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Detroit Auto Show

The 2015 VW Golf (left), and the 2015 Ford F-150 (right) at the North American International Auto Show.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The Volkwagen Golf was named the North American Car of the Year, beating out the other two competitors nominated for the award – the Ford Mustang, and the Hyundai Genesis.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - The North American International Auto Show in Detroit has opened its doors to the public.

The annual event began Saturday at Cobo Center following a week of previews for journalists and others in the industry. A race-worthy Corvette, a sumptuous Mercedes C-Class and other glitzy models catch the eye at the show, which runs through Jan. 26.

Sonari Glinton / NPR

Vice President Joe Biden says the US government bet on American automakers—and won.

Biden touted the auto industry’s comeback during a stop at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show Thursday.

Biden said Detroit’s automakers have come a long way since GM and Chrysler went bankrupt in 2009.

And he said that resurgence proves the government-backed restructuring worked—and saved the country from a much deeper recession.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

At Detroit’s North American International Auto Show, the focus is naturally on the cars.

But behind the scenes, more than 2,000 people labor to make sure visitors are impressed by what they see.

Detroit has hosted an auto show for over a century now. And in a place known as the Motor City, it’s always been a pretty big deal.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Media preview days are in full swing at the North American International Auto Show.

Over 5,000 reporters from around the world have converged on Cobo Center, including Daniel Howes, a business columnist with The Detroit News.

Howes talks with us about the big car news to come out of the auto show.

Listen to full interview above.

Chrysler introduced the car it’s promising will “redefine the brand” at Detroit’s auto show Monday.

The “flagship” 2015 Chrysler 200 is the Auburn Hills-based automaker’s first venture into the highly competitive mid-size sedan market in more than a decade.

Chrysler officials say the model will go “head-to-head” with its competitors in terms of quality, design and – at just under $22,000 – price.

David Mindell

Ford Motor Company revealed a groundbreaking change for its top-selling F-150 truck at the North American International Auto Show on Monday. The new truck will have a body made mostly of aluminum instead of steel.

Ford is taking the calculated risk to retain its crown as the number one seller of pickups in the world.

Ford is banking on the loyalty of F-150 owners like David Mindell, CEO of Plantwise, a company that specializes in native plant landscaping and wetlands restoration.

Mercedes Mejia/Michigan Radio

This week's opening of the auto show at Cobo Center in Detroit marks 25 years since the show took its jump into the big time. 

What used to be the "Detroit Auto Show" became the North American International Auto Show, putting Detroit square in the center of the auto show universe. 

Detroit Free Press Business columnist Tom Walsh explores the show's history.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - Call it a 21st century paradox.

The city of Detroit is in bankruptcy, mired in debt of at least $18 billion. But the industry it's synonymous with has left its own financial problems in the rearview mirror.

This month, the industry comes to the Detroit area's aid, with an economic boost estimated near $400 million from its annual North American International Auto Show.

The impact isn't solely financial. A successful show can help give local residents and businesses confidence that the city can get back on its feet again.

Last month, Governor Rick Snyder called for less coal power and more renewable energy in Michigan. Utilities are in a good position, but questions remain over whether lawmakers will be able to act before the state's current energy standards expire. We found out more on today's show.

Then, of all the physics professors in the United States, only 14% are women. Why do some female scientists give up? And what can be done to help female students and minorities succeed?

And, we heard from the BBC on how China had become the world leader for wind power.

Also, a group of “free skiers” have found a new ski location in the abandon buildings of Detroit.

First on the show, it's Thursday, time for the first check-in of this New Year with Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes.

Understandably, he has the auto industry on his mind as we prepare for next week's opening of the North American International Auto Show. He got an early look at the show, and he joined us today to discuss it.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Good crowds at this years' Detroit auto show

Another North American International Auto Show has wrapped up, and ticket sales were up yet again. The show drew more than 795,000 people, the best crowd since 2004 according to Chevy dealer and NAIAS committee member Scott LaRiche.

