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Henry Ford at 150

Jul 29, 2013
Image from the Collections of The Henry Ford

Ford Motor Company celebrates the 150th anniversary of the birth of Henry Ford this week.

Bill Ford, Jr. is Henry Ford's great-grandson, and Executive Chairman of the company

Ford says the founder would have been pleased that his company is still a family business, 150 years later.

“I know Henry Ford would have been incredibly proud of the way his grandchildren led the company through the most difficult times,” says Ford

Ford Motor Company took out a $24 billion loan in 2006, using its trademark blue oval as part of the collateral.

General Motors

General Motors is number two in global auto sales so far this year, just behind Toyota, and just in front of Volkswagon.

So why didn't GM make more money than its Dearborn rival, Ford Motor Company, in the second quarter?

Both companies made $1.2 billion, but Ford made that money based on a lower volume of sales.

Ford Motor Company's official website

Have you looked at a Ford financial report lately?

Ford Motor Company posted its 16th consecutive quarter of profitability on Wednesday.  The company made $1.2 billion dollars, driven by strong results in North America, combined with improved results in every other region of the world.

Ford is still losing money in Europe, as expected, due to the region's protracted recession.  But even in Europe, there is some good news.

Ford

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) - Ford and Toyota are ending joint research into hybrid systems for trucks and SUVs. The companies said Tuesday that they will each develop the systems independently.

Ford and Toyota agreed to the partnership two years ago after the CEOs of both companies met by chance in an airport. Engineers talked frequently and paid visits to each other's labs.

But Ford product development chief Raj Nair said both companies need to focus on finishing development and putting the systems into vehicles. Ford wants to offer hybrid trucks and SUVs by the end of the decade.

There is currently no full gas-electric hybrid system on the market for rear-wheel-drive vehicles like trucks. The hybrid systems in Ford and Toyota cars are made for front-wheel-drive vehicles and don't have enough power for trucks. 

Ford Motor Company

Earlier this year, Ford Motor Company announced it would hire 3,000 new white collar employees in 2013 to meet growing demand for its products, up from the originally planned 2,200.

The company has hired 1,500 and now, at the halfway point, Ford is starting a social media campaign to find the remaining workers. Of the 3,000 new jobs, 2,400 will be technical professionals who will work in product development, manufacturing, quality, purchasing and information technology. 

Alana Holland / Michigan Radio

The old GM Willow Run assembly plant, the same plant where Rosie the Riveter once worked, is in danger of being demolished. That is, unless the Yankee Air Museum can raise $4.5 million dollars in the next 15 days, as Tracy Samilton reported.

We also interviewed Dennis Norton, founder of the Yankee Air Museum, and Ray Hunter, the current Chair of the Museum, about their efforts to save the plant on Stateside.

The museum hopes to use the old plant to house its collection of exhibits and historic planes.

One of these planes is the B-17G "Yankee Lady," a bomber developed for the United States Air Force during World War II. The Yankee Lady is one of the few remaining models of the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bombers that remain flyable today.

Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton and Alana Holland got to experience first hand this historic plane in action. View the slideshow above for a look at the Yankee Lady in flight.

Alana Holland / Michigan Radio

With the touch of a button, a massive two-story-tall bay door opens slowly, as an insistent alarm sounds, to reveal part of the former Willow Run bomber plant near Ypsilanti, Michigan. A heavy waft of must and dampness rushes out from the dark interior.

Once, scores of B-24 bombers exited these bay doors, on their way to aid the American war effort. 

"It works better than my garage door back home," says Grant Trigger with a grin, as the more than 60-year-old doors lift.

Trigger is the Michigan Cleanup Manager for RACER Trust, which handles the vacant GM Willow Run Assembly Plant, along with scores of other properties abandoned by the automaker as part of its bankruptcy reorganization in 2009. 

The factory began its life as a Ford Motor Company World War II factory, famous for being the place where Rosie the Riveter worked. GM later bought the plant and converted it to make automobiles.

But soon it will be demolished, unless a modest museum can raise more than $4.5 million in the next 15 days.

Google Maps

Chrysler's Jefferson North auto plant is one of the most successful in the world, and one of the last to remain in Detroit. You probably won't envy its zip code though, if you zoom in and take a look at the surrounding neighborhoods, much of the city blocks are empty and overgrown.

Chrysler

When Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne was given control of Chrysler in 2009, it wasn't just the Detroit automaker's cars that needed to be improved. Many of Chrysler's factories were sorely in need of upgrades, too.

This week, Chrysler will give tours to media to show off an $850 million renovation of the Sterling Heights Assembly plant, which includes a built-from-the-ground-up new paint shop.

On Thursday, Chrysler will offer media a chance to see the upgraded Toledo Assembly plant, where the new Jeep Cherokee is being built.

Ford Motor Company

Consumers aren't the only folks to get scared and pull tight the purse strings during (and after) deep recessions.

Auto industry executives do it, too.

A survey by EY (formerly Ernst and Young) found that despite a dramatic increase in optimism about the economy, many auto industry executives say they're delaying big investments in acquisitions, equipment, and jobs.

52% in the most recent EY survey said the economy is improving - up from 22% just six months ago.

Timeline of the U.S. auto industry.
bizbrain.org

We here at Michigan Radio follow the ups and downs of the U.S. auto industry.

Our auto reporter, Tracy Samilton, stays on top of the recalls, the TARP money, and the competition from overseas.

But there's nothing like stepping back for a little perspective.

This infographic by BizBrain.org gives us a snapshot of the U.S. auto industry over the last 90 years.

Let us know if you think anything major is missing from this timeline.

media.gm.com / staff

General Motors and Honda are joining together to develop cars that run on hydrogen.

The two companies are leaders in fuel cell technology, which is still many years away from being viable --and affordable.

GM and Honda have had some joint projects before, although combining fuel cell car programs is the most ambitious.

The two companies together have only about 200 of the cars on the road, which generate electricity in a hydrogen fuel cell.

This year's vehicle Initial Quality Survey by the business tracking firm J.D Power and Associates is a bit of a stunner.

The survey asks people how many problems they had with their car in the first 90 days of ownership.

The top auto company was GM. 

The company's GMC brand was second only to Porsche.  That's the first time GMC has ranked anywhere near that high in the history of the survey.   Chevy was fifth, also a dramatic rise in the rankings.

Photo: Joseph Xu, Michigan Engineering Communications & Marketing / www.engin.umich.edu

The Solar Car team at the University of Michigan unveiled its newest car today.

The car is called “Generation” and it will represent the U of M team in The World Solar Challenge this fall.

Ford / YouTube

Ford Motor Company recently started testing its cars with the help of robots.

The company does robotic testing on vehicles for durability at the Michigan Proving Grounds in Romeo, according to a recent story from MLive.

Michael Wayland reported that Ford has used robots to test drive eight of its vehicles, including several truck models as well as the Fiesta.

Chrysler

It was called a "rare and risky" move to refuse a recall after the government requested it, but it seemed Chrysler was poised to do just that today.

Now, the automaker says executives have "resolved their differences" with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and will voluntarily recall the vehicles in question.

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 grew in 2014
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.

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