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General Motors

Ken Lewenza, president of the Canadian Auto Workers.
Canadian Auto Workers union

The Canadian Auto Workers and GM announced a tentative contract Thursday night reports The Globe and Mail:

The deal extends by one year the life of a car-assembly plant in Oshawa, Ont., that was scheduled to close next year and adds a new shift of workers at a neighbouring plant. That means GM’s employment level in Canada should be roughly the same as it is today – or about 7,000 people – in 2016.

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.

We’ve got a lot going on in Michigan, to put it mildly, and I would guess that you haven’t been paying much attention to the union negotiations that have been going on in Canada.

That’s understandable -- but they could have a significant impact on the economy in this part of the world. The Canadian Auto Workers union used to be part of the UAW, before breaking off and becoming independent in the 1980s.

Chrysler's Windsor Assembly Plant.
Chrysler

The head of the Canadian Auto Workers union says General Motors is waiting for a counter proposal from the union, and he says there has been significant progress toward a new labor deal.

CAW President Ken Lewenza says the union will make the offer today. He also says progress has been made with Chrysler.

The union reached a tentative deal with Ford earlier this week.

From CBC News Windsor:

After reaching a tentative four-year deal with Ford on Monday, CAW officials have agreed on an indefinite extension of negotiations with Chrysler and GM.

Here is a quiz:

The Obama Administration is responsible for:

a) The financial rescue of General Motors;

b) The future financial failure of General Motors;

c) Both a) and b);

d) None of the above.

You won’t find the correct answer in upside-down small print at the bottom of this blog.  I am not quite sure myself what the right answer might be.  But answer (b) might not be such an incredible response.

Ken Lewenza, president of the Canadian Auto Workers.
Canadian Auto Workers union

Just five days remain before an existing contract between the Canadian Auto Workers and Ford, GM, and Chrysler  expires. 

Members of the union previously authorized their leaders to call a strike - but it's a double edged sword for the union.

Ken Lewenza is National President of the Canadian Auto Workers.

He says the union is willing to come up with a deal that preserves the Detroit Three's Canadian labor costs as they are now.

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."

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.

General Motors

General Motors says sales rose 10-percent in August, compared to the same month a year ago.

The Detroit car company also broke several sales records.

GM says it got a noticeable bump from advertising aired during the Olympics.

Sales of the Chevy Cruze, Volt, Spark and Sonic hit an all-time high.

Those are all small cars.  

The Chevy Cruze, a compact car, even beat Honda's perennial top-performer, the Civic, in August.

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.”

American Axle told the Detroit Free Press this morning it plans to "add 400 to 500 jobs in the next couple years" at its Three Rivers driveline plant in southwest Michigan. The company builds drivetrains and driveline systems and components for auto and truck manufacturers. Its biggest customers are Chrysler and GM.

User IFCAR / Wikimedia Commons

In mid-September, General Motors will temporarily close the Detroit-Hamtramck plant that makes the Chevrolet Volt for about a month.

User: dmealiffe / flickr.com

The Canadian Auto Workers union said today its members have voted to strike against Chrysler, Ford, and GM, if necessary.

The Detroit News reports the CAW is negotiating new contracts with the automakers. Current contracts are set to expire on September 17:

The CAW is expected to meet with the automakers Monday and Tuesday in downtown Toronto.

Dutch car company Spyker is suing General Motors for three billion dollars over the bankruptcy of GM's former brand, Saab.

Spyker says GM illegally interfered with a sale of part of Saab, and claims it was that interference which caused Saab's bankruptcy. 

GM sold Saab to Spyker in 2010, with a stipulation that Spyker would have to obtain GM's permission to sell Saab to anyone else.

Spyker almost immediately ran into financial problems trying to keep Saab afloat.  

General Motors / GM

GM's second quarter profit dropped from a year ago. The company made $1.5 billion, down from $2.5 billion, largely due to losses in Europe.  

The company also took an unusual step related to damage control, after a high-profile firing at the company on Sunday.

GM departed from the industry norm and only allowed analysts, not media, to ask questions during its earnings conference call.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Officials from Lansing and Flint are hoping a conference this week will help convince investors to redevelop some former General Motors auto plant sites.

