There’s more than one kind of hybrid vehicle. But most people only know about electric hybrids that use batteries.

The U.S. Department of Energy has poured several billion dollars into helping companies develop advanced lithium-ion batteries.  But to hear Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne describe the effort, that's tantamount to picking a technology winner, before the race is finished.

The big problem with advanced batteries, says Marchionne, is they're really expensive. A big battery can increase the cost of a vehicle by a third.  

"And I don’t think we should prejudice the discussion by saying electrics are the answer," Marchionne said at a press event held at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory in Ann Arbor.  "They may be part of the answer."

Enter hydraulic hybrids. They tap into energy stored in high pressure canisters filled with fluid and nitrogen. They’re cheaper than electric hybrids, and already used in some big rigs and garbage trucks.

Now, using technology developed by the U.S. EPA., Chrysler will build and test a set of hydraulic hybrid minivans. The company hopes to see the same improvement in fuel efficiency as battery hybrids - about 30 to 35% -  but at a much lower cost.

Dow Chemical

The CEO of Dow Chemical, Andrew Liveris, met with President Obama and China's President Hu this afternoon along with leaders from 17 other businesses in the U.S. and China.

President Obama says he's stressing the importance of  increasing exports to China and increasing investment in the United States, "both critical to supporting millions of American jobs." 

President Obama and President Hu made statements to the press before their meeting. From the press pool report:

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The annual West Michigan Economic forecast was held today in Grand Rapids. Hari Singh is an economist at Grand Valley State University. He expects employment will increase 2% in the region this year .

flickr - user harry_nl

The Michigan Manufacturers Association (MMA) says Michigan is getting it's "butt kicked" when it comes to taxes.

In the Detroit Free Press, the MMA's vice president for government affairs, Mike Johnston, was quoted when talking about personal property taxes on equipment.

From the article:

Jdpowers65 / Flickr

Attendance is up at the North American International Auto Show so far this year, the Detroit Free Press reports. The Freep says:

Attendance Monday was 64,520, up from 61,112 from the same day last year, said NAIAS spokesman Sam Locricchio. On opening day Saturday, 86,622 attended the show, compared with 83,715 on the opening Saturday last year, he said. Sunday's attendance was 99,111 -- up from 96,623 for the opening Sunday in 2010, he said.

The show, at Detroit's Cobo Center, is open until Sunday.

Two communities in West Michigan are trying an online coupon program to help spur the economy. The program called ‘Try it local’ is similar to Group-on.

UAW members head to D.C.

Jan 17, 2011
Ray Holman of UAW Local 6000 says the ruling is a victory for state employees.

Members of the United Auto Workers union will be on Capitol Hill today in Washington, D.C.. Some 1,000 union members will be there for a four-day legislative meeting.  As the Associate Press reports:

They'll be hearing from UAW President Bob King on Monday on the start of the four-day conference. The Detroit News says King plans to talk about efforts to persuade non-U.S. automakers to make it easier to unionize their U.S. plants.

In a statement, the UAW said, those at the meeting will:

...discuss the union's legislative and political priorities for the coming year, meet with members of Congress to advocate on behalf of working families and prepare for the union's 2012 electoral campaign.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is expected to speak at the conference.

La Shish Restaurants were once famous in Michigan for good middle eastern cuisine. But the restaurants closed when La Shish's owner got into legal trouble and fled the country.

Now, Jeff Karoub reports for the Associated Press that the La Shish name will come back to Dearborn:

Restaurateur Carmel Halloun said Friday that he's acquired the rights to use the La Shish name and plans to open a restaurant in March in the former chain's first location in Dearborn.

The name doesn't come without baggage. The La Shish chain of restaurants closed when the former owner, Talal Chahine, fled the U.S. Karoub writes that in 2005 Chahine "was charged with multiple counts of tax evasion and citizenship fraud."

The new owner of the La Shish name says he thinks enough time has passed. From Karoub's article:

Halloun said he knows people loved the food and is willing to take a chance. He said he wouldn't reopen at La Shish's first location without the restaurant's original name. "I want people to come back," he said.

carrib / Creative Commons

Last year the number of passengers traveling through Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids went up more than 20%. The airport served more than 2.1 million passengers in 2010; a new record for Michigan’s second largest airport. 

Bruce Schedlbauer is a spokesman for Ford Airport. He thanks a combination of factors. Foremost, he says a more stable economy helped boost the numbers.

Roger Hart / Auto Week

Editors at Auto Week perused the offerings at the 2011 North American International Auto Show and named their top picks.

Executive Editor of Auto Week, Roger Hart, said the show had more than two dozen new models on display, and most had one thing in common:

 "There were no fancy, pie-in-the-sky, dreamlike concept cars. Nearly everything billed as a concept looked as if you could buy one tomorrow at your local dealership and drive it home."

