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auto industry

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

When the economy in Michigan is hurting, you always hear politicians talking about diversifying the economy.

But when the auto industry is doing better and the economy in Michigan is riding along with it, that talk seems to disappear.

Well, not this time. Rick Haglund recently wrote about a report that indicates the auto industry might be hitting the brakes.

Haglund joined us today. He’s a freelance journalist and contributor to Bridge Magazine, MLive and others. Michigan Radio's auto reporter, Tracy Samilton, also joined us on the show.

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.

Arsenal of Democracy book cover.
http://wsupress.wayne.edu/

There is no question that Detroit and the automobile industry played a major role in the Allied victory over Germany and Japan in World War II. We’ve often heard southeast Michigan described as the “Arsenal of Democracy.”

But not so well known is the struggle it took to turn the auto industry toward war production, particularly as women and African-American workers stepped up to take their places on the assembly lines.

Charles Hyde, professor emeritus of history at Wayne State University, joined us today. His new book is Arsenal of Democracy: The American Automobile Industry in World War II.

Listen to the full interview above.

United Auto Workers membership grows slightly

Mar 29, 2014
UAW/Facebook

NEW YORK (AP) - A filing with the U.S. Department of Labor shows the United Auto Workers' membership grew by nearly 9,000 people last year. 

UAW's membership in 2013 was 391,415, compared to 382,513 in 2012. The union has been steadily adding members since 2009, when General Motors and Chrysler filed for bankruptcy.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - Ford CEO Alan Mulally's compensation rose 11 percent to $23.2 million in 2013, as the company reported record profits in North America.

Mulally earned $2 million in salary, the same as 2012. But he earned more in bonuses, at $5.9 million, and in stock and option awards, which totaled $14.7 million.

The company's board said Mulally exceeded profit and cash flow targets. The company also earned a record pretax profit of $8.8 billion in North America.

The Detroit automakers are moving into their fifth year of recovery after the disastrous bottoming-out of 2009 when General Motors and Chrysler filed for bankruptcy. Half a decade later, however, sales are brisk and auto loans are available. But is the future that bright? On today's show: Are there warning signs of another auto downturn? And, if so, what needs to happen to stop it?

Then, what will our rivers and roads look like once spring hits and the snow melts? We spoke with meteorologist Jim Maczko to find out.

Lake Erie is full of blooms of cyanobacteria (sometimes referred to as blue-green algae) and dead zones, and a new report is asking us to take action. What can be done to improve the health of this lake?

Also, how about adding smell to food advertising? 

First on the show, are Michigan veterans getting what they deserve in terms of benefits and support?

The Veterans' Administration says when it comes to per-capita spending on veterans, Michigan checks in at an average of just over $3,400 per vet. The national average is over $4,800. That places Michigan last in the nation.

What is the state doing about this and to make sure that veterans get all the benefits to which they're entitled?

The director of Michigan's Veterans Affairs Agency, Jeff Barnes, joined us today.

user paul (dex) / Flickr

The Detroit automakers are moving into their fifth year of recovery from the disastrous bottoming-out of 2009, when GM and Chrysler had to file for bankruptcy and Ford had to mortgage itself to the hilt to avoid the same fate.

Sales are brisk, auto loans are available and the future is bright, or is it?

Are there warning signs of another auto downturn? And if so, can the state of Michigan protect itself from getting hit as hard as it did in the last collapse?

Bridge Magazine writer Rick Haglund wrote about this in a recent piece for Bridge, and he joined us today along with Kristen Dziczek from the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor. 

Listen to the full interview above.

White House

We've been exploring the effects of NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, recently. NAFTA is 20 years old this year and has had dramatic effects on the state and U.S. economy.

What has NAFTA meant to the auto industry, in particular, the movement of companies and jobs to Mexico – companies and jobs that used to be based in Michigan?

We turned to Stateside's partners at the BBC for more information. BBC correspondent Luis Fajardo joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s auto industry figured prominently in President Obama’s State of the Union speech last night.

