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Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

When you walk onto the showroom floor at the North American International Auto Show, the bright lights and polished shine of the cars surround you.

You'd think a wash, wax, and polish for the cars would be good enough.

I mean, these things are indoors. What can muck them up?

Dust. That's what.

And not just dust... fingerprints too! (for heaven's sake)

So at the North American International Auto Show, you see a small army of people hovering over the cars with feather dusters, a little towel, and a spray bottle.

Carlos Bryant has been keeping the Bentleys looking sharp at the Detroit auto show for more than a decade.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

At the North American International Auto Show today, the Chinese-owned Guangzhou Automobile Group, or GAC Motors, announced plans to build Jeeps to sell in the Chinese market.

GAC Motors is a state-owned automobile business located in the city of Guangzhou in southern China.

More on the announcement from Brent Snavely of the Detroit Free Press:

Japanese auto supplier set to invest $150 million in Michigan

Jan 15, 2013
DENSO International America / flickr

Japanese auto supplier Denso has announced a four-year, $1 billion expansion in North America, including a $150 million investment in Michigan.

According to plans revealed at the North American International Auto Show on Tuesday, the auto supplier could hire a combined 400 new workers at its technical center in Southfield and manufacturing plant in Battle Creek.

Nathan Borney of the Detroit Free Press has more:

Ford

Ford is known for putting on a glitzy press conference at the Detroit Auto Show.

The media and auto industry officials filed into Joe Louis Arena to see what the company would unveil.

Company officials spent a good portion of the 25 minute press conference showing off their new line of Transit vans.

But the sparks flew when they lowered their concept truck, the "Atlas," from the ceiling of the arena.

Take a look:

Why trucks? Well, a good portion of the company's profits come from their truck line, with the Ford F-150 leading the way.

Nissan

Nissan found itself in the spotlight at the North American International Auto Show today.  But not entirely for reasons that would please company executives.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

At the unveiling of the all-electric VIA Motors truck, former auto exec Bob Lutz held a conversation with a holographic presentation of Thomas Edison.

VIA Motors is a privately held electric vehicle development and manufacturing company. The company is working to develop a purely electric truck under the VTRUX brand name.

Toyota tops GM in global auto sales

Jan 14, 2013
A.N.M / flickr

With projected vehicle sales of 9.7 million in 2012, Toyota has once again dethroned General Motors as the world’s top-selling automaker.

GM increased its global vehicle sales to 9.29 million but could not keep pace with the Japanese automaker as it unveiled new versions of its popular Camry model.

German automaker Volkswagen followed close behind with 9.07 million in global sales.

Christine Tierney of The Detroit News has more:

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Volkswagen is working to continue to gain market share in the United States.

Today at the Detroit Auto Show, the company unveiled a new concept car aimed at the highly sought after North American SUV market.

The "CrossBlue," as it's called now,  is a six to seven seat SUV with a "plug-in hybrid powertrain that mates a TDI Clean Diesel engine with two electric motors."

That's right...  lift the hood, and you're not likely to know what the heck you're looking at.

But that's the future of cars. Automakers are moving toward cars with multiple power plants that can be engaged in different circumstances.

Volkswagen says the "CrossBlue" would get 35 mpg in "combined mode" (similar to the hybrid mode of today's Prius), and the equivalent of 89 mpg in all-electric mode (with a range in that mode of 14 miles).

Here's the unveiling of VW "CrossBlue" (complete with the 'demographic dancers'):

Jonathan Browning, President and CEO of Volkswagen Group America said the CrossBlue concept is "exactly the right type of vehicle for the U.S. market," but it still has a ways to go before it would be introduced here.

The car is an indication of where the company is headed.

Lincoln Motor Company

Lincoln is hip again!

Well... at least in the movie theaters. Ford executives are hoping enthusiasm for its re-tweaked Lincoln brand grows as well (the company is using the former president in advertising campaigns for the newly named "Lincoln Motor Company").

Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr., President and CEO Allan Mulally, and Executive Vice President of Global Marketing, Sales and Service Lincoln James Farley were all up on stage to unveil the new concept car at the Detroit Auto Show this morning - the Lincoln MKC.

