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3:29 pm
Mon April 29, 2013

Chrysler profits are down, but Fiat losses are lower

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."

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Auto
3:16 pm
Sat April 27, 2013

Chrysler putting $20M into northwest Ohio plant

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.
 

Stateside
5:03 pm
Thu April 25, 2013

Ford Motor Company announced record profits

Ford's Escape and Fusion are two of the company's most popular models
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.

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Auto
3:40 pm
Thu April 25, 2013

US Treasury reduced GM ownership to 18 percent since January

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.

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Auto
4:07 pm
Tue April 23, 2013

'Multitasking is a myth,' regulators seek limits on car touchscreens

An example of where a person using a cell phone looked.
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:

Auto
11:48 am
Thu April 11, 2013

Airbag defect prompts large recall for Japanese automakers

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

Auto
2:43 pm
Tue April 9, 2013

GM begins 2014 Impala production in Detroit and Canada

1958 Chevrolet Impala.
Credit 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:

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Auto
11:41 am
Thu April 4, 2013

4 GM manufacturing plants to get $332 million in upgrades

The locastion of the investments.
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."

Auto
11:34 am
Mon April 1, 2013

Gas prices down nearly 40 cents from last year

Gas prices have fallen in the last week.
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

Auto
11:23 am
Wed March 27, 2013

New app tells you if your car has been recalled

SaferCar app
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.

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Stateside
5:20 pm
Wed March 20, 2013

What women look for when buying a new car

Do men and women prefer different 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?

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Auto
8:41 pm
Thu March 14, 2013

GM looking to expand its Lansing Grand River plant

General Motors Lansing Grand River plant
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. 

Stateside
4:44 pm
Tue March 12, 2013

What's behind the high costs of Michigan auto insurance rates?

Toby Oxborrow Flickr

Depending on where you live in the state, your auto insurance rates could be outrageously high.

During the last session of the Michigan Legislature, there was an attempt to change the state’s auto no-fault insurance with claims that it would lower rates.

This is something the auto insurance agencies keep lobbying for, and Governor Rick Snyder said in his State of the State address we need to keep costs down.

But there’s little evidence that your insurance rates would go down that much, or at all, by these limits.

That’s because the real reason auto insurance is so high in some areas is theft, fraud, and uninsured motorists.

The part of no-fault that guarantees someone severely hurt will get the reasonable care they need is just a fraction of the cost, and some would argue the best bargain in the nation.

Joining me now is a lawyer who, we should point out, fights the insurance companies over claims on a regular basis.

Steven Gursten is with the law firm Michigan Auto Law.

Most of us find auto insurance coverage a little confusing at best, so we started off by explaining what catastrophic coverage is, and what the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association is.

Listen to the full interview above.

Stateside
1:12 pm
Mon March 11, 2013

The outlook of the auto economy in Michigan

automotiveauto.info

Michigan's economy is recovering faster than most states and much of that growth is because the auto industry is doing better these days.

Ford, GM, and Chrysler are all seeing increased sales in North America and China.

But just how healthy is it for the state to be reliant on building cars and trucks?

The state's economy has not diversified. It's riding along with the ups and downs of the auto industry.

The auto industry is booming for now, but for how long?

We spoke with Rick Haglund of Bridge Magazine about this. He covers Michigan business, economics, and the auto industry for Bridge Magazine.

Listen to the full interview above.

Auto
11:27 am
Fri March 8, 2013

Feds close probe into Ford SUVs rolling away

NHTSA: No recall on SUVs that might roll away in park.
By IFCAR (Own work) Wikimedia Commons

DETROIT (AP) - U.S. safety officials have closed an investigation into allegations that three Ford SUVs can roll away when the transmissions are in park.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says the probe involved about 1.5 million Ford Explorer, Mercury Mountaineer and Lincoln Aviator SUVS from the 2002 to 2005 model years.

The agency determined that failure rates weren't high enough to order a recall. The probe began in April 2009 and was closed last month. The safety agency found 36 complaints including 14 crashes and six injuries.

Investigators found that the park gear in the transmission failed only 4.4 times per 100,000 vehicles. A system that prevents the car from being shifted into gear unless the driver's foot is on the brake failed only 3.4 times per 100,000 SUVs.

Auto
10:58 am
Wed March 6, 2013

Former GM executive tapped for Toyota board

Toyota has tapped a former executive at U.S. rival General Motors to be on its board, the first time in the Japanese automaker's 76-year history it is appointing board members from outside the company.

The appointment of Mark Hogan, effective April 1, is a key part of the sprawling management changes Toyota Motor Corp. announced Wednesday. They underline its efforts to grow more international, nimble, transparent and responsive to regional markets.

Toyota set up a new division called "No. 1" to oversee North American, European and Japanese markets, and another "No. 2" for emerging markets. It also promoted four non-Japanese managers to oversee regional businesses.

Besides Hogan, two Japanese, from insurance and securities sectors, were picked as outside board members. The board appointments require the approval of shareholders.

Auto
5:28 pm
Tue March 5, 2013

Group pushes for dog safety harnesses that actually work

Center for Pet Safety

The reason we're supposed to wear seat belts is pretty clear to most of us by now.  It's to keep us from becoming human projectiles in a crash.

That's the same reason more and more dog owners are buying safety harnesses for their dogs.  But, unlike seat belts, there is no independent testing of dog harnesses and no national standard.

The Center for Pet Safety hopes to change that.

Last year, the group selected four of the strongest safety harnesses intended for large dogs and tested them with a new dog test dummy on a track.

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Auto
5:23 pm
Fri March 1, 2013

Ford, GM and Chrysler posted gains in February sales

February was a good month for the Big 3.

The increase is a sign that U.S. auto sales remain strong even in an uneven economy.

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Auto
5:20 pm
Thu February 28, 2013

Michigan Radio tests fuel economy of C-Max; your mileage will vary

Credit user: Matthias93 / Wikimedia Commons

I recently conducted my own, informal test of the fuel economy of the Ford hybrid crossover, the C-Max.  I was curious to see what number I could achieve, in light of the ongoing controversy.

Consumer Reports and now two lawsuits claim Ford's advertised number of 47 mpg is unreachable.

So, on a 30-degree evening, not too windy, no snow in the forecast, I set out from Ann Arbor, reset the fuel economy calculator, set the cruise control at 55 miles per hour, and drove.

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Auto
4:14 pm
Thu February 28, 2013

Chrysler to hire 1,250 more workers in Indiana

Chrysler CEO and Indiana Governor
Chrysler

Chrysler says it will add up to 1,250 new jobs in Kokomo, Indiana as it begins to produce a new fuel-efficient nine-speed transmission.

That brings the number of new jobs created since the company emerged from bankruptcy to more than 8,000.

The Detroit-based automaker will invest $375 million in its four transmission and casting plants in Kokomo, Indiana.

Chrysler is already building an eight-speed transmission at the Indiana facilities and it will add a nine-speed transmission next year.

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