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Daniel Howes

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

These are tricky times for the United Auto Workers.

The guy in the White House says he wants what they want: more manufacturing jobs in the United States. But he’s actually not in charge of making that happen. Instead, the opposite is unspooling – from Harley Davidson cutting production to Detroit automakers shipping assembly of once-revered nameplates overseas.          

Cars sales are tanking, prompting the union that is synonymous with Detroit to start fretting in the halls of its hometown automakers.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

After a year of dithering, a bipartisan bloc of state lawmakers scored this week for competition.

You see, Michigan is an economy that’s been riding a seven-year expansion in auto sales, corporate tax reform and smarter fiscal management. But it hasn’t been enough to compete against fellow industrial states and then some.

Not against Ohio, for example, where economic development incentives are financed partly by booze. Buy a bottle of whiskey, and a slice of your buck goes to wooing corporations to the Buckeye state.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

Whoever thinks consumers are driving the market for electric cars isn’t paying attention.

Countries are driving it, and investors know it. The latest? France, which said this week it plans to ban the sale of all gas and diesel-powered cars by 2040. Yes, all.

The government of French President Emmanuel Macron joins a growing list of nations prepared to use mandates to achieve what stubborn consumers operating in open markets will not. And that’s to drive what regulators and environmental activists think they should.

It’s all so Big Brother.

GM headquarters
Mark Goebel / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCLO

Can you teach an old dog new tricks? In this case, the "old dog" is the Big Three automakers.

Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes thinks we're about to find out, for better or for worse.

He says auto sales are down for six consecutive months over last year. One critique of the Big Three automakers is that they are not able to manage a downturn in sales.

The Ford Focus
Ford Motor Company

In the rhetorical battle between President Donald Trump and Ford Motor’s investors, the president is losing.

The Blue Oval is moving American production of the Focus to China – presumably because shipping it to Mexico from Michigan wasn’t sufficiently controversial.

For the first time, a Detroit automaker will, quote, “globally source” an established model and use Chinese labor to assemble it for sale to American consumers. Let the tweet storm commence – or not, as it turns out.

CREDIT Joe Ravi / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 3.0

You may have missed the biggest news of the week – at least here in the Motor City. For the first time ever, Apple’s CEO confirmed the tech giant is hot for self-driving cars.

Buckle up, folks.

CEO Tim Cook says there’s “a major disruption looming” as self-driving technology, electric vehicles and ride-sharers like Uber and Lyft converge into one big ball of change. He says autonomous systems are a “core technology” for Apple and “the mother” of all artificial intelligence projects.

It’s seldom politically correct in this town to say one of our automakers is lagging the competition. But there are exceptions — and right now Ford Motor is one of them.

The Blue Oval shocked the auto world when it replaced CEO Mark Fields a few weeks ago with Jim Hackett, the former Steelcase boss turned University of Michigan athletic director. It pulled another one when it shuffled its global leadership team in a shakeup the Glass House hasn’t seen in a long time.

What’s going on here? Plenty, and it begins with a simple sentence: profit today is not enough for tomorrow.

Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes says Ford could stand to refresh its model lineup, and should invest more in connected vehicles.
Ford Motor Company

The automakers who'll survive and thrive in the 21st Century are the ones making the biggest strides in mobility and connectivity – the keys to the self-driving vehicles of the future.

Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes believes Ford has a lot of catching up to do, and there's a rough road ahead for new CEO Jim Hackett and his team.

The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The party’s over on Mackinac Island.

If that’s what you insist on calling the Detroit Chamber’s annual policy conference on this island frozen in time — complete with its high-end hotel prices and tony wine bars. The only thing that moves fast here are the cash registers and welling nostalgia.

That’s a problem. Michigan and its largest city do their best work in a crisis. But as 1,700 or so of the state’s business movers and political shakers descended on the Grand Hotel this past week, there is no real crisis to rally the collective mind.

Steve Shotwell / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Nine years after Ford Motor recruited an outsider to save it from itself, the automaker’s doing it again.

This time, the savior is more familiar. It’s Jim Hackett. He's the guy who wooed Jim Harbaugh back to the Michigan sidelines once prowled by the legendary Bo Schembechler. Harbaugh says Hackett’s all about teamwork, about making the team better, and the football coach says the new Ford CEO is, quote, “tougher than a two-dollar steak.”

Ford Motor Company's headquarters in Dearborn.
Ford Motor Company

Slumping stock was the undoing of Mark Fields as CEO of Ford Motor Company.

Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes said Fields’ successor Jim Hackett must rally his team to full battle mode, even though times are good and profits are fat.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

Another week in the Motor City and you get buyouts at Ford Motor and news of General Motors bolting yet two more foreign markets. What’s going on here?

Simple: this ain’t your father’s auto industry anymore.

These are pillars of the American industrial economy. They're companies worth rescuing with taxpayer money and the biggest home improvement loan ever. And they're vying for relevance.

Photograph of Downtown Detroit
Ifmuth / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

Detroit's re-invention continues to gather momentum, according to a new survey.

The Kresge Foundation survey painted a rosy picture of Detroit's economic future.

Local respondents had a more positive impression of the city’s business potential than national leaders, but both groups were optimistic.

Ford Motor Company's headquarters in Dearborn.
Ford Motor Company

Ford has reportedly come up with an answer to its lackluster stock performance: shed jobs.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Ford is getting ready to cut about 10% of its workforce to help boost its stock price.

Reuters further reported that those jobs will come from salaried workers in North America and Asia, not hourly workers.

