General Motors

When you think "Michigan," you think tourism, right? Or, for some, maybe it's Tim Allen telling you about the state's open roads, fall colors, glistening lakes. Tourism means big business for the mitten. We look at how the changing climate might impact what more than 4.4 million out-of-state visitors will be able to do and enjoy when they come to the Great Lakes State. 

 Then, we spoke with Michigan author Laura Kasischke about her latest novel, Mind of Winter. And Daniel Howes joined us for our weekly check-in, to discuss Mary Barra and the ghost of GM's past. Also, women are underrepresented in the  STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields, but there is one University of Michigan student group trying to change that. And, we are one week into spring but still getting snow. Meterologist Jim Maczko spoke with us about when we can expect warmer weather.  First on the show, we are closing in on the deadline to purchase health insurance or face a penalty under the Affordable Care Act. 

Erin Knott is the Michigan Director of Enroll America, a non-profit, non-partisan group trying to get people enrolled in health insurance.

Erin joined us today to discuss the upcoming deadline. 

GM Renaissance Center in Detroit.
John F. Martin / Creative Commons

General Motors has been in the headlines recently over its recall of more than 1.5 million vehicles due to ignition switch problems that are being blamed for some 13 deaths.

Toyota is also in the news after having agreed to pay more than $1 billion to settle with the Justice Department over a delayed recall of millions of its vehicles.

But are U.S. consumers facing recall fatigue?

Sonari Glinton covers the auto industry for NPR, and he joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

General Motors

Members of Congress will have tough questions for the new CEO of General Motors.

Mary Barra is expected to testify in front of the Energy and Commerce Committee next month.

Barra has only been on the job as CEO for three months. Now she’s facing scrutiny for how the automaker handled or mishandled a major safety recall affecting more than 1.5 million cars.

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow says she’s confident in Barra’s leadership.

The Justice Department is investigating General Motors for delaying a recall of more than a million and a half cars. On today's show: how is this recall affecting GM's reputation?

And, a new Michigan law will now allow you to literally BYOB, bring you own bottle of wine to a restaurant.

Also, starting a business can be hard, but what about starting a business with a mission to help end homelessness? That's exactly what the Empowerment Plan aims to do. 

First on the show, Rick Pluta, Captiol Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network and co-host of It's Just Politics, joined us to talk about how Lansing plans to spend surplus money.

user paul (dex) / Flickr

It was announced yesterday that Toyota has agreed to pay $1.2 billion to settle with the U.S. Justice Department over a delayed recall of millions of vehicles.

The Justice Department is also investigating General Motors for delaying a recall of more than 1.5 million cars. The cars have defective ignition switches that can turn the car off at high speeds.

There's also news that GM executives are being summoned to D.C. to face Congressional inquiries.

Daniel Howes, business columnist at the Detroit News, joined us today to discuss the issue.

Listen to the full interview above.

An image from the consumer alert issued for the GM ignition switch recall.
NHTSA

Last month, General Motors recalled 1.6 million vehicles because of faulty ignition switches linked to 13 deaths and at least 31 crashes.

That has grown into that biggest crisis GM has faced in years, and an early and severe test for its new chief, Mary Barra.

Yesterday she released a video making a public apology:

“Something went wrong with our process in this instance and terrible things happened. As a member of the GM family and as a mom with a family of my own, this really hits home for me. And we have apologized. But that is just one step in the journey to resolve this.”

Also yesterday, the automaker announced another recall: more than 1.7 million vehicles in three new campaigns.

During the long and agonizing Watergate scandal, the endless question was: What did he know, and when did he know it? That referred to President Richard Nixon, and the break-in and cover-up at the Democratic National Headquarters.

In the end, it turned out Nixon had known a lot, right from the start, which is how he became our only President ever forced from office.

Well, now people are beginning to ask: What did she know and when did she know it? Except the arena is not politics, but the auto industry, specifically, the reborn General Motors.

This time, the chief executive is a woman, Mary Barra, the first woman ever to lead a major car company.

Three months ago, many of us were stunned and delighted when she was appointed.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

General Motors plans to spend $162-million to expand its Lansing Grand River Assembly plant.

The plant produces the Cadillac ATS and CTS.

Monday night the Lansing city council will consider calling public hearings on a set of tax incentives for the expansion.

“It’s a welcome addition,” says Bob Trezise, the president of the Lansing Economic Area Partnership, “It really continues to consolidate the future of auto making, high end car making in the Lansing region and in the state of Michigan.”

If I could have dinner with any corporate executive, I’d choose Mary Barra, who I think is fascinating.

She rose through the ranks of the highly macho culture at General Motors to become its first female CEO. And she didn’t do it as a transplanted financial expert, but as the first honest-to-goodness automotive engineer to lead the company in more than 20 years.

Were she male, she’d be called a “car guy” by the press.

