bankruptcy. He cites a case involving a Pennsylvania man who was paralyzed from the chest down in an accident.   

“In court they say GM did not design this vehicle. GM did not manufacture this vehicle. GM did not sell this vehicle. Even though this vehicle was a 2006 GM Cobalt,” says Hilliard.

Hilliard says he's "skeptical" about the victims’ compensation fund GM is offering to establish.

Update 10:34 a.m.

The much-anticipated report that looked into what went wrong at General Motors was given to federal regulators and Congress this morning.

GM executives held a press conference this morning about what the report found and how GM plans to respond.

This is a turning point in the ignition switch recall saga for GM.

CEO Mary Barra refused to answer detailed questions from the press and from Congress until Anton Valukis released the findings of his investigation.

The New York Times' Bill Vlasic writes that GM execs hope this report will relieve some pressure on the company:

Legal experts say that G.M. has taken a calculated risk that Mr. Valukas’s findings and recommendations will sufficiently answer the myriad questions hanging over the company.

“The downside is that members of Congress, the press and the public may think that the report lacks credibility if it is in an in-house investigation,” said Carl W. Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond.

But Professor Tobias said that Mr. Valukas, a former United States attorney, was a good choice for the delicate task of investigating G.M. “His reputation is on the line with this report, so he is not likely to sacrifice that for G.M.,” he said.

But this is just another step in the grand mea culpa for GM.

Vlasic reports the company faces more Congressional hearings, more investigations from the U.S. Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission, and it will need to compensate the families of the victims of the ignition switch problems:

... the company is awaiting recommendations from the lawyer Kenneth R. Feinberg on how it will compensate victims of switch-related crashes and family members of people who died as a result of the defect. G.M. faces hundreds of private claims and lawsuits.

Mr. Feinberg, who oversaw compensation claims for victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the Boston Marathon bombing, has said he would make his recommendations to G.M. later this month.

To see how this crisis unfolded for GM, check out this timeline from NPR's Tanya Basu.

9:48 a.m.

General Motors CEO Mary Barra says 15 employees have been fired over the company's recent ignition switch recalls.

Barra made the announcement this morning as she released an internal investigation by attorney Anton Valukis into the recall of 2.6 million older small cars for defective ignition switches.

Barra says the internal investigation into its recent ignition switch recall is "brutally tough and deeply troubling."

“What Valukis found in this situation was a pattern of incompetence and neglect,” Barra said. “Repeatedly, individuals failed to disclose critical pieces of information that could have fundamentally changed the lives of those impacted by the faulty ignition switch.”

It took GM more than a decade to report the switch failures, which it blames for 13 deaths.

In a town hall meeting at GM's suburban Detroit technical center, Barra says attorney Anton Valukas interviewed 230 employees and reviewed 41 million documents to produce the report, which makes recommendations to avoid future safety problems.

A new study by Business Forward says electric costs will go up only slightly for auto manufacturers as a result of proposed EPA regulations on utilities.

And those costs pale in comparison to the financial impact from climate change.

Jim Doyle is president of the trade group.   He says storms are a huge expense for auto plants, which have to shut down if a supplier can't ship parts due to weather. 

And climate scientists say global warming is increasing the frequency and severity of major storms.


Hyundai and Kia made the greenest cars last year, according to an annual ranking by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The sister Korean companies stole the crown from Honda, which had been No. 1 since 1998.

Car dealership.

WASHINGTON – A price-fixing investigation into the auto parts industry has mushroomed into the Justice Department's largest criminal antitrust probe ever, and it's not over.

The investigation was made public four years ago with FBI raids in the Detroit area.

It's led to criminal charges against dozens of people and companies, stretched across continents and reverberated through an industry responsible for supplying critical car components.

Thirty-four individuals have been charged and 27 companies have pleaded guilty or agreed to do so. Collectively, they've agreed to pay about $2.3 billion in fines.

A Justice Department official says it's safe to say that U.S. car buyers paid more as a result of the conspiracy.

Officials say the investigation stands out for its scope and for the cooperation received from Japan, Australia and other countries.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

WASHINGTON (AP) - A price-fixing investigation into the auto parts industry has mushroomed into the Justice Department's largest criminal antitrust probe ever, and it's not over.

The investigation was made public four years ago with FBI raids in the Detroit area.

It's led to criminal charges against dozens of people and companies, stretched across continents and reverberated through an industry responsible for supplying critical car components.

DETROIT – General Motors is recalling 2.4 million vehicles in the U.S. as part of a broader effort to resolve outstanding safety issues more quickly.

The latest action brings to 13.6 million the number of vehicles GM has recalled this year, a new record for the automaker.  

The recalls announced Tuesday include 1.3 million older-model crossovers with defective front seat belts and 1 million sedans with a shift cable that can wear out. 

