auto

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.

Andrew Duthie / Wikimedia

That's according to Business Insider. Alex Davies and Mike Nudelman produced a map for the magazine showing top car choices in each state using data from Kelley Blue Book.

KBB looked at data going back to the beginning of this year.

Michigan was unique in it's "top car" choice. Most everywhere else, the Ford F-Series of trucks were the most popular. Here are some other states that broke the Ford truck trend.

But Americans elsewhere have different tastes: Florida and Maryland went for the Toyota Camry. Hawaii liked the Toyota Tacoma. Oklahoma bucked the geographic trend — the most popular car there is the Nissan Altima sedan.

Peter Blanchard / Flickr

Imagine driving through Ann Arbor, glancing over at the car next to you only to realize that the driver does not have his or her hands on the steering wheel, yet the car is moving along in traffic just fine.

That could happen in just a few short years.

The University of Michigan has announced plans to bring a fleet of networked, driverless cars to Ann Arbor by 2021.

Here to talk about what that would look like in the streets of Ann Arbor and what that might mean to drivers everywhere is the director of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. Peter Sweatman joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

DETROIT (AP) - A former car plant and symbol of Detroit's economic decline appears to have sold for just over $6 million at a tax foreclosure auction to a bidder from Texas.

The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press report that someone registered as Jill Van Horn of Ennis, Texas, put in the winning bid during Friday's online public auction for the Packard plant.

The auction opened on October 8th at $21,000. The full bid amount is due by the end of Monday.

Flickr user: citizen of the deep

Governor Rick Snyder has tapped a veteran auto industry executive to become the state’s automotive adviser. Gov. Snyder announced the appointment of Nigel Francis and the creation of the Automotive Industry Office earlier this week.

 The new position and new office will be housed within the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. Francis has almost 30 years of executive experience in the auto sector both in Europe and the U.S. -- most recently working for Tata Technologies in Novi and Troy. Nigel Francis joined us today. Listen to the interview above.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

BERKLEY, Mich. (AP) - A big day has dawned in Michigan for classic car enthusiasts in the state that put America on wheels.

The Woodward Dream Cruise officially kicks off Saturday. But the rides - and the legions of folks who love them - have been out for days already along the Detroit-area thoroughfare.

It's the 19th year for the free event, which is hosted by numerous Oakland County communities along the route.

The FBI has just completed a nationwide sweep resulting in the arrest of 150 pimps and the rescue of 105 children who had been forced into prostitution. We took a closer look at human trafficking in our state.

And, we spoke with Leigh Ann Ulrey, one of 30 college graduates to be selected for the Challenge Detroit program.

And, a new House bill could eliminate state income tax. State Representative Bob Genetski joined us to talk about why he thinks income tax is unnecessary.

Also, self-driving cars could be available to consumers within the next 2-3 years, according to Google. We found out what the future of transportation might look like.

First on the show, there was an important handshake this afternoon in Lansing.

UAW President Bob King shook hands with state government officials to officially launch the start of contract talks.

UAW Local 6000's contract with the state expires at the end of 2014. But the state needs to finalize the next contract by the end of this year in order to get it funded in next year's budget. Local 6000 represents 17,000 state employees.

Let's look at what the big issues might be in the negotiations.

Rick Pluta, Michigan Public Radio Network's Lansing bureau chief, joined us today.

Wikipedia

Are you ready to let your car do the driving?

Once we thought of the self-driving car as something from science fiction. But technological breakthroughs have been coming at ever-increasing speeds.

Google expects its driverless car will be ready for consumers in the next 3-5 years. GM thinks intelligent vehicles will be on the roads by 2020. Ford predicts 2025.

And researchers at the University of Michigan are making sure the Great Lakes State is front-and-center in developing and testing the connected vehicle technology that is essential to the self-driving car.

The director of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, Dr. Peter Sweatman, and Richard Wallace, the director of Transportation Systems Analysis for the Center for Automotive Research, joined us today to talk about the future of transportation.

Listen to the full interview above.

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.

