General Motors

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Japanese car sales in the U.S. have nearly recovered, a year after a tsunami devastated parts of Japan.  

The disaster affected many Honda and Toyota suppliers, and the companies’ car inventories in the U.S. plummeted. 

Michelle Krebs is with  She says Hyundai and Kia, along with Ford, General Motors and Chrysler, all benefited from the situation.  

"The market share runs about 45-46% for the Big Three in the U.S.," notes Kreb.  "That shot way up to 50.3 % - a number we hadn’t seen in a long time."

General Motors will temporarily suspend production of its electric car with extended range, the Chevy Volt, to manage excess inventory on dealer lots. 

The decision puts about 1,200 employees at GM’s Detroit Hamtramck plant on layoff. 

The Volt assembly line will shut down between March 19th and April 23rd, to give dealers time to sell the Volts they already have.    

Demand for the Volt has been lower than GM anticipated. 

The car has been highly praised, but it’s expensive.  Even with a $7,500 federal rebate, the Volt still costs about $32,000.  


General Motors is forming an alliance with French carmaker Peugeot to help the company make progress in getting to a breakeven point in Europe. 

GM made a record profit last year, but it was no thanks to Europe, where the company lost $700 million.  

The limited alliance with Peugeot will involve the joint development of some car platforms and joint parts purchasing. 

The companies estimate it will save a total $2 billion within a few years.

GM CEO Dan Akerson says the two companies will continue to compete in other areas.



General Motors made a record-breaking profit last year. And to date, taxpayers have recovered close to half the $50 billion federal investment in the company. So the auto bailout worked, right? Wrong, say Republican presidential candidates, who insist the bailout was a huge mistake.


Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton reports.

General Motors posted a record profit of $7.6 billion in 2011, although its losses in Europe were very high -- $700 million.

In a conference call with analysts, GM CEO Dan Akerson  called Europe a "rather challenging market, not only for GM and Opel, but also for our competition."

GM also lost $100 million in South America.

Most of the money GM made came from sales in North America.  GM made $7.2 billion before taxes in the region.

GM plans to make major structural changes in Europe to reduce its persistent losses there.  

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Saturday marks the 75th anniversary of the end of the Flint Sit Down Strike.   

Hundreds of UAW members gathered in Flint today to commemorate the pivotal moment in the history of the union movement.   

Union members honored in song the six surviving sit down strikers and women’s brigade members who gathered to mark the anniversary of the strike that many say legitimized the United Auto Workers union.

Art Reyes is the president of UAW local 651.   He says the surviving sit-down strikers are an inspiration.


Candidates on both sides of the political fence, especially during this presidential election cycle,  have been trying to make hay out of the U.S. government bailouts of Chrysler and GM.  

At a speech to the National Automobile Dealers Association convention yesterday, former President George W. Bush said the reality of the severe economic downturn led him to his decision to begin the bailouts of GM and Chrysler.

From Bloomberg News:

“I didn’t want there to be 21 percent unemployment,” Bush said in a speech yesterday to cap the annual National Automobile Dealers Association convention, attended by more than 20,000 people. “I didn’t want to gamble. I didn’t want history to look back and say, ‘Bush could have done something but chose not to do it.’ And so I said, ‘no depression.’” 

Bloomberg reports the Bush administration loaned GM and Chrysler $17.4 billion "before Barack Obama’s administration expanded the rescue of the companies to $62 billion."

The Detroit Free Press reports that Bush said he believed GM and Chrysler were mismanaged and should pay for their own problems...

"But sometimes circumstances get in the way of philosophy," Bush said. "I would make the same decision again."

Chrysler repaid its loans last year, and GM has repaid around $23 billion, but the U.S. Government still holds around a quarter of GM stock.

General Motors reported U.S. car sales in January were down 6% from the same month a year ago.

But GM's head of U.S. Sales, Don Johnson, says comparing the two months is tough.  That's because the Detroit automaker boosted sales significantly last January with incentives. 

Johnson says the good news is GM increased its market share in the U.S. last month, compared to December.  GM had about a 19% market share last month.

Johnson says it's not possible to predict gasoline prices, but for most of 2012, he thinks they'll stay under $4.00 a gallon.