GM is also recalling 1,400 new Cadillac Escalade SUVs with faulty air bags. No fatalities related to the defects have been reported, GM says. It expects to take a $400 million charge in the second quarter to repair the vehicles. 

GM agreed to a $35 million federal fine last week for delays in reporting a deadly ignition switch defect.

A few years ago, most of us would not know what the phrase "connected vehicles" meant. Today, the technology is being used in more vehicles, in hopes of cutting down on accidents and traffic jams. 

A new study from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute finds that even as the public welcomes the prospect of safer driving, they are still worried about being hacked and preserving their privacy. 

We were joined by the researchers who conducted this study. 

*Listen to the full interview above. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has posted online the results of additional tests performed by GM engineers on recalled Cobalts, HHRs, Ions, and Solstices.

The cars have defective ignition switches that can turn into the "accessory" or off position if a) there is extra weight on the key ring, and b) the switch is jarred, by the car going over rough terrain, for example.

Chrysler posted a loss of $690 million in the first quarter of 2014, largely due to one-time costs associated with a stock buyout.

Chrysler and its Italian partner Fiat purchased the 41.5% of the shares of Chrysler held by a union retiree health care trust.

The deal set the stage for the two to merge, forming a new company – Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

From a purely sales perspective, Chrysler did well in the first quarter. Sales rose 10% from the same period last year, and the automaker's market share rose a full percent.

An Indian manufacturing company is expanding into Michigan.

Mahindra Group will locate  its technical research facility in Troy – and a manufacturing facility in Ann Arbor.

Mahindra's first product in the U.S. will be an electric scooter called the "GenZe."

The scooter is designed for modern urban and campus commuting.  It will get up to 30 miles on a charge, and the battery can be removed and plugged into a regular 110-volt outlet.

Two more big recalls today, this time by Ford Motor Company and Chrysler.

Both companies say they are unaware of any injuries or accidents related to the issues.

Chrysler is recalling about 780-thousand newer model minivans for window switches that can overheat and catch fire.

David Grant / Flickr

Preparations are well underway as Belle Isle gets primped and polished for the upcoming Grand Prix, officially called the "Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix," from May 30 to June 1. 

Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes talked with the man who revived Detroit's Grand Prix in 2007. 

This is the first time the race has been held since the state took over management of Belle Isle. What has been done to prepare for the race and fix up the island?

*Listen to the interview above. 

It's a big day for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

The Italian-American company's CEO, Sergio Marchionne,  will outline a strategic plan for the next five years.

The marriage between Chrysler and Fiat surprised many in the auto industry just by surviving.

Now the company is strengthening that union, by exporting its strongest brands around the world.

When Fiat agreed to a kind of corporate shotgun marriage with a fresh-out-of-bankruptcy Chrysler five years ago, a lot of people thought Fiat's CEO Sergio Marchionne was crazy to do it.

DETROIT – General Motors is recalling 51,640 SUVs because the fuel gauges may show inaccurate readings.

The recall involves the Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia from the 2014 model year. All of the affected SUVs were built between March 26 and Aug. 15 of 2013.

GM says the engine control module software may cause the fuel gauge to read inaccurately. If that happens, the vehicle might run out of fuel and stall without warning.

The company doesn't know of any crashes or injuries related to the problem.

Tracy Samilton

Mark Fields will become Ford's CEO on July 1, replacing Alan Mulally, who was hired in 2006.

The automaker was posting massive losses at the time.

One of Mulally's first moves was to insist that his executives honestly disclose problems at a required weekly meeting, using a red-coded slide for "big problem!"

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Update: 9:33am

Fields thanked Mulally for leaving "this gift of a transformed Ford."

Mulally said that he hasn't decided what he will do after retiring in July. 

8:42 am

Ford Motor Co. announced this morning that CEO Alan Mulally is retiring on July 1 and will be replaced by Chief Operating Officer Mark Fields.

Mulally and Executive Chairman Bill Ford have scheduled a news conference for 9 a.m. at the company's Dearborn, Michigan, headquarters. Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton will be there.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx is asking Congress to approve higher penalties for car companies that delay recalls.

The request is part of a proposed $300 billion long-term transportation budget for U.S. road, bridge, and transit projects.

Right now, the most the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration can fine a car company over a delayed recall is $35 million.

Foxx proposes Congress should increase that to $300 million.


Toyota is moving its U.S. headquarters to Plano, Texas, near Dallas.

The relocation will affect thousands of people in Toyota's California and Kentucky faciliites.

The decision is something of a mystery, but it may have something to do with trucks.

Car companies make a lot more money on pickup trucks than cars. But Miami University professor James Rubenstein says those profits have largely eluded Toyota.

Rubenstein, a geography professor, tracks the geographic distribution of the auto industry in the U.S.

A 2005 Toyota Camry.

