auto

Transportation
10:58 am
Fri September 21, 2012

GM recalling 480,000 Malibus, Saturns, and Pontiacs; Sonics also recalled

A 2008-2010 Chevy Malibu. One of the models being recalled by GM.
IFCAR wikimedia commons

The Detroit News reports GM is issuing two recall campaigns.

The smaller recall affects bulb indicators on 2013 Chevrolet Sonics.

The larger recall has to do with four-speed automatic transmissions on 2007-10 Chevrolet Malibu, Saturn Aura and Pontiac G6 models.

More from the Detroit News:

The Detroit automaker said Friday it is recalling 426,240 Chevrolet, Pontiac and Saturn sedans in the United States to repair a condition in which the transmission gear position may not match the gear on the shifter. That could lead to the vehicles rolling when drivers think they are in park.

"The driver would be able to remove the key from the ignition, but the door locks may not unlock automatically and the PARK indicator lamp would not be illuminated. The driver may not be able to restart the vehicle and the vehicle could roll away," GM said.

An investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sparked the discovery of the transmission problem.

Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton reports the problem has caused four accidents that GM knows about, but no injuries have been reported.

Dealers will either replace the transmission cable or put reinforcement on it.

3:16 pm
Mon September 17, 2012

Canadian Auto Workers and Ford close to agreement, others to follow?

Lead in text: 
The Detroit News has an update on the "Big Three" and their negotiations with the Canadian Auto Workers union. The deadline for a deal is midnight tonight.
Toronto - Talks between the Canadian Auto Workers union and Chrysler Group LLC may have turned the corner ahead of today's 11:59 p.m. contract deadline. Discussions with the Auburn Hills automaker - which shot back at Ford Motor Co.
Auto
1:29 pm
Thu September 13, 2012

Mulally leaving Ford? AP lists 3 reasons to worry, and 3 reasons to be hopeful

Ford CEO Alan Mulally. Ever since he turned 65, there's been speculation about his retirement.

Henry Ford's great-grandson said it plainly to the Associated Press... Ford Motor Company was once plagued by internal divisions that dragged the company down.

"At the old Ford, you had heroes and villains," [Bill Ford Jr.] said. "Now, it's, `OK, where do we have issues and how do we solve them?'"

Alan Mulally was brought in by Bill Ford Jr. in 2006 as Ford's new CEO.

Mulally has been credited with righting the ship. Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton wrote about how Mulally has changed things at Ford over the last six years.

She writes about how Mulally's retirement has been a point of speculation ever since he turned 65:

...one question invariably comes up during media scrums at Ford Motor Company events. "When are you going to retire?" some reporter or other asks. Now that he's 67, the question is being asked even more frequently

Yesterday, Bloomberg News broke a story about moves the company plans to make:

Ford Motor Co. (F) directors are preparing to promote Mark Fields to chief operating officer from president of the Americas, a move that anoints him as probable successor to Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally, according to a person familiar with the plan.

Bloomberg writes Mulally is expected to retire at the end of 2013. Really? So far the company itself is mum.

But the retirement talk, has AP auto reporters Dee-Ann Durbin and Tom Krisher writing about life at Ford after Mulally.

They highlight six points about the company.

3 of which they say should worry investors, and three of which they say are encouraging signs.

Read more
6:03 pm
Mon September 10, 2012

The math behind the Chevy Volt, will it ever add up for GM?

Lead in text: 
Reuters reports on the numbers behind the Volt - "There are some Americans paying just $5,050 to drive around for two years in a vehicle that cost as much as $89,000 to produce."
Mon Sep 10, 2012 12:18am EDT (Reuters) - General Motors Co (GM.N) sold a record number of Chevrolet Volt sedans in August - but that probably isn't a good thing for the automaker's bottom line.
Auto
2:36 pm
Mon September 10, 2012

Big 3 U.S. automakers facing strikes in Canada?

Jeff Smith Flickr

There's one week left in contract negotiations with the Canadian Auto Workers union, and it appears there are still some major sticking points in negotiations.

We posted last week that the union voted to authorize a strike if they determined one was needed.

