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General Motors

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

General Motors is recalling more than 6,000 big vans and SUVs because their steering can fail. The recall affects certain 2012 Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana vans, and Chevrolet Suburban and GMC Yukon XL SUVs.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said on its website Saturday that a gear shaft can break, causing a loss of steering. GM says no crashes or injuries have been reported.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

 Lansing area business and civic leaders say they are going to work together to market hundreds of acres of vacant industrial land.

The capital city region has more than 400 acres of land left vacant by cuts in the auto industry.

Bob Trezise is the president of the Lansing Area Economic Partnership.  He says in the past the different local governments tried to develop the old industrial land separately..

Douglas Sprott / Flickr

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 Edmunds.com.  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.  

Update 12:35 p.m.

Ford, Chrysler and General Motors all posted higher auto sales in February.

Ford sales were up by 14% compared with February 2011.   Chrysler sales soared by 40%.  GM posted a slight 1% increase.

Erich Merkel is an analyst with Ford Motor Company.  He says rising gasoline prices influenced which vehicles sold last month.

“What we saw was really strong momentum into more fuel efficient vehicles and toward smaller vehicles," says Merkel.

GM

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.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

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.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

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.

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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.

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