General Motors

General Motors made $3.77  billion in 2013.

That's a 22% drop from the year before.

GM got hit with a lot of extra costs last year. The company is taking the Chevy brand out of Europe, so it doesn't compete with the automaker's Opel brand, and it's closing a plant in Europe.

GM is also closing its Holden division in Australia. And its taxes went up.

But GM's new CEO Mary Barra tells investors quality is also up.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s auto industry figured prominently in President Obama’s State of the Union speech last night.

He started by talking about a hard-working auto worker building fuel-efficient vehicles and helping America wean itself off foreign oil. 

The president then introduced the new CEO of General Motors, who was sitting with the First Lady.  

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - General Motors Co. says it will resume paying a quarterly dividend, its first since the height of the financial crisis in 2008

The U.S. automaker's CEO Dan Akerson had hinted that a dividend may be coming and the company confirmed the move Tuesday. General Motors says its dividend of 30 cents per share is payable March 28 to stockholders of record as of March 18.

The Detroit-based company says investors should share in the company's success and that the dividend is a signal of confidence for a profitable future.

David Defoe / flickr

This Week in Review, Jack Lessenberry and Rina Miller discuss General Motor's investments in the state, the fate of state employee benefits, and the part-time legislature debate.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

47 percent of local leaders support right to work

A report released today from the University of Michigan says 47 percent of Michigan's local government leaders support Michigan's right-to-work law. 22 percent oppose it.

Number of children who qualify for food assistance has jumped

"A report by a private foundation says the percentage of young Michigan children qualifying for federal food assistance has jumped in recent years. The annual Kids Count in Michigan project says more than one in three qualified for nutritional help in 2012. That's up 53 percent from 2005," the Associated Press reports.

GM will invest in three plants in Michigan

"General Motors plans to spend more than a billion dollars upgrading five auto plants in three states.   Most of the money will be spent on GM plants in Michigan. Flint will see 600 million dollars in investment.  Romulus will get nearly 500 million.  And millions more will go to plants in Hamtramck and Toledo," Michigan Radio reports.

NPC / screen shot from YouTube

Outgoing GM CEO Dan Akerson spoke to the National Press Club this afternoon cataloging all the changes the company has made to make it profitable once again.

The U.S. Treasury sold the last of its holdings in the company earlier this month. The government said they lost about $10 billion on its bailout of over $49 billion.

Akerson said over the last four years, the company has invested more than $10 billion in its U.S. operations, including $1.27 billion announced today.

"There's that $10 billion again. But we're investing it - that will keep paying dividends to the American public that supported this company in its darkest hour," said Akerson. 

Akerson said the company is still in the early chapters of the comeback story and that they still have a lot to prove to people who left the brand for other car companies.

Akerson will step down as CEO on January 15, 2014. Akerson was with the Carlyle Group prior to taking the helm at GM in 2010. The global auto industry will see its first female CEO when Marry Barra takes over in January.

You can watch Akerson's address to the National Press Club below:

GM

GM made the announcement today and said the investments in the manufacturing plants "will create or retain about 1,000 jobs."

The investments will be made in these five plants:

  1. Flint Assembly 
  2. Romulus Powertrain Operations
  3. Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly
  4. Toledo Transmission Operations
  5. Bedford Castings in Indiana

GM says the investments "will support production of a new V6 engine, new 10-speed transmission and an existing 6-speed transmission. They will also fund assembly plant upgrades, including a new paint shop and logistics optimization center."

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

General Motors plans to make a “significant manufacturing” announcement in Flint today.

General Motors officials have declined to say what they plan to announce at the Flint Assembly plant.

But they have confirmed that Governor Rick Snyder and GM North America President Mark Reuss will be there.

The announcement in Flint coincides with an appearance by outgoing GM CEO Dan Akerson at the National Press Club in Washington D.C., where he’s scheduled to speak on the automaker’s plans for future investment in the U.S.

The Michigan House of Representatives.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

This Week in Review, Rina Miller and Jack Lessenberry discuss the passage of the ani-abortion coverage bill and campaign finance bill, as well as the appointment of the first female CEO of General Motors.

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. 

GM

Dan Akerson, chairman and CEO of General Motors, will step down on January 15, 2014. Akerson moved up the date of his departure by several months after his wife was diagnosed with an advanced stage of cancer.

Akerson's successor will be Mary Barra. She's the executive vice president, Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain.

The 51-year-old Barra will become the company's first female CEO, and will be the first female CEO in the global automotive industry.

Barra was the daughter of a Pontiac die maker, according to Bloomberg:

Barra, 51, whose career started on a factory floor as an intern more than 30 years ago, has been in charge of product development and quality of all GM cars and trucks for 22 months, fostering collaboration and wringing costs out of the supply chain.

In its press release, GM said Barra was a leader in the company's turnaround:

...revitalizing GM’s product development process resulting in the launch of critically acclaimed new products while delivering record product quality ratings and higher customer satisfaction.