Take a look at the unveiling:

Bill Vlasic wrote about the challenges faced by the struggling Lincoln brand in the New York Times:

As recently as the 1990s, Lincoln was the top-selling luxury automotive brand in the United States. Its large Town Car sedan and hulking Navigator S.U.V. defined the brand, and sales topped more than 230,000 vehicles a year.

But since then, Lincoln has been left in the dust by the German category leaders BMW and Mercedes-Benz, and Toyota’s Lexus division. This year, Lincoln ranks eighth in the American luxury segment, with sales down 2 percent, to 69,000, vehicles in the first 10 months of the year.

Its crosstown rival G.M. has had much better success reviving its Cadillac brand.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

A group of 49 automotive journalists from North America chose the Cadillac ATS as the 2013 Car of the Year.

The announcement was made this morning during the press preview of the Detroit Auto Show.

The Cadillac was among two other finalists, the Ford Fusion and the Honda Accord.

In a statement, Bob Ferguson, GM's vice president of global Cadillac said "this is a very meaningful honor for the entire Cadillac team, especially the men and women who build the ATS in Lansing, Michigan, and our dedicated and talented designers and engineers."

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

At this morning's press preview of the Detroit Auto Show, the Ram 1500 won the 2013 North American Truck/Utility of the Year Award.

The truck was chosen by a group of 49 automotive journalists from the United States and Canada.

The Ram 1500 was up against two other finalists in the category, the Ford C-Max and the Mazda CX-5.

The Ram 1500 also won the 2013 Motor Trend Truck of the Year award.

In a statement, Fred Diaz, President and CEO of Ram Truck Brand and Chrysler de Mexico, Chrysler Group LLC, said:

"For the Ram Truck Brand, this ranks as one of the proudest days in our history. Every truck-maker aspires to win the North American Truck/Utility of the Year. I tip my hat to the folks who worked behind the scenes to make the 2013 Ram 1500 a technological triumph."

General Motors

Press days for Detroit's North American International Auto Show "officially" begin Monday morning - but it's become something of a recent tradition to show an especially important car the night before.

That's what GM did with the seventh-generation Corvette, which it calls the "Stingray" in homage to the much-loved 1963 Corvette.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The North American International Auto Show in Detroit kicks off on Monday with preview days for the international press.

The show opens to the public next Saturday.   One of the highlights this year may not even be a car.

Auto show vice chairman Bob Schuman is pretty confident that everyone who goes to the show will be talking about the new Corvette, Chevy's top of the line sports car.   But they may also be talking about the ongoing Cobo renovation. Cobo has a new atrium that opens up the convention center to a view of the river and the Windsor skyline.

Ford

Ford Motor Company says it will hire 2,200 salaried workers this year.

It's the company's largest single-year increase of salaried workers in more than a decade.

Joe Hinrichs, Ford's President of the Americas, says the company doesn't anticipate trouble finding the right kind of people.

That's in contrast to before the recession when car companies sometimes couldn't find enough people interested in a career in the auto industry.

"Look at the types of technology you get to work on now, the vehicle is becoming so advanced, with computers, with software, with voice recognition, with sensors, that we are attracting a level of interest in people because of what's happening with the product itself becoming far more advanced," said Hinrichs.

Ford has about 28,500 salaried workers in North America.

staff / media.chrysler.com

DETROIT (AP) - U.S. safety regulators have cleared the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee after an investigation into possible engine fires.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began checking 107,000 of the SUVs in July after getting complaints about power steering hoses coming loose and leaking fluid onto the engine.

We got what looked like good news for the auto industry yesterday. Americans bought fourteen and a half million new vehicles last year -- nearly two million more than the year before.

True, that’s still considerably below total sales five years ago, before the Great Recession nearly put Chrysler and General Motors out of business forever. But still, it is progress. Except that those figures mask something troubling.

More cars were sold, but the Detroit three continue to lose market share. 50 years ago, in discussions about the auto industry nobody ever talked about foreign vs. domestic market share.

media.gm.com

DETROIT (AP) - General Motors is recalling nearly 55,000 pickup trucks, SUVs and vans because they can roll away unexpectedly.