"We have seen an actual spring board over the last few years, and we're slowly climbing up there towards that 800,000 mark, and realistically,if you look at it from the standpoint of the media that attended, over 5,500 media, we did break the 800,000 mark," said LaRiche.

Now the car companies are on to the Chicago for that cities auto show.

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's trial continues after weekend jail stay

The Kilpatrick corruption trial continues after the former Detroit mayor had to spend the weekend in jail on a separate matter. From the Associated Press:

Former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has been released after spending the weekend in prison for violating parole in a 2008 conviction that booted him from office.

The Michigan Corrections Department says Kilpatrick violated parole by not disclosing all financial transactions last fall. He still owes Detroit $855,000 in restitution and must report details about his income and expenses.

Kilpatrick will go from jail to federal court where the corruption case against him and several of his associates has been going on since September.
  Toyota is King again
  The Detroit News says so:
  Now it's official: Toyota is once again the world's top automaker. 

Toyota Motor Corp. released its tally for global vehicle sales for last year Monday at a record 9.748 million vehicles — a bigger number than the estimate it gave last month of about 9.7 million vehicles.It was already clear Toyota had dethroned General Motors Co. as the Detroit-based automaker fell short, selling 9.29 million vehicles.

 GM first lost their top-selling title to Toyota in 2008, then GM regained the title in 2011 after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. 2012 showed that Toyota is up and running again.
  Since we're talking about this horse race, we should note that Volkswagen is close behind as the world's third largest automaker.

Jeff Kowalsky


For the average person, there's a lot of "wow" at the North American International Auto Show.

But for reporters and auto company executives, that "wow" can sometimes be more like "ow."

Especially during the impromptu, free-for-all press conferences that are known as "scrums."

Problem is, nobody tells you what a scrum is before you attend your first Detroit auto show.

They all wait until it's too late to back out. It's almost a kind of hazing.

This week, people in the Detroit area have been giddy with excitement over what seems to be even a better North American International Auto Show than usual. But in a week the auto show will be over, and sooner or later, we’ll be painfully reminded that Detroit is still teetering on the edge of insolvency.

Lately, the city council has been making some rational or semi-rational moves aimed at staving off the loss of political control. And indeed, the Governor seems to have slowed what once looked like a quick march to the appointment of an emergency manager.

Still, it is hard to see how a state takeover of the city can eventually be avoided, given what my students would call Detroit’s “ginormous” problems balancing its budget and the ticking time bomb of 12 billion in unfunded liabilities.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The press conferences are over. The automakers have released their new models to the media.

Starting next week, the public will have a chance to see the cars for themselves.

Here are a few images from our time at the North American International Auto Show at the Cobo Center in Detroit.

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.

Green confidence at the North American International Auto Show

Jan 15, 2013
Cars.com

With the Detroit International Auto Show only just beginning, GM and Chrysler are already receiving good news.

This year's North American Car of the Year award went to the Cadillac ATS, while Truck of the Year was awarded to the Dodge Ram 1500.

According to Bernard Swiecki with the Center for Automotive Research, these awards are more significant in their effects on confidence, rather than their impact on sales.

"Interestingly, both of these vehicles are built in Michigan, so there's a very real local connection there as well. This is kind of an endorsement that both of these critical vehicles were done right by the engineering teams. "

Swiecki mentions that confidence is shown not only in the vehicles, but in the atmosphere of this year's Detroit Auto Show, and is a clear departure from the austerity of the post-bailout shows of the past.

"In the 2009 and 2010 shows, there was almost an atmosphere of allaying the fears that 'We're not going to be here next year', and that's really not the case anymore, and it hasn't been for the last two or three years. Now it's more about a confident approach, showing future products with every certainty that 1) the companies are viable and 2) the products themselves are world-class," he said.

These American vehicles are world-class, and green, according to Swiecki, who claims that green-technology continues to be a pronounced trend in new American vehicles, such as Cadillac's luxurious take on the Chevy Volt. Green technology is even moving across vehicle platforms this year to trucks with Ford's Atlas Pickup concept, which will eventually become the next generation Ford F-150.