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.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The man leading the effort to clean up and dispose of General Motors’ vacant properties says more potential buyers are showing interest.

Elliot Laws is the Administrative Trustee of the RACER Trust.   RACER stands for “Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response.”  The trust was created during GM’s bankruptcy.

Laws says interest in the old GM plant sites is rising along with the economy.

“There’s a lot of cash out there for people to invest,” says Laws, “They’ve been holding onto trying to see what’s going to happen.”

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.

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.

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."

DETROIT (AP) - Three Ohio drivers are suing Ford Motor Co., claiming the company's six-cylinder EcoBoost engine is defective.

The lawsuit says the 3.5-liter V6 EcoBoost engine can shudder, shake and rapidly lose power while drivers are trying to accelerate. It says more than 100 drivers have complained about the engine to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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

1958 Chevrolet Impala.
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:

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.

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.

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.

Having a Maserati built in Detroit was seen as a symbolic win for the comeback of manufacturing in Michigan. But now it turns out that won't be happening.

DETROIT (AP) -Last year's momentum in U.S. auto sales is continuing into this year.

Ford, Chrysler and GM are all reporting double-digit gains for January.

Sales at Ford rose 22 percent compared with a year earlier. GM and Chrysler each reported 16 percent gains.

Ford's sales rose on strong sales of pickup trucks and new vehicles.

Lawmakers are getting ready to consider changes to the state’s no-fault auto insurance law.

At the same time a court battle over a fund that reimburses auto insurance companies for large claims continues.

When you file a personal injury claim in Michigan of more than a half-million dollars, your auto insurance company gets reimbursed by a state-created fund. It’s basically an insurance policy for insurers.

The fund that pays those reimbursements is facing a lawsuit that says it should provide more information about how it comes up with an annual fee that ultimately gets passed on to drivers. It’s appealing a circuit court decision saying that information is subject to public information requests.

Pete Kuhnmuench is with the Insurance Institute of Michigan, which supports the appeal.

“Literally 90 percent of what was required to be disclosed under the judge’s recent ruling is already out there for public consumption,” Kuhnmuench said.

Plaintiffs in the case say lawmakers need a complete picture as they weigh proposals to change the state’s no-fault law.

GM / Facebook

In another blow to the Flint area, GM announced it will close its Weld Tool Center in Grand Blanc.

The plant is located just southeast of the city of Flint.

Workers at the plant make robotic welding tools used to build cars like the Chevy Cruze, the Volt, and the Sonic.

GM spokesman Tom Wickham said the plant's 323 hourly workers and 28 salaried workers will be offered jobs at other GM plants in the region, according to MLive:

The employees were notified this morning the plant would be shut down, Wickham said...

There are no immediate plans as to what the facility will be used for in the future, Wickham said.

Shaun Byron of MLive talked with some of the workers at the plant who were shocked by the news:

Brad Keskinen of Davison worked with GM since 1977 and at the Grand Blanc Township plant since 2007.

“I’m really disappointed. I thought we had a smart, productive workforce. But it’s evident that the work model was set up for failure,” Keskinen said. “And the announcement comes to a shock to us.”

GM recorded the 'economic impact' of the plant as follows:

  • Wages: $46.5 million (2011)
  • Payroll Taxes: $9.7 million (2011)
  • Property Taxes: $866,000 (2011)

Operations at the plant are expected to wind down in July of this year.

The plant was first built by the U.S. government in 1942. Sherman and Pershing tanks were built there.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - General Motors says it expects only a modest increase in pretax profits this year, as it rolls out many new cars and trucks worldwide.

The company also expects global auto sales to grow modestly this year, driven by the U.S. and China.

The company told investors at a Deutsche Bank industry conference in Detroit that its pretax profit margin in North America should rise from 8 to 10 percent in the next three or four years. Profit margin is a measure of how much the company earned after costs of doing business.

GM posted nearly $4 billion in net income during the first nine months of last year, including almost $1.5 billion in the third quarter. The company will announce fourth-quarter and full-year earnings in a few weeks.

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:

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.

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.

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