Richardo Giaviti / Flickr

President Barack Obama is expected to visit the Washington Auto Show on Tuesday.

Obama sometimes calls his decision to rescue General Motors and Chrysler a tough choice that saved jobs in an important industry.

The auto show will give him another forum to talk about GM and Chrysler, along with the administration's attention to manufacturers and efforts to boost fuel efficiency standards.

The president's advisers view the auto bailout as a potential point of contrast with Republican Mitt Romney, who opposed Obama's decision to pour billions of dollars into the companies.

During his State of the Union address last week, Obama said the auto industry has hired tens of thousands of workers, and he predicted the Detroit turnaround could take root elsewhere.

General Motors North American President Mark Reuss weighed in on his boss's testimony Wednesday before a Congressional subcommittee. 

The hearing was entitled, "Volt vehicle fire: What did NHTSA know, and when did they know it?"

Reuss says, "It was a huge opportunity for us, yesterday, and the whole company is proud of Dan [Akerson - GM's CEO].  But more importantly it gives the whole country a look into what this company can be."

General Motors CEO Dan Akerson strongly defended the safety of the Chevy Volt during his testimony before a House subcommittee Wednesday.    

The hearing was entitled "Volt vehicle fire:  What did NHTSA know, and when did they know it?"   

Last June, a fire broke out in a Chevy Volt, three weeks after it had been damaged in a crash test.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened an official investigation into the fire risk of the Volt in late November, after performing two other tests on the Volt's battery alone.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The government ended its safety investigation into the Chevrolet Volt on Friday after concluding that the Volt and other electric cars don't pose a greater fire risk than gasoline-powered cars.

The agency began studying the Volt last June after a fire broke out in one of the cars three weeks after it was crashed as part of safety testing. Two other fires occurred later related to separate safety tests, and NHTSA opened an official investigation into the vehicle on Nov. 25.

The agency and General Motors Co. know of no fires in real-world crashes.

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For those of you keeping score at home, it's GM 9,030,000 to Toyota's 7,900,000 for 2011.

Those are "around" numbers for the number of vehicles sold in 2011 by the automakers from the Associated Press.

GM has retaken a crown it owned for 77 years before Toyota snatched it away in 2008.

Since that time, Volkswagen has been an up and comer as well. That company is the no. 2 automaker. It sold around 8,160,000 vehicles last year.

But some argue there's some fuzzy math going on to make GM the "top automaker" in the world.

More from the Associated Press:

Some analysts have said that VW is the world's biggest automaker because GM's figures include vehicles made by its Wuling joint venture in China. Many don't count Wuling because GM doesn't have controlling interest in the company, but GM includes it in global sales figures.

Excluding Wuling, GM would have been topped by Volkswagen.

Being the world's top-selling automaker doesn't mean much for the bottom line. But GM retaking the title is an example of how far the company has come since its 2009 bankruptcy.

Bloomberg Business Week's Tim Higgins quotes one analyst saying the top automaker crown means "bragging rights" and might help with stock prices.

Higgins writes GM's stock did go up with the news, but the stock would have to go up significantly before the U.S. government would break even on its investment:

GM rose 0.5 percent to $24.63 at 11:26 a.m. New York time.

The U.S. government still owns almost a third of GM. The government would have to sell its stake at an average of $53 a share to break even. GM earned $6.17 billion in 2010 and $8.47 billion in the first nine months of last year.

Library of Congress

Last month, Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody visited Flint to report on the 75th anniversary of the start of the Flint sit down strike, a work stoppage at multiple GM facilities beginning in 1936, which Carmody says was "pivotal to the birth of the United Auto Workers," and had profound implications for American organized labor in general.

Carmody writes:

user citizenofthedeep / creative commons

In her post on Forbes, auto writer Joann Muller says the idea that Chevy Volt batteries are unsafe is pure poppycock... balderdash... hooey... or as she puts it:

Hogwash. GM and its battery partner, LG Chem, have tortured that battery to death. They’ve abused it, mutilated it, jarred it, twisted it, and even punctured it with nails. There’s nothing wrong with the Volt or its battery that can’t be fixed with a couple of minor tweaks.