The recall affects certain 2013 models of the Chevrolet Silverado, Suburban, Tahoe, Avalanche and Express. Also included are the GMC Sierra, Savana and Yukon as well as the Cadillac Escalade.

Italian automaker Fiat, already Chrysler's majority owner, has announced plans to acquire another stake in the Detroit car company.

Fiat currently owns 58.57 percent of Chrysler.  The rest is held by VEBA - the Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association.  The VEBA was given stock in Chrysler in lieu of cash payments to cover union retiree health care costs, which were shifted to the UAW in 2007.

Fiat says it intends to exercise an option for 3.3% of VEBA's stock, for $198 million.

GM MEDIA

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) - A federal judge says General Motors workers in northeast Ohio can move forward with a lawsuit against the automaker and the United Auto Workers.

The union's request to dismiss the lawsuit was turned down late last week.

Nearly 30 workers at GM's Lordstown factory say they were improperly classified as temporary employees after losing their jobs and then being rehired.

They say the change in classification cut their pay by more than 40 percent and are seeking back pay of $3 million to $4 million.

A local union official at the Lordstown plant where GM makes the Chevy Cruze has said that the workers weren't misrepresented.

Both the union and the company have denied the allegations in court documents.

The North American International Auto Show will be starting at Detroit’s Cobo Center in a couple weeks, and anyone who cares about cars can go see virtually every new model in existence.

This has been an annual tradition for more than a century. But I’ve thought for a long time that we don’t do nearly enough to celebrate the amazing heritage of our signature industry.

Think about it. Motor vehicles, primarily cars, are what transformed Michigan from a farm state not all that different from Iowa into the industrial powerhouse that put the world on wheels.

That’s fascinating, and there are few of us whose lives are not connected to the auto industry in some way.  But where do you go to learn about and celebrate that heritage? Sadly, fewer and fewer places.

Ford Motor Company

I recently interviewed Sheryl Connelly, Ford Motor Company's manager of Global Trends and Future.  Call her "futurist" for short.   Sheryl spoke with me about how she goes about "predicting" the future, and how it helps Ford develop and market its vehicles, and about Ford's latest report, "Looking Further With Ford: 13 Trends For 2013."

Q:  I want to talk with you first about your job.  What has Ford tasked you with doing?

A:  What most people don't realize is that it takes three years to bring a vehicle to market, so even if we come up with some sort of breakthrough or innovation today, it may not resonate or be relevant by the time the rubber hits the road.  And since we can't predict the future, what we do is track trends, in social, technological, economic, environmental and political arenas, because we think this will give us some insight into the forces that will shape consumers attitudes and behaviors.  It's never looking at automotive; in fact we try to stay away from that for the work that I do, so we come up with the insights, and then I pass it off to the designers, engineers and the marketing teams, that take their subject matter expertise and turn it into something meaningful in terms of product offerings.

Q:  So how do you track trends?  Are you constantly on Twitter or how do you do it?

A: Well, I've been doing it for nine years, so it's gotten a little easier over time, but it's really about pattern recognition -- looking for recurring themes, and seeing things that re-emerge and starting to have an eye for something, what are the drivers behind this, why does this seem like it's going to be important, and will it have staying power?

GM MEDIA

  DETROIT (AP) - An auto industry research firm says an improving economy and a host of new models should push U.S. auto sales above 15 million this year.

   The Polk research firm says auto sales should continue to lead the country's economic recovery. Polk predicts 15.3 million new vehicle registrations this year, up nearly 7 percent from 2012.

   Automakers release December and full-year sales for 2012 on Thursday. Analysts predict sales of around 14.5 million, the strongest year since 2007.

Andrew Duthie / Wikimedia Commons

Ford is creating 2,350 new jobs in Southeast Michigan. The Ford Motor Company announced a new plan to invest $773 million into six Michigan plants.

As part of last year's agreement with the United Auto Workers, the car maker pledged to create 12,000 new hourly jobs across the country.