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:

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

It used to be that fuel-efficient cars were not taken all that seriously. But that has changed.

Jim Motavalli is the author of High Voltage and a blogger for the New York Times and Car Talk. He spoke with me for today's Environment Report from the North American International Auto Show. 

Motavalli points out that there's no special section for "green cars" at the auto show.

"I think what we’re seeing is green technology has been incorporated into pretty much all of the cars on display here, so the green cars aren’t in a little special penned-in area. That’s inherently a good thing. And maybe at this auto show 2013, we’re not seeing a lot of electric car introductions or plug-in hybrid introductions; what we’re seeing is 'eco' incorporated into every model that’s introduced here, including the Corvette Stingray and the Grand Cherokee Jeep SRT, both of which have eco modes or eco buttons, because every automaker is being driven towards the 2025 goal of 54.5 mpg fleet average, which the federal government is demanding."

Ford

Ford is known for putting on a glitzy press conference at the Detroit Auto Show.

The media and auto industry officials filed into Joe Louis Arena to see what the company would unveil.

Company officials spent a good portion of the 25 minute press conference showing off their new line of Transit vans.

But the sparks flew when they lowered their concept truck, the "Atlas," from the ceiling of the arena.

Take a look:

Why trucks? Well, a good portion of the company's profits come from their truck line, with the Ford F-150 leading the way.

Nissan

Nissan found itself in the spotlight at the North American International Auto Show today.  But not entirely for reasons that would please company executives.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

At the unveiling of the all-electric VIA Motors truck, former auto exec Bob Lutz held a conversation with a holographic presentation of Thomas Edison.

VIA Motors is a privately held electric vehicle development and manufacturing company. The company is working to develop a purely electric truck under the VTRUX brand name.

traffickfree

The following is a summary of a previously recorded interview. To hear the complete segment, click the audio above.

Though largely unrecognized and difficult to pin a number to, human trafficking occurs in Michigan. Theresa Flores says the practice increases during events like the North American International Auto Show.

Flores heads Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution (S.O.A.P), a group actively working to rescue young girls and boys from trafficking.

S.O.A.P. is making a visit to the Auto Show in an attempt to reduce the prostitution that can plague large events like this.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Volkswagen is working to continue to gain market share in the United States.

Today at the Detroit Auto Show, the company unveiled a new concept car aimed at the highly sought after North American SUV market.

The "CrossBlue," as it's called now,  is a six to seven seat SUV with a "plug-in hybrid powertrain that mates a TDI Clean Diesel engine with two electric motors."

That's right...  lift the hood, and you're not likely to know what the heck you're looking at.

But that's the future of cars. Automakers are moving toward cars with multiple power plants that can be engaged in different circumstances.

Volkswagen says the "CrossBlue" would get 35 mpg in "combined mode" (similar to the hybrid mode of today's Prius), and the equivalent of 89 mpg in all-electric mode (with a range in that mode of 14 miles).

Here's the unveiling of VW "CrossBlue" (complete with the 'demographic dancers'):

Jonathan Browning, President and CEO of Volkswagen Group America said the CrossBlue concept is "exactly the right type of vehicle for the U.S. market," but it still has a ways to go before it would be introduced here.

The car is an indication of where the company is headed.

Lincoln Motor Company

Lincoln is hip again!

Well... at least in the movie theaters. Ford executives are hoping enthusiasm for its re-tweaked Lincoln brand grows as well (the company is using the former president in advertising campaigns for the newly named "Lincoln Motor Company").

Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr., President and CEO Allan Mulally, and Executive Vice President of Global Marketing, Sales and Service Lincoln James Farley were all up on stage to unveil the new concept car at the Detroit Auto Show this morning - the Lincoln MKC.