The minor tweaks are coming after a government safety test found that the batteries can catch fire seven days to several weeks after a crash. No fires were reported in real-world circumstances.

The company announced today that it will add parts to ensure the batteries will not catch fire.

Muller reports that the government has crashed a Volt with the new parts - no fire yet - but they'll give it another week to see if one starts up:

In a statement, NHTSA said  it crashed a Volt retrofitted with GM’s newly designed steel reinforcement device in a side-pole impact test on December 22. The results of that crash test showed no intrusion into the vehicle’s battery compartment, and no coolant leakage was apparent. As a precaution, NHTSA has monitored the crashed vehicle since the test and will continue to do so for one more week. But the agency said the preliminary results of the crash test indicate that GM’s fix should solve the problem.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Today is the 75th anniversary of one of the key moments in the history of organized labor in the United States: The beginning of the Flint Sit Down Strike.   

The Flint Sit-Down Strike was pivotal to the birth of the United Auto Workers.   

Three-quarters of a century later the echoes of the event still resonate.  

© GM Company

UAW members in Lansing voted this week to authorize a strike at a General Motors plant.  

Local 602 reported tonight that 86 percent of its members voted to authorize a strike at GM'S Lansing Delta Township plant.

Union leaders say they hope the vote will encourage both sides back to the bargaining table.

The union and GM have been unable to reach an agreement on several workplace issues.

The plant produces the Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave.

United Auto Workers members are voting on whether to authorize a strike at General Motors’ Lansing Delta Township plant.   The vote centers on several workplace issues.   

The Delta Township plant produces the Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave.  Tracy Handler is an analyst with IHS Global Insight.    She says if UAW members strike at the Lansing plant, the effect would not be immediate on GM.   

staff / GM MEDIA

NEW YORK (AP) - The top executive at General Motors says the company will buy back Chevrolet Volts from any owner who is afraid the electric cars will catch fire.

CEO Daniel Akerson told The Associated Press Thursday that the cars are safe. But he says GM would buy back the vehicles to keep customers happy. Three fires have broken out in Volts after side-impact crash tests done by a federal safety agency. The fires happened seven days to three weeks after the tests.

Akerson also says that GM could recall more than 6,000 Volts now on U.S. roads, if necessary, and fix them once the company and safety regulators figure out what caused the fires.

GM says no Volts involved in real-world crashes have caught fire.

Three big, new investments by automakers in one Ohio city are raising hopes for a revived economy. Chrysler and General Motors have promised to spend more than $800 million on retooling and expanding their factories in Toledo.

These moves announced in recent months will create at least 1,400 jobs and keep thousands more. Parts suppliers also are expected to add more jobs in and around Toledo.

Chrysler announced plans on Wednesday to build a new Jeep SUV at its Toledo assembly plant while adding 1,100 jobs. It also hinted that more work could be coming.

That's why Toledo Mayor Mike Bell calls the news "the equivalent of a blood transfusion for our city."

The heads of two of Detroit’s car companies say they’re concerned about the debt crisis in Europe. 

European consumers are pulling back from buying cars because of fears about the Euro and the economy.   

Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne on Wednesday said he’s hopeful the new leadership in Italy will help turn things around in that country.  But he says car sales in Europe could worsen through next year.   

At the Detroit Economic Club Thursday, GM CEO Dan Akerson said the crisis could damage more than car sales.  But he’s hopeful the U.S. economy has become more resilient.

"Could the United States withstand a recession in Europe?" he asked rhetorically.  "I think it could. "

Ford CEO Alan Mulally earlier this month took the most optimistic view, saying he expects some global economic growth next year, despite sovereign debt concerns.

General Motors made $1.7 billion in the third quarter of this year.

That's down from $2 billion in the same period of 2010.

Financial turmoil in Europe contributed to GM's continued losses in Europe, although GM did cut those losses in half compared to last year, to $300 million.

GM is also not doing particularly well in South America.  The company broke even in that region.  GM officials say that's due to increased competition in the region and an aging lineup there.

The Associated Press reports that an industrial contractor has bought a former General Motors facility in Pontiac with plans to use the 6-acre property for an expansion.