Local leaders will meet with federal and state officials in Lansing Wednesday to discuss how to revitalize former auto plant sites in their cities. The group is going on a bus tour of the sites in Lansing this afternoon.

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.

GM Renaissance Center 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.

Onstar

General Motors says its On-Star customers can now use their GM cars to make some extra money - by renting out their vehicles.

Car-sharing allows someone to rent their personal vehicle to people who don't own one. Typically the borrower just needs a car for a few hours, for errands, grocery store visits or the like.

Now, GM car owners who subscribe to Onstar can rent out their cars through a car-sharing company called RelayRides.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

The United States has filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization against China over tariffs on U.S.-made vehicles.

The Obama administration says China unfairly placed duties of up to 22 percent on U.S.-made vehicles that are exported to China.

The tariffs apply to larger passenger cars and SUVs.

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.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

General Motors is celebrating an environmental milestone. The company says a Lansing autopart distribution center is the automaker’s 100th facility to go “landfill free.”

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.

GM MEDIA

OSHAWA, Ontario (AP) - The Canadian Auto Workers union says General Motors Canada plans to close its consolidated plant in Oshawa, Ontario, by June 2013. Chris Buckley, a local union president, says GM gave the union notice Friday. The closure of the plant that produces the Chevrolet Impala and the Equinox could mean 2,000 layoffs.

GM is scaling back its overall operations in Canada as part of a North American restructuring that began two years ago under bankruptcy court protection. In Canada, GM has already closed a truck plant in Oshawa and a transmission factory in Windsor, Ontario.

Alan Crosthwaite

General Motors' Customer Care and Aftersales (CCA) Veterans Affinity Group (VAG) will honor U.S. Military personnel who lost their lives in Afghanistan at the first annual "Field of "Flags" event.

The formal semi-military event, featuring U.S. Navy Color Guard members and Military Buglers, will be held Tuesday, May 22 from 1:00-2:00 p.m., at the GM CCA Willow Run Complex located at 50000 Ecorse Road, Belleville, Mich., 48111. The event is also in conjunction with the GM UAW local 174.

"The Field of Flags event leading up to Memorial Day is another way we can honor their commitment and say thank you to the members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families for their courage, service and sacrifice," said Steve Hill, GM North America Vice President of CCA and GM's corporate champion for the group. "This is a grassroots event sponsored by our employees, who have a passion for this cause, and spend their own time to demonstrate their support and respect for the U.S. Military."

Approximately 2,000 flags will be planted in a field on the lawn of the facility. The ceremony will include the raising of an American flag flown over Afghanistan, the playing of "The National Anthem" and "America the Beautiful," the reading of the "Field of Flags" declaration, remarks by guest speaker Steve Hill, a special CCA VAG presentation, the planting of the final flag and a memorial wreath, the ringing of a ships bell honoring service members lost, Taps, and the presentation of the flag flown over Afghanistan.

GM's VAG Customer Care and Aftersales, headquarters in Grand Blanc, conducts fundraising activities to support GM employees who are U.S Military Veterans, in the Reserves or National Guard. To date, the group has raised $20,000 for Piquette Square, a non-profit organization in Detroit that helps homeless veterans. Additionally, it provides support through various activities such as sending care packages and phone cards troops abroad.

"Our group's overriding objective is to take care of the military men and women who take care of us," said Don Gore, president of the Customer Care and Aftersales VAG Chapter. "I am proud of the job our team has done, which has resulted in overwhelming support for veterans, deployed military and fellow employee reservists."

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A former General Motors plant in a Grand Rapids suburb is getting new life and a new identity.

The 2 million square foot stamping plant in Wyoming, Michigan was the first manufacturing plant sold after GM’s bailout. The more than 75 year old plant is almost completely demolished now. The plant was once the city of Wyoming’s largest taxpayer and employer.

Now it’s been rebranded as “Site 36”. (It’s located on 36th street in Wyoming.)