“With an amazing portfolio of cars and trucks and the strongest financial performance in our recent history, this is an exciting time at today’s GM,” said Barra. “I’m honored to lead the best team in the business and to keep our momentum at full speed.”

GM announced other executive staff changes as well. Dan Ammann, 41 and GM CFO, will become company president and will manage the company's regional operations around the world. He'll remain as CFO of GM as well. A new CFO will be named at a later date.

And Mark Reuss, 50, will move into the position being vacated by Barra.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

The U.S. government no longer owns GM

The U.S. government sold its last stock in General Motors today. The government no longer owns parts of the company.

Medical marijuana bills could move forward today

"A state House panel could vote as early as today on some high-profile medical marijuana bills. The legislation would revive medical marijuana dispensaries in Michigan and allow patients to use edible forms of cannabis," Jake Neher reports.

MSU student raises $3,000 for owner of flipped car

"A Michigan State University student has raised more than $3,000 to help pay for damage done to a stranger's car by rowdy Spartan fans after the school's football team beat Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship game on Saturday," the Associated Press reports.

GM Renaissance Center in Detroit.
John F. Martin / Creative Commons

Four years after facing the possibility of its own demise, General Motors is free of the controversial government ownership that saved the Detroit automaker in 2009.

"It was an unambiguous success," says Steven Rattner, who headed the Obama Administration's Auto Task Force.

The task force shepherded GM through an unprecedented 42-day bankruptcy.

The U.S. Treasury announced Monday it had sold the last of its stock in GM, at a loss of $10.5 billion.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

General Motors is heading back to its roots.

The automaker announced today that it will sponsor Flint’s “Back to the Bricks” car show for the next five years. The show features hundreds of ‘classic’ cars and trucks.

“This is an event that is more than just a car cruise and a car show,” says GM spokesman Tom Wickham, “It brings people into a community…provides an economic boost to a community and we need an economic boost.”

About a half million people attended Back to the Bricks in Flint this year.

Chevrolet

Today, General Motors announced plans to largely withdraw its Chevrolet brand from Europe beginning in 2016.

The automaker says the decision was largely due to a challenging business model and the difficult economic situation in Europe.

Meanwhile, the Ford Mustang is celebrating its 50th birthday with a new design — and plans to go global.

Russell Padmore, business reporter for the BBC, joins us from London to talk about the latest auto news.

Listen to full interview above. 

Car dealership.
GM

Auto companies report November's auto sales next week.

The news should be good, especially for Ford, Chrysler and Detroit.

Michelle Krebs is an analyst with Edmunds.com. She says the Detroit Three have had a great year so far, with car sales leading the way.   

“But they also are the biggest seller of trucks,” says Krebs, “People are buying big trucks again like they haven't in a long time.

Krebs says GM's did better this year than she expected.  She adds that’s especially true since Consumer Reports called the new Impala the "best sedan in the U.S."

Half a century ago, America suffered one of the most traumatic events in our history: The assassination of President Kennedy. But while it is important to remember that, it might also be good to consider that there is a bunch of good economic news today. Good news, especially for Michigan.

Yesterday, University of Michigan economists presented their annual November forecast. They saw good things ahead, with the national economy growing almost twice as fast over the next two years as now.

Two experts from the Research Seminar in Quantitative Economics predicted five million new jobs over the next two years. Unemployment, they predict, will fall from just over seven to about six percent.

Meanwhile, they predict the automakers will sell half a million more units next year than this, more still in 2015, and the housing market will also grow.  Inflation will stay low and oil prices will remain steady. This is all very good news, if true.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The announcement this week that an Alabama company plans to build a pipe factory in Flint could help spur further investment in a former General Motors site there.

The 235 acre Buick City site is being marketed by the Racer Trust. The trust was set up to sell off abandoned General Motors properties. American Cast Iron Pipe is the first company to invest in Buick City.

Elliot Laws is with the Racer Trust. He says they’ll be blasting news of American’s plans to build in Flint to other potential investors…

General Motors wants tax incentives to help offset an investment in its Detroit assembly plant.

But some Detroiters say the bankrupt city shouldn’t be handing out subsidies to profitable carmakers.

A small group of protesters circled in front of GM headquarters in downtown Detroit Monday, demanding that the corporation “pay its taxes.”

The Reverend Charles Williams II, who led the protest, said it's not right for GM to look for tax abatements while the city is in federal bankruptcy court, and pensioners face possible cuts.

August was a good month for U.S. automakers.

Nearly all automakers are reporting double-digit sales gains as August shapes up to be another strong month for the industry.

GM

GM announced today that the price of a Chevy Volt will drop by $5,000:

The 2014 model will start at $34,995...

If consumers include federal tax credits ranging from $0-$7,500 (depending on individual tax liability), pricing could start at $27,495.

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