More from a Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response (RACER) Trust press release:

An industrial contracting company has purchased the former GM ACG Penske facility on Oakland Avenue, with plans to expand its business at the six-acre property.

The RACER Trust sold the property, which includes a 32,000-square-foot building with multiple truck bays, to Lee Contracting, headquartered across the street from the ACG Penske facility, at 675 Oakland Ave.

Lee Contracting Founder and President Ed Lee said he plans to expand his more than 200-employee company, and the former ACG Penske property provides a perfect fit. “This was a great opportunity to build upon our business right here in Michigan,” he said. “Having this great site right across from our current facility provides us with a base to continue expanding the business.”

Lee Contracting is a single-source contractor specializing in complete turnkey solutions for industrial and manufacturing clients.

Terms of the sale were not disclosed.

General Motors officials said they will "create or retain" 418 jobs with a $325 million investment at a suburban Detroit transmission plant. The company says it will invest "in tools and equipment to support production of future electric vehicle components."

So which is it? Are they creating or retaining the jobs?

According this report in Crain's Detroit Business, 360 jobs will be created at the plant in Warren, Michigan as a result of the new UAW contract:

The company would not say how many of the 418 jobs will be new positions. But a summary of GM’s new four-year contract with the UAW said 360 jobs will be added at the plant for a new transmission that originally was to have been built in Mexico. The union said that the jobs were brought to the U.S. as part of the new contract.

At this point, GM is not revealing the timing for the project.

According to GM, 679 current employees at  the plant in Warren make transmissions for the Chevrolet Traverse, Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia, and the Chevrolet Malibu sedan.

From a GM press release:

“This investment in the future recognizes the excellent work force and operation of this plant,” said GM Manufacturing Manager Gerald Johnson. “While we aren’t sharing many details about this product, I can tell you that this investment demonstrates how GM, working with our UAW partners, continues to innovate and bring new electrification solutions to our customers.”

The 2.1 million square-foot plant, equivalent to the area of 15 city blocks, produced more than 338,000 transmissions in 2010.

“We are very proud of the membership of UAW Local 909 whose hard work and dedication to building quality products is why this new electric drive unit module is being built in the United States,” said Joe Ashton, UAW vice president representing the GM Department.  “These good paying, middle class jobs are very important for the State of Michigan and the Metro Detroit area.  It is the UAW’s goal to increase employment at GM and show the world that we can compete with anyone.”

Photo courtesy GM

DELTA TOWNSHIP, Mich. – Auto workers at the Lansing Delta Township Assembly plant make some of General Motors’ most popular vehicles.

The GMC Acadia, Chevrolet Traverse and Buick Enclave are all produced inside this 3.4-million square-foot facility on the outskirts of Lansing, which is Michigan’s state capital.

In August, when GM announced an 18 percent sales increase from 2010, GMC led the turnaround with a 40.3 percent increase. Chevrolet had gained 15.8 percent.

So when contract negotiations began last month, the plant’s 3,430 hourly workers expected they’d be sharing in the company’s improved position. But when they saw the proposed deal between the United Auto Workers and GM, many members of UAW Local 602 here felt jilted instead.

They rejected the deal — a rarity for a contract approved by two-thirds of GM workers nationwide.

user alins / Flickr

DETROIT (AP) - General Motors Co. said Thursday it will install a center air bag on three of its models next year to better protect drivers and front-seat passengers.

The new bag inflates from the right side of the driver's seat and is designed to protect people when their vehicles are hit on the opposite side of where they are sitting. They serve as a cushion between a driver and front-seat passenger in a collision, GM said in a statement.

The bags will come standard on all Buick Enclave crossover vehicles starting in the 2013 model year, and they'll be on the Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia crossovers that are equipped with
power seats. The 2013 models will come out in the fall of 2012. Crossovers are like SUVs but are more efficient because they're built on car underpinnings rather than trucks.

GM said in the statement that the center air bags, developed with parts supplier Takata Corp., are the first in the industry. It has plans to put them in more of its models, but the company would
not say which ones.