Todd Nissen is a spokesman for Ford. He says his company is growing across the country.

GM

General Motors announced today that the next generation of the Camaro will be built at the Lansing Grand River (LGR) Assembly Plant. The Cadillac CTS and ATS are currently assembled at the Lansing plant.

The move could take a few years, according to the Detroit News.

The current model Camaro is built in Oshawa, Ontario.

The announcement sparked concerns that the move would lead to job losses at the plant in Canada.

Dana Flavelle of the Toronto Star reports the effect on jobs is not known yet.

“At this stage, there’s no immediate impact on employment. In the longer term, we really can’t speculate at this time,” GM Canada spokesperson Faye Roberts said in a conference call with reporters.

The timing will depend on when the product life cycle of the current generation Camaro comes to an end. “We haven’t said a specific time,” Roberts said.

In a statement, GM said "lower capital investment and improved production efficiencies" were reasons for their decision.

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

The U.S. Treasury Department and General Motors announced today that company will buy 200 million of the U.S. government's 500.1 million shares in GM.

GM will pay $27.50 for each share. That's 7.9 percent more than yesterday's closing price of GM stock.

The sale, expected to be completed by the end of the year, will reduce the government's stake in the company to around 19 percent.

IFCAR / wikipedia

Toyota Motor Corp. will pay a record $17.35 million fine for its failure to report a safety defect to federal officials and for delaying the subsequent recall.

The fine, levied by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), is the highest civil penalty relating to recall violations ever paid out to the organization, the Detroit Free Press reports.

More from the Freep:

Chrysler shutters car museum

Dec 3, 2012
harry_nl / flickr

Chrysler announced last week that it would be closing The Walter P. Chrysler Museum located at its Auburn Hills headquarters.

The museum, which opened in 1999, will merge with the Chrysler Foundation by the end of the year.

Chrysler Group LLC will purchase the 67 historic vehicles housed in the museum, the oldest being a 1902 Rambler Runabout Roadster.

The collection of classic cars will be be closed off to the public except for special events and exhibitions.

From the press release:

Ford

Ford's luxury brand is being renamed Lincoln Motor Company today. Ford execs introduced the new "The Lincoln Motor Company" during an event at New York City’s Lincoln Center Plaza this morning.

Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton reported that's the name the company had when Ford acquired it in 1922:

Ford's Lincoln brand is troubled.  Sales are poor and the quality of the brand has eroded in recent years.  

Ford promises it will revitalize the Lincoln Motor Company brand, just as it revitalized the Ford brand, and Lincolns will become desirable cars once again, starting with the new 2013 MKZ.   

The hybrid version of the M-K-Z get 45 miles per gallon combined and Ford will sell it for the same price as the non-hybrid.  Other unusual features include a retractable glass roof and a push-button gear shifter.

Three other new Lincolns are in the works.

The company says as proof that it plans to invest in the brand, the company plans to air a spot during the next Super Bowl in February. The ad will be developed "in an unprecedented way," they say.

GMC SUVs in a car lot
user ep_jhu / Creative Commons

GM, Ford, and Chrysler all say November sales were the best they've seen in a long time.

More from the Detroit News:

General Motors Co. said Monday it had its best November sales month since 2007, as its 186,505 sales rose 3.4 percent over the same month in 2011...

Ford Motor Co. posted November sales of 177,673, an increase 6 percent, with retail sales jumping 12 percent...

Chrysler Group LLC earlier reported its best November sales since 2007, as it sold 122,565 vehicles in the month, up 14.4 percent from the same month in 2011.

Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton will have more for us on these numbers later today.

Ford Motor Company is reaching back into its past, renaming Lincoln, its luxury brand, the "Lincoln Motor Company."

That's the name the company had before Ford acquired it in 1922.

The new name goes with a new design studio and a new car, the MKZ, the first of four Lincolns planned in the next three years.

The Lincoln brand plummeted in popularity and quality in recent years, as Ford focused its attention and resources first on avoiding GM and Chrysler's fate.  Both companies had to file for bankruptcy during the recession.

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