Reuters reports plans for a potential strike are moving forward.

Strike captains at the union, which represents about 20,000 members at the three companies, were to meet in Toronto on Monday to advance plans for a triple strike.

"All three bargaining committees are determined to reject these demands and reach a fair deal," the CAW said in a leaflet distributed to members on Monday.

"The union recognizes the fragility of the industry and the need to stabilize fixed costs, while finding a solution rewards members' work. Unfortunately, our efforts have not been met with equal willingness by the companies to negotiate fair terms," the leaflet said.

The last time the Canadian Auto Workers went on strike was in 1996.

Offbeat
3:46 pm
Thu September 6, 2012

Stateside: Howard Cooper, world's most generous boss?

Let's give a shout-out to a man who may have set the new "gold standard" for generous bosses.

Long-time Ann Arbor auto dealer Howard Cooper is retiring this month.

As his employees reported for work this week, they got an unexpected "expression" of Mr. Cooper's appreciation: a check for $1,000 for every year of service.

Read more
Auto
10:37 am
Tue September 4, 2012

U.S. automakers report strong sales numbers for August

August was a good month for U.S. automakers
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

August was a good month for U.S. automakers compared to a year ago. In total, the big three sold more than 585,700 vehicles last month.

Chrysler had its best month since August 2007, according to the AP, and had sales of more than 148,000 vehicles. They say their sales were led by demand for the Dodge Ram pickup truck.

Ford sold 197,249 vehicles in August, and in a press release said high gas prices led more people to their lineup of vehicles.

“As fuel prices rose again during August, we saw growing numbers of people gravitate toward our fuel-efficient vehicles – cars, utilities and trucks,” said Ken Czubay, Ford vice president, U.S. Marketing, Sales and Service.

And General Motors sold 240,520 vehicles in August. More than Ford or Chrysler.

In their press release, GM said it's ready for gradual improvements in the economy.

“The single message Chevrolet communicated this summer was ‘confidence’ and it rang true with customers when they saw how our product lineup is being transformed,” said Kurt McNeil, vice president of U.S. sales operations. “All four of our brands are building momentum behind new products so we’re very well positioned as the economy continues to slowly improve.”

Auto
12:30 pm
Mon August 20, 2012

Ford sets sights on Toyota with C-MAX news

The 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid.
Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company is taking on Toyota in a market the Japanese automaker once dominated - fuel efficient passenger vehicles. The 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid and Ford C-MAX Energi plug-in Hybrid are going on sale this fall.

Ford announced today that the 2013 Ford C-MAX can go further on a tank of gas than the Toyota Prius v.

  • 570 miles for the C-MAX vs. 450 miles for the Prius v.

The 2013 C-MAX hybrid gas-electric vehicle has an mpg rating that is the same for the city and the highway - 47 mpg. Ford notes that is 7 mpg better than Toyota Prius v on the highway.

Read more
Auto
10:12 am
Thu August 2, 2012

Toyota recalls RAV4 SUVs and Lexus sedans

A 2012 RAV4. Toyota is recalling RAV4s from the 2006 to 2011 model years.
Toyota publicity still

Toyota is recalling 778,000 RAV4 SUVs and Lexus HS 250h sedans to fix a suspension problem that could cause crashes.

The company says if rear suspension nuts aren't tightened properly after a wheel alignment, the arms can rust and separate from the vehicle. Toyota reported nine crashes and three minor injuries from the problem.

RAV4s covered by the recall are from the 2006 to 2011 model years. The Lexus sedans are from 2010 only.

Toyota says it's developing a plan to fix the problem. It will notify owners by mail when it's time to take the vehicles into dealers for a free repair.

In the meantime, the company is telling drivers to contact their dealers if they hear an abnormal sound in the rear of the vehicle.

Auto
1:18 pm
Mon July 30, 2012

Hyundai recalling Santa Fe SUVs and Sonata sedans

Hyundai is recalling nearly 200,000 Santa Fe SUVs in the 2007 to 2009 model years.
Hyundai publicity still

Hyundai Motor Co. is recalling some Santa Fe SUVs and Sonata sedans because of problems with their air bags.