M-1 RAIL / Facebook

Sixty one years after General Motors buses replaced Detroit’s streetcars, they’re back.

The QLine fleet started rolling along Woodward yesterday, tracing a 6.6-mile round trip that is the next step forward in the reinvention of Detroit. As signs go, it’s about as positive as you can get for the downtown a lot of Detroiters — in the city and in the suburbs — long ago gave up for dead.

M-1 Rail streetcar design
M-1 Rail

The QLINE is a new streetcar system that will run along a 3.3 mile stretch of Woodward Avenue in Detroit. The line debuts this Friday.

Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes wrote this week about the QLINE and what it means for the city’s reinvention.

Although some in the city have criticized the project, Howes said critics should give the project a chance.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg
Anthony Quintano / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Next Idea

Facebook’s 32-year-old billionaire founder, Mark Zuckerberg, has been touring the country. He made stops in Michigan recently. He toured Ford’s Rouge plant and even tried his hand at putting parts on an F-150 pickup truck. Turns out time on the assembly line is hard work. He also privately met with Muslim students at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

flickr.com/photos/briansolis/2321406871

You may have heard that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg recently chose little ol’ Dearborn to lean into the real world. Good choice, even if the mogul’s posts after his visit proved Detroit isn’t the only patch of America living and working in a bubble. Silicon Valley is, too.



Audio FileDaniel Howes, April 29, 2017Edit | Remove

  As wake up calls go, think tank reports ain’t much.

Yeah, they marshal the grim statistics. They make harsh comparisons. They tell the people who bother to read them, mostly the already converted, just how Michigan is failing in education and job growth, in per-capita income and in the number of adults who work.

General Motors headquarters in Detroit.
Jodi Westrick / Michigan Radio file photo

Recent reports show that auto sales have slipped more than expected. That’s the fourth month in a row of declining sales.

And Wall Street responded. Share prices of the big three took a hit.

Fiat ensignia on a vehicle
Martin Abegglen / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

It's a double dose of good news for Fiat Chrysler.

First-quarter profits are coming in, and Fiat Chrysler net profits are up 34% over year-ago levels, including a strong showing in Europe.

The Michigan state capitol building
Thetoad / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

By now you’ve heard about Michigan’s “Comeback.”

You can find it in booming auto sales and fat corporate profits. You can feel it in a 5.1% unemployment rate. That’s roughly a third of its high point in the throes of the Great Recession.

You can see the revival all over downtown Detroit. That’s where billions in fresh capital are remaking an urban core into the kind of hip and happening place that a lot of folks thought they’d never see in the city America gave up for dead.

But that’s only part of the story.

A photo collage of Flint, Michigan
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

It's the newest twist in the tragic story of Flint and its water.

Mayor Karen Weaver wants her city to keep drawing its water from the Detroit-based Great Lakes Water Authority for the next 30 years.

NEW YORK INTERNATIONAL AUTO SHOW

These days, Detroit is all about showing it’s new. It’s different. That it’s learned from the past.

Then what happened at the New York Auto Show this week? Markets collided, and the winners are buyers of trucks, SUVs and even muscle cars, not investors hot for all things electric.

Major players transformed the Big Apple into a shameless celebration of size and horsepower. It’s more evidence that the emissions-free future touted by the industry and rewarded by traders is trumped by reality, that is: consumer demand, low interest rates and cheap gas.

Lincoln

 

The big auto shows are a chance for automakers to show everyone what they're all about.

 

Automakers are making huge investments in electric cars and autonomous driving technology.  But muscle cars and big, luxurious SUVs were the stars at this week's New York International Auto Show.

 

 

Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes spoke with Cynthia Canty about the New York show’s “shameless celebration of size and horsepower.”

The Tesla Model S, first introduced in June 2012
Tesla Motors

Here’s the latest Detroit indignity: Tiny Tesla, the electric automaker, is felling giants.

The Silicon Valley startup created in 2003 is worth more in market value than the American industrial icon founded exactly 100 years earlier by Henry Ford, the premier innovator of his time.

Tesla’s not far behind General Motors, either. The promise of game-changing innovation, the hope that someone new can crack the emissions-free code is causing tons of smart money to flow into Chairman Elon Musk’s Tesla.

Nearly $49 billion-worth, to be precise.

A Tesla electronic car at a charging station
Austin Kirk / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

It's a tiny company packing a big punch with investors.

Electric car maker Tesla now has a higher market value than Ford. It's just behind General Motors at the top of the list. 

Ford Motor Co. headquarters
Ford Motor Company

Forget the “Lost Decade.”

Profitable automakers racing for the new-new thing of mobility are starting to create the "Next Decade." On one track are the likes of General Motors and Ford Motor, each booking record profits on the strength of trucks and SUVs. On the other track is a whole new world with the power to change the perception – and reality – of Michigan as we know it.

Steve Shotwell / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Daniel Howes' column today in the Detroit News looks at some decisions by Ford Motor Company, and what they say about the future of the auto industry and Michigan.

Howes wrote about Ford’s investments in three plants, including an engine plant, and one retooling to make the returning Ford Ranger and Bronco. But he says it's what’s happening with that third investment that says a lot about what Ford is doing. 

Chrysler headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan.
flickr user fiatontheweb / creative commons

By now it should be obvious that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is for sale.

Not in a desperate do-a-deal-now kind of way. But in a persistent, strategically logical way.

Why? Because CEO Sergio Marchionne says as much, repeatedly. He understands better than most the capital demands of today’s global auto industry -- and FCA’s limited capacity to meet them.

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