Flickr user afagen / Flickr

As we get together with our families to celebrate the holidays, we often think about those who are no longer with us. For many, a trip to a cemetery to visit loved ones is easy, but for others, it’s impossible.

For families with relatives buried in the Beth Olem cemetery in Detroit, they can’t go pay their respects.

The cemetery is hidden within GM’s Poletown plant, and is only open to the public two days every year: the Sunday before Passover and Rosh Hashanah.

People are able to visit the cemetery if they go on a private tour offered by the Michigan Jewish Historical Society. We heard from some of the visitors today.

Listen to the full interview above.

The massive GM recall just got more expensive

Apr 11, 2014

General Motors Thursday revised up to $1.3 billion dollars its estimate of the cost of recalling millions of cars with faulty ignition switches.

The automaker will now replace the ignition lock cylinder as well as the switch itself on the defective vehicles. The $1.3  billion estimate includes the cost of repairs and of providing loaner vehicles to customers.

GM shares fell to a 10-month low today in the wake of the news. Ratings agency Standard & Poor's said Thursday that it might put off a planned upgrade of GM's debt to investment-grade status until next year.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - General Motors is adding 824,000 small cars to its ongoing recall tied to defective ignition switches.

The company will add vehicles from the 2008-2011 model years to a recall that initially covered cars only through the 2007 model year.

The Chevrolet Cobalt, Chevrolet HHR, Pontiac G5, Pontiac Solstice, Saturn Ion and Saturn Sky are all involved in the recall.

GM says around 5,000 of the faulty switches were used for repairs on 2008-2011 model year cars. GM says it's expanding the recall to make sure it finds all the switches.

Next week will bring a big test for new GM CEO Mary Barra.

She will present herself to Congress for a two-day grilling over the ever-growing ignition switch crisis, a problem that GM says is linked to 12 deaths.

Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes thinks Barra has a whole lot of heavy lifting to do to get this "new" GM out of the shadow of the missteps of the "old" GM. He joined us today for our weekly check-in.

Listen to the full interview above.

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.

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.”

New GM CEO hopes to inspire science students

Jan 12, 2014

The incoming CEO of General Motors hopes her appointment as the first woman to lead a global automaker will inspire young women and men to pursue careers in science.

Mary Barra's first appearance before reporters since getting the job eclipsed the rollout of the GMC Canyon small pickup truck.

Barra unveiled the truck and was immediately surrounded by hundreds of journalists Sunday at an old industrial site in Detroit.

She hopes her background as an electrical engineer encourages young people into studying science, technology, engineering or math.

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:

The Michigan House of Representatives in Lansing
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.

Dave Pinter / Flickr

It’s been a big week for Michigan’s auto industry.

A report from Business Leaders for Michigan revealed a plan to bring 100,000 automotive jobs to the sector. And General Motors announced the next CEO of the company will be Mary Barra. She’ll be the first female CEO in the car industry.

Daniel Howes, a business columnist from The Detroit News, talks with us about this week’s announcements.

Listen to the full interview above.

Matthileo / Flickr

This Week in Michigan Politics, Jack Lessenberry and Christina Shockley discuss marijuana and campaign finance bills and the appointment of the first female CEO of General Motors.

General Motors CEO Mary Barra
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. 

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.

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.

Car dealership.

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 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…

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - The government is getting closer to selling all of its General Motors Co. stock.

The Treasury Department said in its August report to Congress that it sold $811 million worth of GM common stock last month.

The report dated Tuesday says the government has recovered about $35.4 billion of the $49.5 billion bailout it gave the Detroit automaker. That means taxpayers are still $14.1 billion in the hole.

Peter Martorano / Flickr

There is no small touch of irony in the fact that as Detroit filed for bankruptcy, the U.S. car makers are enjoying boom times. Sales for the Big Three in July were the highest in seven years. GM, Ford and Chrysler are adding shifts and hiring workers. Good times.

But not for the city that gave birth to what we know as the U.S. auto industry.

Tom Walsh, business columnist for the Detroit Free Press, and Sonari Glinton, National Desk Reporter from NPR who has covered transportation and the auto industry, joined us today.

General Motors

GM will recall 292,879 Chevy Cruze cars from the  2011 and 2012 model years for a potential intermittent loss of partial braking power.

GM says it's aware of 27 low-speed crashes, some of which could be linked to the problem, but no injuries.

The automaker says in rare instances, a driver might have to apply extra force to the brake to get the car to stop.

The recall is for Cruze cars equipped with the 1.4 liter gasoline turbo engine and automatic transmission.

Dealers will remove and replace a microswitch in the power brake vacuum pipe assembly.


While Detroit embarks on the beginning days of its bankruptcy, the city’s Big Three automakers are reemerging from their own financial crises. It was four years ago that GM and Chrysler filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

And as this month marks the 150th year after Henry Ford’s birth, we take a look at what it takes to run a big auto company, and the future of Michigan’s automakers.

Bob Lutz has held top positions at GM, Ford, Chrysler, and BMW. His most recent position was that of Vice Chairman of GM from 2001 to 2010.

His newest book gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the bosses Bob Lutz has worked for, some of the most legendary names in auto history. It's called Icons and Idiots, out from Portfolio/Penguin.

Bob Lutz joined us today to talk about his book.  

Listen to the full interview above.

Analysts are expecting a robust month for auto sales.

Jesse Toprak is an analyst with  He says July sales were good across all categories.

“But two extreme segments stand out, we see very high demand for small cars and small SUVS, and a very healthy demand for large pickup trucks,” says Toprak.

Toprak says the increase in pickup sales is being driven by small business owners, and an uptick in home renovations.

user: Cauldon Graphix / Flickr

Mad Men's Don Draper is known on the AMC show as being the best guy to create an ad campaign.

He's known for lines like, "What you call love was invented by guys like sell nylons."

Don's company, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, has done creative campaigns for companies like Lucky Strike, Maidenform, Heinz and Hilton Hotels.

In the most recent season, much of the company's time was spent securing an auto client -- Jaguar.

user paul (dex) / Flickr

General Motors says the car and truck buying public will be seeing big changes in the next few years when we walk into a GM showroom.
GM’s North America Chief Financial Officer Chuck Stevens recently told analysts that the automaker will redesign, refresh or replace nearly 90 percent of its vehicles in the North American market between now and 2016.

Is this strategy a matter of blazing new trails, or playing catch-up with the competition?

This is a two-sided story. Starting this year with 2011 models, the federal government’s fuel-economy standards, which have sat frozen for years, are going to get a big-time thaw. It's the biggest change since the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) law was created in 1975.