The Santa Fe recall involves nearly 200,000 vehicles in the 2007 to 2009 model years. Hyundai dealers will reprogram the front passenger air bag sensors so they will accurately detect when a small adult is seated.

Hyundai said it has received complaints from some adults under 130 pounds (60 kilograms) whose air bags didn't deploy. No injuries have been reported. The air bags were originally programmed not to go off to protect children.

The company is also recalling 22,500 Sonata sedans from the 2012 and 2013 model years because their side air bags could go off without warning.

Hyundai says it has received 16 complaints about the Sonata's air bags, but no injuries have been reported.

Auto
2:20 pm
Thu July 26, 2012

GM has high hopes for the 2013 Cadillac ATS

2013 Cadillac ATS rolled off the assembly line for the first time today in Lansing, Michigan
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

General Motors’ big hope to grab a share of the luxury compact segment rolled off the assembly line in Lansing today.  Tomorrow, the Cadillac ATS rolls on to the world stage.

Read more
Auto
10:23 am
Wed July 25, 2012

Ford's Little Engine That Could Challenge Hybrids

The 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show in Germany featured Ford Motor Co.'s new three-cylinder EcoBoost engine, which will hit the U.S. market next year.
Courtesy of Ford Motor Co.

Originally published on Wed July 25, 2012 9:37 am

Ford Motor Co. intends to prove that good things come in small packages — really small packages. The company has taken engine downsizing to a new level with its new three-cylinder EcoBoost engine, which has been introduced in Europe and is set to hit the U.S. market next year.

The EcoBoost offers more power than many conventional four-cylinder engines, with fuel economy numbers a hybrid could envy. Early fans are calling it a modern "little engine that could," and Ford is betting that American customers are ready to embrace a three-cylinder engine.

Read more
Auto
10:40 am
Fri July 20, 2012

Deadline day for GM retirees pension buyout offer

GM's headquarters in Detroit.
John F. Martin Creative Commons

Today is the deadline for more than 40,000 General Motors retirees to accept their former employer's offer of a lump sum buyout of their pensions.

Otherwise, their pensions will be taken over by Prudential Insurance.

GM's Randy Arrix said the change is part of the company's efforts to create what it calls a "fortress balance sheet."  Getting underfunded pensions off the books strengthens the balance sheet.

"Pension obligations are very volatile, and they're volatile because they're dependent on some things within our control like contributions, and other things that are not, said Arrix.

Some GM retirees are angry about the change, which they see as a broken promise by GM, but for others, the buyout is an opportunity to control their own money.

Environment & Science
9:00 am
Tue July 10, 2012

Retooling brake pads for salmon

Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife

Washington and California recently adopted laws that ban all but traces of copper in automotive brake pads by the year 2021. The two states say the metal gets into watersheds and hurts endangered salmon. The decision could change the way brakes are made around the world.

Copper is a great material for brakes. It's durable, and it absorbs heat and noise. But it comes with an environmental price.

"Each time a driver uses their brakes, a small amount of the material gets worn off, and when it rains, that can be washed into streams and rivers," said Ian Wesley, who's with the Washington State Department of Ecology.

About a third of the copper in some watersheds in California and Washington State comes from brakes. And copper is not good for salmon, because it wreaks havoc with their ability to smell.

Salmon release a pheromone when they perceive a threat. Other salmon react to the scent by dropping to the bottom of the water and staying there, very still.

"When they do that, it helps them avoid the predators, but if there's even very low levels of copper in the water, they can't smell this pheromone, and they continue to swim around kind of oblivious to the danger that's nearby," said Wesley.

Read more
Auto sales
5:32 pm
Tue July 3, 2012

No surprise, June auto sales were good. Surprise, they were better than we thought

Robust U.S. auto sales have been helping to keep a floor on the U.S. economy for months, and they kept up the good work in June.

Car sales surpassed the expectations of many analysts.   

The good news included Detroit car companies.  Ford sales rose 7% and Chrysler sales jumped 20% compared to June a year ago.

General Motors sales increased nearly 16%.