Take a look at the unveiling:

Bill Vlasic wrote about the challenges faced by the struggling Lincoln brand in the New York Times:

As recently as the 1990s, Lincoln was the top-selling luxury automotive brand in the United States. Its large Town Car sedan and hulking Navigator S.U.V. defined the brand, and sales topped more than 230,000 vehicles a year.

But since then, Lincoln has been left in the dust by the German category leaders BMW and Mercedes-Benz, and Toyota’s Lexus division. This year, Lincoln ranks eighth in the American luxury segment, with sales down 2 percent, to 69,000, vehicles in the first 10 months of the year.

Its crosstown rival G.M. has had much better success reviving its Cadillac brand.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

A group of 49 automotive journalists from North America chose the Cadillac ATS as the 2013 Car of the Year.

The announcement was made this morning during the press preview of the Detroit Auto Show.

The Cadillac was among two other finalists, the Ford Fusion and the Honda Accord.

In a statement, Bob Ferguson, GM's vice president of global Cadillac said "this is a very meaningful honor for the entire Cadillac team, especially the men and women who build the ATS in Lansing, Michigan, and our dedicated and talented designers and engineers."

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

At this morning's press preview of the Detroit Auto Show, the Ram 1500 won the 2013 North American Truck/Utility of the Year Award.

The truck was chosen by a group of 49 automotive journalists from the United States and Canada.

The Ram 1500 was up against two other finalists in the category, the Ford C-Max and the Mazda CX-5.

The Ram 1500 also won the 2013 Motor Trend Truck of the Year award.

In a statement, Fred Diaz, President and CEO of Ram Truck Brand and Chrysler de Mexico, Chrysler Group LLC, said:

"For the Ram Truck Brand, this ranks as one of the proudest days in our history. Every truck-maker aspires to win the North American Truck/Utility of the Year. I tip my hat to the folks who worked behind the scenes to make the 2013 Ram 1500 a technological triumph."

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Road funding to be discussed in State of the State Wednesday

"Governor Rick Snyder says he’ll outline a new plan to fund road improvements during his State of the State address on Wednesday. The plan could include higher vehicle registration fees to pay for road projects and maintenance," Jake Neher reports.

Michigan left out of Superstorm Sandy relief money

Michigan is one of three states affected by Superstorm Sandy that will be left out from federal money for disaster relief. Steve Carmody reports, "Superstorm Sandy largely missed Michigan last October.  Now the state appears poised to miss out on the billions of dollars of federal disaster relief tied to the storm. The U.S. House is scheduled to vote Tuesday on a $50 billion relief bill."

Chevrolet and Mercedes Benz show off cars at auto show early

Chevrolet  and Mercedes Benz got an early start to Detroit's North American International Auto Show. They showed off their most important cars the night before the official start of press days. Chevrolet unveiled the seventh generation Corvette called the "Stingray" at a gala event.  "For its part, Mercedes Benz showed journalists a new $30,000 car that will be its lowest priced luxury sedan ever, aimed at younger buyers who never thought they could afford a Mercedes," Tracy Samilton reports.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The North American International Auto Show in Detroit kicks off on Monday with preview days for the international press.

The show opens to the public next Saturday.   One of the highlights this year may not even be a car.

Auto show vice chairman Bob Schuman is pretty confident that everyone who goes to the show will be talking about the new Corvette, Chevy's top of the line sports car.   But they may also be talking about the ongoing Cobo renovation. Cobo has a new atrium that opens up the convention center to a view of the river and the Windsor skyline.

The North American International Auto Show will be starting at Detroit’s Cobo Center in a couple weeks, and anyone who cares about cars can go see virtually every new model in existence.

This has been an annual tradition for more than a century. But I’ve thought for a long time that we don’t do nearly enough to celebrate the amazing heritage of our signature industry.

Think about it. Motor vehicles, primarily cars, are what transformed Michigan from a farm state not all that different from Iowa into the industrial powerhouse that put the world on wheels.

That’s fascinating, and there are few of us whose lives are not connected to the auto industry in some way.  But where do you go to learn about and celebrate that heritage? Sadly, fewer and fewer places.

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