Here are their picks:

BEST IN SHOW: Porsche 918 RSR Concept

Flickr - Ruthanne Reid

The headlines for the Michigan-based Borders Group Inc. have not been good lately:

And my personal favorite speculative headline:

It seems everyone has been on a death watch for the bookseller.

Today, Julie Bosman writes in the New York Times Borders may be close to a financing deal that might help the company reorganize. From the article:

Borders executives told publishers that they were close to securing refinancing from GE Capital and other lenders, these people said, speaking only on condition of anonymity, and that the company intended to reduce costs, improve liquidity and expand marketing efforts, as well as sell some assets.

Earlier this month, we  posted on a Reuters report that said Borders was working with publishers to work out a deal. Borders is in debt to the publishers for past shipments and the company reportedly wants to restructure that debt as a loan.

Meanwhile, the company is cutting costs. The Detroit News reported yesterday that Borders is closing a big distribution center in Tennessee:

Borders will consolidate the processing and delivery of books, movies, music and other products to two distribution centers in Carlisle, Pa., and Mira Loma, Calif. It is part of a long-term effort to cut costs and make the distribution of products to bookstores more efficient, Borders Group said in a statement.

So will borders survive? What would your future headline say?

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

At the Detroit International Auto Show, domestic automakers are celebrating a comeback of their industry. GM and Ford both saw profits last year, and the car makers are expecting a good year this year.

As more proof of the comeback, Bill Vlasic and Nick Bunkley report in the New York Times about profit-sharing checks that are expected to go to GM and Ford workers:

The two big Detroit carmakers will announce profit-sharing checks this month for their hourly workers, perhaps the largest in a decade, company officials and industry analysts say.

The checks are expected to top out at $5,000 at Ford, less at GM.

They report these checks "would be the biggest payout since the $8,000 checks that Ford handed out in 2000." Chrysler, the report says, is not expected to issue bonus checks this year.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Motors Liquidation, the official name of “old General Motors”, has a buyer for its 2-million-square-foot former GM stamping plant in the Grand Rapids suburb of Wyoming.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

2010 was the worst year in a decade for home foreclosures in Michigan, according to new data out today.   And 2011 is expected to be worse.  

One in 33.    That’s how many Michigan homes received a foreclosure notice in 2010.   

 Realty Trac ranks Michigan as having the 7th worst home foreclosure rate in the nation last year. Daren Bloomquist is with Realty Trac.    He says Michigan’s foreclosure numbers should be worse this year. 

United Van Lines

One sign of a tough economy is the sight of a big moving truck out in front of the neighbor's house.

And according to one moving company's study, Michigan has seen more of those moving trucks leaving the state than entering the state.

In it's 34th annual "migration" study, United Van Lines says Michigan ranked second in outbound traffic in the country.

Corvair Owner / Flickr

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing visited the North American International Auto Show today in Detroit. As the Associated Press reports:

The former NBA great toured Cobo Center... checking out the latest offerings from companies including General Motors and Ford. He says a comeback for automakers such as GM, Ford and Chrysler is positive for the city and the state.

Bing is just one of many politicians who have visited the show over the past few days.  Governor Rick Snyder visited the show yesterday and members of Michigan's Congressional delegation, including Democratic Representatives John Dingell, Sander Levin and Gary Peters, have also visited Cobo Center this week.

kvanhorn / Creative Commons

Grand Rapids office furniture maker Steelcase says it will close three manufacturing plants in North America. 400 workers will be laid off at a plant in the Grand Rapids suburb of Kentwood.

Photo courtesy of

Governor Rick Snyder visited the North American International Auto Show in Detroit yesterday.  He sat in a Chevy Volt, stopped by the Ford and Prius pavilions, and visited with Fiat-Chryser CEO Sergio Marccione. Rick Pluta was at the show and filed this report:

Governor Snyder cheered the rebound in the auto industry from where it was at this time last year. Snyder says he does not want to play favorites when it comes to economic development -- that Michigan should make all entrepreneurs feel equally welcome. But the governor also says he recognizes how big the car business still looms in the state’s economy. Snyder said:

The role of manufacturing and the auto industry in Michigan’s future is critical. I don’t walk away from it all. Actually, I embrace it. That is part of our heritage. That is something we have world-class people in.

The governor says he will call for lower taxes and less regulation and will reveal more details of his economic plan next week when he delivers his first State of the State address

The show opened for media previews on Monday and opens to the public on Saturday.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The head of President Obama’s Auto Task Force paid a visit to the North American International Auto show.   Ron Bloom is also the President’s top advisor on manufacturing policy. Bloom and Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow toured Detroit automakers’ exhibits at the auto show.   Bloom says the Obama administration is “cautiously optimistic” about the U.S. auto industry’s recovery.   He says automakers’ profits are “better than expected," but admits that job growth is slower than he’d like. Still, he’s optimistic.