“We cannot go to a customer, a company, a site consultant and say ‘well we’ve got a former General Motors site.’ Okay? That brings with it a certain image,” said Birgit Klohs, President and CEO of The Right Place. It’s an economic development group based in Grand Rapids that’s helping market the site to international companies.  

Klohs says rebranding the site is important for the people who live here too. “We’re done grieving. We need to come up with the next strategy and rebranding to us was a key issue for us in saying it’s time for the 21st century,” Klohs said.

The GM Tech Center in Warren.
user localhero / wikimedia commons

Update 2:35 p.m.

The Detroit News reports that Warren Mayor James Fouts toured GM's Tech Center after the exposion. He said he had a "chemical taste in his mouth" when touring the site.

"I just want to say how very fortunate we are that only one person was seriously injured," said Fouts, who toured the site after the fire was extinguished. "There were 80 people in that building, but only one person received a possible concussion and some chemical burns, from what I've been told."

...According to Fouts, the building housing the research lab received considerable damage.

Fouts said three "very large windows were blown out and thick, fortified doors were forced open by the blast."

The News reports that a GM official said the hospitalized worker "is expected to make a full recovery and that the injuries are not life threatening."

1:27 p.m.

GM says the explosion was unrelated to the Chevrolet Volt or any other production vehicle.

"The incident was related to extreme testing on a prototype battery," officials said in a statement.

11:32 a.m.

There was an explosion at the General Motors Technical Center in Warren, Michigan this morning.

The Detroit Free Press reports on one person who was seriously injured in the blast:

A woman working in a battery research laboratory was taken to St. John Hospital and Medical Center in Detroit, Warren Fire Commissioner Wilburt (Skip) McAdams said.

“She is conscious; she’s in a lot of pain. She’s a ‘Priority 2,’ which means she has life-threatening injuries,” McAdams said.

More from the Detroit News:

One person was transported to a hospital and four others were being evaluated Wednesday after a lithium battery exploded at a battery research lab at the General Motors Technical Center.

"We are aware of an incident this morning about 8:45 a.m. in one of the laboratories at the Alternative Energy Center at the General Motors Technical Center in Warren, Mich.," GM said in a release. "Fire and emergency authorities were called to the scene. The building was evacuated. All employees have been accounted for. We are aware of five employees being evaluated on scene by medical personal and only one employee is being further treated.

The incident is still under investigation by GM and the Warren authorities. Any information or discussion of the nature of the work in the lab or cause of the incident is entirely speculative and cannot be confirmed at this time."

user BrokenSphere / wikimedia commons

The average fuel economy of new vehicles sold in the US reached an all-time high last month.

That's according to a recently-released report from the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute.

A U of M press release has more:

Average fuel economy (window-sticker values) of cars, light trucks, minivans and SUVs purchased in March was 24.1 mpg, up from 23.9 in February and 23.6 in January, and now 20 percent (4 mpg) higher than October 2007, the first month of monitoring by UMTRI researchers Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle.

The Detroit News reports that US automakers have also noticed this trend:

General Motors Co. said last week that its 12 vehicles getting 30 mpg or better on the highway had combined U.S. sales of about 100,000 for March — the automaker's highest ever monthly total.

"Three years ago, about 16 percent of the vehicles GM sold achieved at least 30 mpg on the highway. Today, that number is about 40 percent," said GM North America President Mark Reuss.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

user Mariordo / wikimedia commons

GM is planning to extend a production slowdown for its extended-range electric car, the Chevy Volt.

Last month, Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton reported that GM was halting production of the Volt for five weeks in March and April to reduce inventory, in part because of lower-than-anticipated demand.

Samilton wrote:

The car has been highly praised, but it’s expensive.  Even with a $7,500 federal rebate, the Volt still costs about $32,000.  Meanwhile, people can buy a highly fuel-efficient regular car for much less – including GM’s own Chevy Cruze, which costs about $19,000.

Additionally, the Volt facility was scheduled to be shut down for two weeks in July---a common practice for car factories---but GM has now extended that period to three weeks, again citing a need to reduce inventory.

But according to the Associated Press, "a spokeswoman says the company sold a record number of the electric cars in March and may cancel the extra week if strong sales continue."

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

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