He started by talking about a hard-working auto worker building fuel-efficient vehicles and helping America wean itself off foreign oil. 

The president then introduced the new CEO of General Motors, who was sitting with the First Lady.  

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - General Motors Co. says it will resume paying a quarterly dividend, its first since the height of the financial crisis in 2008

The U.S. automaker's CEO Dan Akerson had hinted that a dividend may be coming and the company confirmed the move Tuesday. General Motors says its dividend of 30 cents per share is payable March 28 to stockholders of record as of March 18.

The Detroit-based company says investors should share in the company's success and that the dividend is a signal of confidence for a profitable future.

New GM CEO hopes to inspire science students

Jan 12, 2014
gm.com

The incoming CEO of General Motors hopes her appointment as the first woman to lead a global automaker will inspire young women and men to pursue careers in science.

Mary Barra's first appearance before reporters since getting the job eclipsed the rollout of the GMC Canyon small pickup truck.

Barra unveiled the truck and was immediately surrounded by hundreds of journalists Sunday at an old industrial site in Detroit.

She hopes her background as an electrical engineer encourages young people into studying science, technology, engineering or math.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The 2014 North American International Auto Show is just around the corner.

Reporters from around the world will descend on Detroit's Cobo Center next week for the media preview days, the big black-tie Charity Preview is on Jan. 17, and the doors open to the public on Saturday, Jan. 18.

With that in mind, we wanted to see what the upcoming year might bring for the auto industry. For that we turn to Michelle Krebs from Edmunds.com, and Michigan Radio’s auto reporter, Tracy Samilton.

*Listen to the audio above.

Dave Pinter / Flickr

It’s been a big week for Michigan’s auto industry.

A report from Business Leaders for Michigan revealed a plan to bring 100,000 automotive jobs to the sector. And General Motors announced the next CEO of the company will be Mary Barra. She’ll be the first female CEO in the car industry.

Daniel Howes, a business columnist from The Detroit News, talks with us about this week’s announcements.

Listen to the full interview above.

General Motors CEO Mary Barra
Carlos Osorio / Associated Press

She began her career at General Motors as an engineering co-op student in 1980.

33 years later, Mary Barra has made history by being named the next CEO of GM — the first time a woman has been placed in the top spot of a major automaker.

GM made the groundbreaking announcement today that CEO Dan Akerson has moved up his retirement to January 15, after discovering his wife is battling advanced-stage cancer.

But who is Mary Barra, and what does this appointment mean to America's auto industry?

Listen to the full interview above. 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Hydrogen fuel cells, compressed natural gas, all-electric… what kind of cars are we going to be driving in a few years?

The LA Auto Show wrapped up… and the next big show is the North American International Auto Show at Cobo Hall in Detroit in January.

There, of course, is a lot of well-orchestrated hype at these big auto shows. If you’re looking for a clear direction on what we’ll be driving in the future, it’s still a mixed bag. But, new advances are dominated by efficiency improvements in the internal combustion engine.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

In what could be a victory for the Detroit-based United Auto Workers, a union official in Tennessee says a majority of workers at Volkswagen's assembly plant in the state have signed cards favoring the UAW’s representation in creating a German-style works council at the plant.

The official told the Associated Press that the cards are as legally binding as an election by the workers.

More from the AP:

The auto industry has been forever linked to the city of Detroit, but if that's the case, why is Detroit seeing such financial hardships while U.S. automakers are enjoying a boom?

On today's show we discuss the not-so-entwined Big Three and Detroit.

Then, Governor Snyder visits China . We'll find out why he's pushing so hard for a relationship between eastern Asia and Michigan.

But first, speaking in Sweden today, President Obama said responding to the alleged use of chemical weapons by Syria's government is the "moral thing to do." The President is on a three-day trip in Sweden and Russia for the G-20 summit. This is happening while senior officials in his administration are working to get support for intervention in Congress. 