GM said it analyzed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's database of fatal auto accidents and found that crashes on the opposite side of where people sit accounted for 11 percent of deaths in non-rollover crashes from 2004 through 2009. The company said it checked crashes involving passengers wearing seat belts in vehicles from the 1999 model year or newer models.

The center air bag also is expected to help protect passengers in rollover crashes, the company said.

Shares of GM rose 11 cents to $20.52 in morning trading. They are down 38 percent from the November initial public offering price of $33 per share.

At auto plants, a reversal of fortune

Sep 28, 2011
Kate Davidson / Changing Gears

*Editors note - This story by Kate Davidson of Changing Gears was first broadcast last year (September 22, 2010). Now that GM and the UAW have agreed to a new contract that will allow GM to hire more "two-tier" workers (newly hired workers paid a lower wage than traditional workers), we thought we'd bring her story on "two-tier" workers back. As Micki Maynard of Changing Gears points out, only about 4 percent of GM's workforce is "two-tier" now - under the new contract, that number could go up to 25 percent.

The American Dream is that each generation will do better than the last.  But many families of auto workers no longer have that expectation.  As Detroit car makers sped towards financial ruin, their union agreed to a dual wage structure, plus deep cuts in benefits.

Now, new hires earn about half what traditional workers make.  This reversal of fortune has altered their lives.

user santoshkrishnan / Flickr

Update - 3:07 p.m.

More thoughts on the newly ratified UAW-GM contract from Micky Maynard with Changing Gears:

General Motors gave some new details today on its just-ratified agreement with the United Auto Workers union. Among them: up to 25 percent of its workforce could be “two-tiers” — new hires at lower rates than veteran workers.

Changing Gears reporter Kate Davidson profiled two-tier workers last year. Right now, they’re only 4 percent of GM’s workforce, but the auto company clearly has plans for more of them.

There’s a caveat, though. In order for GM to hire more workers, auto sales have to pick up, company executives said during a conference call with Wall Street analysts. And it isn’t promising to hire the same number of workers as it sees sales go up: it will study its staffing needs and hire accordingly. 

The new contract runs through 2015 and caps the number of “two-tiers” at 25 percent at the end of the contract. It calls for the new hires to get a raise to nearly $20 an hour by 2015 (veteran workers are paid about $28 an hour now).

Other GM highlights:

  • The number of people working in its U.S. factories has dropped sharply. GM had 110,000 hourly production workers in 2005, according to its presentation. In 2008, the year before it filed for bankruptcy production, GM had 78,000 U.S. workers. Now, GM has just 49,000 hourly workers, or less than half what it had six years ago.
  • For the first time in 58 years, GM does not expect its pension expense to rise under the new contract. One reason is that newly hired workers will not be covered by GM’s traditional pension plan; they will receive a 401(k) retirement program instead.
  • GM says it still has 700 workers laid off from their jobs. They have first dibs on jobs at GM plants, including the workers it plans to hire when it reopens its factory in Spring Hill, Tenn. Once those workers have been offered the chance to come back, then GM will hire new workers, including temporaries.

Read more about the GM contract in The New York Times.

1:05 p.m.

More from Pete Bigelow of Changing Gears:

General Motors became the first domestic automaker to reach an official agreement on a new contract with members of the United Auto Workers union Wednesday afternoon.

The UAW said in a written release that 65 percent of production workers and 63 percent of skilled trade workers voted in favor of the agreement, which had been tentatively agreed upon Sept 16. A four-year contract provides a wage increase for entry-level workers, and goes into effect immediately.

The agreement would create 6,400 jobs in the United States, the release said.

“When it seems like everyone in America is getting cuts in benefits and paying higher co-pays and deductibles, we were able to maintain and improve on our current benefits,” said UAW vice president Joe Ashton.

GM CEO Dan Akerson is expected to hold a conference call with Wall Street analysts at 2 p.m.

12:37 p.m.

The deal is complete. UAW members officially ratified their contract with General Motors.

From the Detroit Free Press:

The UAW said today that its members have ratified a new four-year labor agreement with GM that gives workers a $5,000 signing bonus and is expected to preserve or add 6,400 U.S. jobs.

It is the first contract for 48,500 GM hourly workers since the automaker’s 2009 bankruptcy and restructuring.

