auto industry

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.

Chrysler putting $20M into northwest Ohio plant

Apr 27, 2013

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.
 

user paul (dex) / Flickr

General Motors says the car and truck buying public will be seeing big changes in the next few years when we walk into a GM showroom.
 
GM’s North America Chief Financial Officer Chuck Stevens recently told analysts that the automaker will redesign, refresh or replace nearly 90 percent of its vehicles in the North American market between now and 2016.

Is this strategy a matter of blazing new trails, or playing catch-up with the competition?

This is a two-sided story. Starting this year with 2011 models, the federal government’s fuel-economy standards, which have sat frozen for years, are going to get a big-time thaw. It's the biggest change since the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) law was created in 1975.

Colorful used 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?

Today on the show, the city of Flint recently hired seven new police officers, but some say that might not be enough to make a noticeable difference on the streets.

We explore public safety in the one of the nation's most violent cities.

And, new data show women in the U.S. prefer foreign-made cars to domestics. We find out why and talk about what it will take for the Detroit Three to win over those women.

And there are almost fourteen thousand children in Michigan who have been taken out of their own homes by the state because of an abuse or neglect allegation.

Those kids rely upon the state to keep them safe and put them in an environment where they have a chance to thrive.

Six years ago, the state was sued over treatment of kids in its care. The state was back in court today to see where things stand. Michigan Radio's Sarah Alvarez brought us a report.

Carlos Lowry / Flickr

The clouds have been lifting for  U.S. car makers.

With car sales and America's economy picking up, there are some who are looking further down the road.

They have been wondering  if deeper, bigger challenges lie ahead for the companies who put the world on wheels.

One of those wondering is automotive writer Micki Maynard. She recently published a couple of pieces in Forbes Magazine exploring what she calls "The Secret Fear of the World's Biggest Auto Companies".

Micki Maynard spoke with us to explain exactly what is the "Secret Fear" of the World's Biggest Auto Companies.

To hear the full story click the audio link above.

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.

December is shaping up to be another good month for the auto companies.

Analysts expect to see strong December sales numbers for General Motors, Ford, Chrysler and other auto makers:   Rising consumer demand, new models in the showroom, big year end deals. 

Mike Wall with IHS Global Insight says they’re all reasons to expect December to be a good month. 

“We still have a fairly old fleet out there…in terms of the average age of vehicles….and we have a consumer base that is starting to reengage the market,” says Wall.

Stateside: A 2012 review of the auto industry

Dec 20, 2012

The auto industry had some big stories in 2012.

Stateside spoke with Michelle Krebs, senior analyst at edmunds.com, and Tracy Samilton, auto beat reporter for Michigan Radio about this past automotive year. 

Sales are up in Detroit's 'Big Three' automotive companies, and the companies are adding jobs.

One of the biggest themes this year was fuel efficiency, especially with the new government Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards.

Chinese firm acquires bankrupt battery maker A123

Dec 10, 2012
A123 Systems Inc.'s battery manufacturing facility in Livonia, Michigan. The company filed for bankruptcy on Tuesday.
A123 Systems Inc. / Facebook

A123, the bankrupt battery company with factories in Livonia and Romulus, announced Sunday that a Chinese firm will acquire most of its assets.

In an auction administered by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware, Wanxiang Group Corp. purchased most of the company’s commercial business assets for $256.6 million.

The acquisition has some Republican lawmakers worried.

From the Detroit Free Press:

screen grab / WDIV

In a speech Monday in front of employees from Redford Township’s Detroit Diesel engine factory, President Barack Obama weighed in on Michigan’s impending right-to-work legislation.

About halfway through the President’s address, intended to promote his plan for averting the fiscal cliff, Obama took up the issue of right-to-work, the Detroit Free Press Reports:

Stateside: Chinese cars yet to motor along U.S. roads

Dec 3, 2012
user Ritzo ten Cate / Wikimedia Commons

China continues to be the world’s largest automotive market.

However, Chinese car manufacturers are still several years away from putting their products in the U.S. market, according to Michael Dunne.

Dunne is the president of Dunne and Company, a strategic marketing group helping auto companies expand in Asia.

Dunne addressed the status of China’s car industry, citing economic tensions with Japan.

Stateside: Labor unions' future reliant on cooperation

Nov 13, 2012
Pobrecito33 / Flickr

Labor unions have suffered something of an image crisis over the past decade.

People blame their presence for convoluting many political and economic conversations.

But, according to Harley Shaiken, the unions’ place in society is far from extinct.

Shaiken is a professor of education and geography at University of California, Berkeley.

He addressed the problems currently facing labor unions as well as their past triumphs.

“Overall the public opinion polls are favorable when people are asked if they would join a union,” said Shaiken.

According to Shaiken, the economic gloom of states’ economies cannot entirely be blamed on labor unions.

GM share price up on better-than-expected earnings report

Oct 31, 2012
Andrea_44 / Flickr

GM shares were up Wednesday on the back of a stronger-than-expected third-quarter earnings report.

The automaker reported a net income of $1.48 billion, down just 14.5 percent from last year despite major losses in Europe.

As a result, GM stock had increased by 9.66 percent to $25.53 a share by 2:20 p.m.

Melissa Burden with the Detroit News has more:

Ford restructures in Europe, cuts 5,700 jobs

Oct 25, 2012
Ford

Ford is cutting 5,700 jobs in the U.K. and Belgium as it tries to return to profitability in Europe.

The company is expecting annual losses of over $1.5 billion in Europe.

Alisa Priddle of the Detroit Free Press has more:

The actions will cut capacity by 18% or 355,000 vehicles a year which should result in annual savings of $450 million to $500 million, the company said today.

The recent bankruptcy of battery company A123 has some questioning the profitability of electric cars like the Nissan Leaf.
user cliff1066 / flickr

Tuesday’s bankruptcy announcement by A123 Systems Inc. has many taking another look at the prospects of the electric car.

Conservative commentators have taken the opportunity to bash the Obama administration for its green energy investments.

In 2009, A123 received a $249 million grant from the Department of Energy.

Ken Lewenza, president of the Canadian Auto Workers.
Canadian Auto Workers union

The Canadian Auto Workers and GM announced a tentative contract Thursday night reports The Globe and Mail:

The deal extends by one year the life of a car-assembly plant in Oshawa, Ont., that was scheduled to close next year and adds a new shift of workers at a neighbouring plant. That means GM’s employment level in Canada should be roughly the same as it is today – or about 7,000 people – in 2016.

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