Today we continue to get the view from Michigan's Congressional delegation.

Yesterday on Stateside we heard from Republican Congressman Justin Amash and Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow. Now we turn to Democratic Representative Sander Levin to explain why he supports a targeted and focused response.

Purdue Krannert School of Management

BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. (AP) - American Axle & Manufacturing co-founder and board chair Richard Dauch has died. He was 71.

The Oakland County medical examiner's office says Dauch died Friday of cancer at his Bloomfield Hills home.

A statement on the Detroit-based auto supplier's website reads: "Our thoughts and prayers are with Dick's family and friends."

Wikipedia

While Detroit embarks on the beginning days of its bankruptcy, the city’s Big Three automakers are reemerging from their own financial crises. It was four years ago that GM and Chrysler filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

And as this month marks the 150th year after Henry Ford’s birth, we take a look at what it takes to run a big auto company, and the future of Michigan’s automakers.

Bob Lutz has held top positions at GM, Ford, Chrysler, and BMW. His most recent position was that of Vice Chairman of GM from 2001 to 2010.

His newest book gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the bosses Bob Lutz has worked for, some of the most legendary names in auto history. It's called Icons and Idiots, out from Portfolio/Penguin.

Bob Lutz joined us today to talk about his book.  

Listen to the full interview above.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Detroit’s bankruptcy will make it tricky to brand Michigan as the comeback state.

True to his “relentless-positive-action” style, Governor Rick Snyder didn’t let a weekend of bad news about Detroit’s dismal finances get him down.

On Wednesday morning, as a hearing on the bankruptcy was beginning in federal court in Detroit, Snyder attended a ribbon cutting ceremony for an auto supplier that’s expanding in Muskegon. He urged factory workers to spread the good news about Michigan to everyone they meet.

“I’m not talking just ‘Pure Michigan” tourism messages, Snyder told the crowd. He asked they spread the news about Michigan’s educated workforce and its culture “of making the world’s best products.”

He admitted to reporters the bankruptcy has sidelined conversations about the state’s economy.

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.

It was dangerous! Explosions, injuries! No, not the war for Independence, but how we used to celebrate it. On today’s show, we went back a hundred years to see how Michiganders used to mark the 4th of July.

And, we spoke with Mardi Jo Link, author of the new book, "Bootstrapper: A Memoir. From Broke to Badass on a Northern Michigan Farm."

And, we looked into what’s behind the increase in backyard chicken farming here in Michigan.

Also, Andy Webb, owner of Captain Boom Fireworks in Otsego, joined us to talk about the new adjustment to the fireworks law.

And, we continued our week-long series of stories from immigrants about what America means to them. Today we talked to Koffi Itito. He fled the small West African nation of Togo in 2004. Now, he helps other refugees through his work at Freedom House in Detroit.

First on the show, to anyone who endured the dark days of the Great Recession with the near-death ordeals of General Motors and Chrysler, it seems nearly impossible to believe the "Help Wanted" sign is out at the car makers and their parts suppliers.

The Center for Automotive Research predicts the auto industry will add 35,000 jobs this year.  One auto supply executive calls it "an employee's market."

We wondered if this is a true hiring spree and if this can been seen as a return to the "glory days" of the car industry, or should we keep our collective guard up for fear of easily sliding back into the dark days of soft sales and layoffs?

David Cole, the Chairman Emeritus of the Center for Automotive Research, joined us today to discuss what’s behind these new jobs.

automotiveauto.info

To anyone who endured the dark days of the Great Recession with the near-death ordeals of General Motors and Chrysler, it seems nearly impossible to believe the "Help Wanted" sign is out at the car makers and their parts suppliers.

The Center for Automotive Research predicts the auto industry will add 35,000 jobs in 2013. One auto supply executive calls it "an employee's market."

We wondered if this is a true hiring spree and if this can been seen as a return to the "glory days" of the car industry, or should we keep our collective guard up for fear of easily sliding back into the dark days of soft sales and layoffs?