GM's Kurt McNeil says he expects a good second half of the year, too.

Read more
Auto
10:56 am
Fri June 15, 2012

New Schedules Push Graveyard Shift Off The Clock

A worker builds cars on the assembly line at Ford's Chicago Assembly plant, which has adopted the "three crew" work schedule. The new third shift can increase efficiency in factories, but it can also wreak havoc on sleep needs and home lives.
Scott Olson Getty Images

Originally published on Thu June 14, 2012 10:54 pm

As car companies struggle to meet growing demand, the third shift is making a comeback. But many factories running on three shifts are doing it differently from in the past. And that new "three crew" shift pattern could make what's normally a hard job even harder.

At Ford's Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, employees work 10-hour shifts four days a week. The so-called A crew gets days, while the B crew gets afternoons. But the C crew shift rotates its start time every week. On Fridays and Saturdays, workers start at 6:00 a.m. On Mondays and Tuesdays, they start at 4:30 p.m.

Read more
Auto
2:03 pm
Tue June 12, 2012

GM shareholder meeting today amid sagging stock numbers

The track of GM stock prices since the IPO in November in 2010.
screen grab WSJ MarketWatch

Update 2:03 p.m.

General Motors CEO Dan Akerson told stockholders at today's annual meeting that "he regrets GM's stock hasn't done well." GM's stock price is hovering around $22 a share.  

That's a big drop from 2010, when GM held an initial public offering and the stock sold at about $33 a share.

"I mean it's great we had a good year last year, why is the stock down? Because there's uncertainty into the future.  The most obvious is, uh, Europe," said Akerson.

Read more
Environment & Science
9:00 am
Tue June 12, 2012

Engineering students race for the highest mpg in Supermileage Competition

The Penn State University team heads toward the track.
Logan Chadde Michigan Radio

They look like one-person bobsleds. They run on lawnmower engines. And they get incredible mileage.

They’re cars that achieve what’s called supermileage. College engineering students from as far away as Quebec come to compete in the SAE International Supermileage Competition.

It’s held every year at the Eaton Corporation Proving Grounds in Marshall, Michigan.

When we visited last week, a lot of the students were scrambling to finish last-minute improvements to their vehicles before the moment of truth.

Each driver had to complete six laps on a 1.6 mile track. And they had to maintain an average speed of 15 miles per hour. Teams could do as many runs as they wanted.

Laura Pillari is the driver for the University of Michigan team.

"I was a little nervous because there's a lot of stuff to do with my hands, and I'm kind of crammed in there with this little helmet, and it's very, very hot in that car in the sun."

To measure mileage, competition officials gave each team regulation fuel tanks that were weighed before and after each run. These vehicles can get hundreds or even thousands of miles to the gallon.

Read more
Auto
10:42 am
Fri June 1, 2012

Toyota sales recover strongly in May as overall U.S. sales rise

Chrysler Media

Toyota reported a sales increase in May of 87% compared to the same month a year ago - when the company's vehicle production had plummeted due to the tsunami hitting Japan in March.  

There were more selling days this month than last May, but it is still a robust recovery from the disaster, which reduced inventories on Toyota dealer lots and sent some customers to other car companies.

Toyota remains number three in overall sales in the U.S., however, just behind Ford, which saw its sales increase 13% in May.

Read more
Auto
2:28 pm
Thu May 24, 2012

Canadian railway strike could affect U.S. automakers

Ian Britton creative commons

A strike by Canadian railway workers threatens to slow or shut down production at some U.S. auto plants.

5,000 Canadian Pacific Railway workers walked off the job early Wednesday because of a dispute with management over a new contract.

Large numbers of finished vehicles and auto parts come to U.S. factories via Canadian Pacific.

Ford and General Motors say they don't expect the strike to affect production - at this time.

Chrysler says it is actively working to mitigate any impact to its operations through alternative shipment methods, such as trucks.

The longer the strike goes, the greater the chance it could affect the U.S. auto industry.  The Canadian Labor Ministry says it has the authority to intervene and will do that if the two sides haven't reached a deal by Monday.

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