FLINT, Michigan – A judge has accepted a settlement involving the family of a 77-year-old Flint-area woman killed when her 2005 Toyota Camry slammed into a tree after alleged sudden acceleration.

Terms of the settlement that was approved Friday between the family of Guadalupe Alberto and the automaker aren't being released. Genesee County Judge Archie Hayman in Flint says it's been a "long road" for the family and his prayers are with them.

The Flint Journal reports that Alberto's daughter, Lilia Alberto, says a payment from the settlement will be distributed among family members.

Lawyers for both sides declined to comment after the hearing. Toyota said earlier this month that it was satisfied that a mutually acceptable agreement was reached.

Guadalupe Alberto died instantly in the April 2008 crash in Flint.

A Ford assembly plant in Kansas City.
Ford Motor Company / Flickr

Ford Motor Company's first quarter 2014 profit fell 39% from the same period last year due to a combination of factors, including currency problems in Venezuela, and higher costs for warranty claims and recalls.

Ford made $989 million net income in the first three months of the year.

Ford Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks says some of the decline was foreseen.

The automaker is launching more vehicles (23) this year than any time in its history.

Ford Motor Company

All signs point to a big change at Ford Motor Company.

Although the automaker has not made an official announcement, there is much speculation today that CEO Alan Mulally is reportedly ready to retire before the year is out and COO Mark Fields will ascend to the top spot.

Michigan Radio's auto reporter Tracy Samilton joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

GM Renaissance Center in Detroit.
John F. Martin / Creative Commons

DETROIT – General Motors is adding 35 product safety investigators as part of a larger restructuring in response to a series of safety recalls.

GM says the new investigators will more than double the size of its current team, to 55.

The company is also dividing its global vehicle engineering organization into two sections. A product integrity section will oversee vehicle and engine engineering as well as safety, while a separate department will oversee parts engineering and advanced vehicle development.

GM's product development chief Mark Reuss says the changes were made to ensure that potential problems are spotted and handled more quickly.

The government is investigating why it took GM more than a decade to recall small cars with a defective ignition switch.

Ford Motor Company

The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg News, and The Detroit News report that Ford Motor Company will soon announce that Mark Fields, Ford's Chief Operating Officer, will be its next CEO – and give a firm date for current CEO Alan Mulally's departure from the company he has led since 2006.

Mulally has consistently said he'd stay at the helm of the second-largest auto company in the U.S. until the end of 2014.  But the reports say Mulally will now leave earlier.

Documents detail another delayed GM recall

Apr 19, 2014

DETROIT (AP) - Government documents show that General Motors waited years to recall nearly 335,000 Saturn Ions for power steering failures despite getting thousands of consumer complaints and warranty repair claims. Additionally, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration didn't seek a recall of the 2004-2007 compact cars even though it opened an investigation more than two years ago.

An image from the consumer alert issued for the GM ignition switch recall.

DETROIT (AP) - A federal judge in Texas has denied an emergency motion that would have forced General Motors to tell owners of 2 million recalled cars to stop driving their vehicles until their ignition switches are repaired.

U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos issued her order Thursday in Corpus Christi. Attorney Robert Hilliard, who represents some owners, had argued that the GM cars could at any moment lose power and expose their occupants to serious injury or death.

GM had urged the court not to intervene and instead let a recall overseen by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proceed. The carmaker said extensive testing had shown that if the recall instructions were followed, there was no risk that the ignition switch would fail.

GM has linked the switch to 13 deaths.

GM Renaissance Center in Detroit.
John F. Martin / Creative Commons

General Motors is asking a bankruptcy judge in New York to take a look at its "shield" – the shield that protects it from liability lawsuits that stem from crashes or defects that happened before its bankruptcy.

Veteran auto analyst Michelle Krebs joined us today. She explained what GM is trying to find out. *Listen to the audio above.

There was an encouraging report last month from the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute about fuel economy.

We hit a record high in February in terms of gas mileage for new vehicles sold in the U.S.: 25.2 miles per gallon. It's the fifth-straight month gas mileage for new vehicles has topped 25 mpg.

That got us wondering how we're faring in the quest to squeeze out better mileage from our cars and trucks, and in the quest to create electric, hybrid, natural gas and fuel-cell vehicles and technologies.

Charles Griffith is the climate and energy program director at the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor, and he joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

screen grab / U.S. House of Representatives

Two engineers have been put on paid leave at General Motors as the company has an outside attorney investigate why it took more than 10 years for GM to recall millions of cars with faulty ignition switches.

GM says the switches have been linked to at least 13 deaths.

More on the suspension of the engineers from the Associated Press:

The company says in a statement Thursday that the action was taken after a briefing from former U.S. Attorney Anton Valukas. He's been hired to figure out why GM was so slow to recall the cars.