The union said the vote was 65% in favor of the agreement among production workers, and 63% in favor among skilled-trades workers.

user paul (dex) / Flickr

DETROIT (AP) - Moody's Investors Service is considering upgrading General Motors Co.'s credit ratings based on improvements in its finances and the expected ratification of a new contract
with the United Auto Workers union.

GM currently has a Ba2 corporate family rating and a Baa3 secured credit rating from Moody's. Both are several notches below investment grade. GM lost its investment-grade ratings in 2005,
when it was losing billions of dollars.

GM and the UAW reached a tentative agreement on a new contract last week. Workers are expected to finish voting on it by next Thursday.

Moody's said that after an initial review, it expects the contract would let GM remain competitive in North America. The deal would pay workers a $5,000 ratification bonus and profit-sharing
checks, but it helps GM lower costs by not giving annual raises to most workers and offering buyouts to clear out older, more expensive workers.

"A critical issue in our review is whether the new contract will preserve's GM's new-found  competitiveness and support its ability to contend with increasing volatility in the global economy," said Bruce Clark, a senior vice president at Moody's.

Moody's review also will consider GM's long-term commitment to the discipline it has adopted since its 2009 government bailout and bankruptcy. Moody's said it will look at whether GM will continue
to limit production and incentives, improve quality and limit acquisitions and shareholder returns in order to strengthen liquidity.

GM's stock fell 72 cents, or 3.4 percent, to $20.56 during a broader-market selloff. The Standard & Poor's 500 was down 3 percent in late morning trading.

Update 2:31 pm:

This story was clarified at 2:00 pm to say that the $5,000 bonus was for ratification of the contract.

Pay raises for entry-level workers, five-thousand dollar bonuses for ratification, and better profit sharing. Those are among the highlights of the four-year contract local UAW leaders will recommend to General Motors’ 48,500 hourly workers.

UAW President Bob King says the union bargained a “great framework” for all three Detroit automakers.

    "They’re in different states of financial health, different states of debt. We’re hoping that this country bounces back and the European situation gets resolved – they all could be impacted by that. And we think we’ve got an agreement that helps us get through those periods of time, because we didn’t add many fixed costs to this agreement."    

The tentative contract promises to add or save 6,400 workers. Nine hundred of those are at Michigan plants.

It also provides for a $5,000 dollar ratification bonus, and raises for entry-level workers. UAW President Bob King says those workers will also see generous health care provisions – including free emergency room and urgent care visits.

"What worker being hired at any employer today starts out with the kind of health care plan that workers hiring into General Motors will have? What workers have unlimited doctor visits, $25 co-pay? Nobody."

The contract also calls for $10,000 dollar bonuses for eligible employees who retire in the next two years. Skilled tradesmen who retire between November First and the end of March would qualify for additional $65,000 bonuses.

Ratification is expected at the end of next week.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett is at the United Auto Worker's press conference in Detroit today.

She's reporting on some details of the UAW's new contract with General Motors:

  • Entry level wages will be bumped up to $19.28/hr over the life of the contract plus a $5,000 ratification bonus.
  • Unlimited doctor appointments with $25 co-pay.
  • $10,000 bonus for eligible employees who retire within the next two years.
  • Additional $65,000 bonus for skilled trades who retire between November 1, 2011 and March 31, 2012.
  • Jobs will be added in Michigan at facilities in Warren, Saginaw and Romulus.

UAW President Bob King says the next target for negotiations has not yet been determined.

From the Associated Press:

Union leaders from General Motors factories around the country have endorsed a new four-year contract with the company.

They are recommending that GM's 48,500 factory workers approve the deal in votes during the next week.

The agreement reached Friday includes a $5,000 signing bonus and improved profit-sharing instead of hourly pay raises for most of the workers. About 2,400 entry-level workers will get raises. They now make $14 to $16 per hour, about half the pay of a longtime UAW worker.

Profit-sharing will be a minimum of $3,500 next year.

The union now will focus on negotiations with Chrysler, and Ford will be next.

Since Chrysler isn't making as much money as GM, workers there probably won't see as good of a deal.