David Cole, the Chairman Emeritus of the Center for Automotive Research, joined us today to discuss what’s behind these new jobs and whether or not these good times will last.

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.

user paul (dex) / Flickr

It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for our weekly conversation with Daniel Howes, the Business Columnist at the Detroit News.

This week, he focused on the business community in Detroit, where companies like General Motors are trying to give back through programs like the GM Student Corps. From Howe's column:

By itself, the pilot program unveiled in the Wintergarden of GM’s Renaissance Center, isn’t front-page news in a city bursting with the good, the bad and the financially ugly on a weekly basis. What GM Student Corps signifies, however, is another example of a key player in the business community seeing a communal need and moving to fill it, quickly.

He joined us today to discuss the business in Detroit as well as the health of the auto industry.

Listen to the full interview above.

User: Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Policymakers debate how to spend surplus

The debate continues in Lansing over how the state should spend almost half a billion dollars in unexpected revenue this year. The Michigan League for Public Policy believes that because the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit is less than a third of what it was a couple years ago, legislators should restore the credit for the working poor.

"A spokesperson for state House Democrats says they support the idea of using some of the money to restore the Earned Income Tax Credit. However, Governor Rick Snyder says a similar tax credit from the federal government does enough to help working poor families in Michigan. He wants to use the extra cash to fix roads," Michigan Radio's Jake Neher reports.

Merger between Beaumont and Henry Ford sacked

The planned merger between Beaumont and Henry Ford health systems, two of southeast Michigan’s largest health care providers, has been scrapped. The leaders of each hospital signed a letter of intent to merge last fall, but negotiations didn’t work out so well. On Tuesday, Henry Ford CEO Nancy Schlichting sent a letter to employees, indicating they’ll end talks and let the agreement expire.

“It became apparent that two very different perspectives have emerged for the new organization between Henry Ford and Beaumont,” Schlichting wrote. Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek has more.

Rising car sales cut plant shutdowns

Summer vacation will be cut short for auto factory workers in Michigan this year, as carmakers try to keep up with heightened demand. Detroit automakers plan to reduce their annual shutdowns at dozens of North American plants that produce popular Ford and Chrysler models.

“This sends a strong signal that the industry is in a healthy place,” Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at market researcher LMC Automotive, told The Detroit News.

automotiveauto.info

This morning, the New York Times reported on the slow and steady increase of Chinese companies setting up in metro-Detroit.

The NYT's Bill Vlasic reports it has been a largely unannounced trend – and given the public opposition experienced by Japanese automakers – it is most likely an intentionally quiet entrance.

Chinese-owned companies are investing in American businesses and new vehicle technology, selling everything from seat belts to shock absorbers in retail stores, and hiring experienced engineers and designers in an effort to soak up the talent and expertise of domestic automakers and their suppliers.

Overall, most Chinese suppliers are interested in expanding their direct business with Detroit car companies. Many Detroit car companies rely on low-wage countries like Mexico to get common car parts. Chinese companies are trying to change that.

Carlos Lowry / Flickr

  If you hear the word Europe, you might find yourself thinking of great places to travel, a rich history, or family roots.

If you're an auto executive and you hear “Europe,” you’ll likely sigh and take a couple of aspirin for your headache.

That's because the Detroit automakers stand to lose $4 billion in Europe this year. And with a collapse in auto sales across the pond, trying to muscle through the kinds of changes that saved the industry here in North America is a totally different challenge in Europe.

Michelle Krebs of Edmunds.com and Michigan Radio’s auto reporter Tracy Samilton discuss the bleak picture in Europe for Detroit automakers.

Listen to the full interview above.

wikimedia commons

On the surface, it sounds like easing trade restrictions with foreign nations could present new opportunities and more business for American companies like the Detroit Three automakers.

But, is there a deeper danger to American jobs in these overseas trade agreements?

Michigan Democratic Congressman Gary Peters voiced his concerns about a new multi-lateral trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

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