GM

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.”

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.

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

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.

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.

(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.

GM unveiled the Buick Encore, the latest all-new Buick, at the Detroit Auto Show Tuesday.

The Encore rounds out Buick’s revamped line-up, which also includes the Verano, LaCrosse, and Enclave.

GM is trying hard to ditch Buick’s “older” image and market the brand to younger customers.

GM Vice President for design Ed Wellburn said the Encore will increase Buick’s appeal to younger buyers—and women—because it’s part of a trend toward what he calls “premium small SUVs.”

“This is really on the leading edge of that trend,” Wellburn said. “We firmly believe there are great opportunities there, and it expands the Buick portfolio.”

The Encore will go on sale in early 2013. The car will be manufactured in South Korea—a nod to the fact that GM plans to market the car heavily in China—where Buick is a popular brand--as well as North America.

“We’re a global company with a global footprint,” said Roger McCormack, Buick’s product marketing director. “When you look at the picture in total, this was the right [manufacturing] decision for us.”

Mercedes Mejia/Michigan Radio

Detroit automakers are introducing cars at this year’s Detroit Auto Show that could help them make gains against foreign-based competitors. 

Ford Motor Company is unveiling its new Fusion, hoping to topple the traditional midsize sedan leaders, the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.  

The Fusion will also come in hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions, with the plug-in getting the equivalent of 100 miles per gallon.  

Ford CEO Alan Mulally says the company sold a record number of Fusions in 2011 -

"It had its best sales year ever," Mulally told reporters after revealing the Fusion at Joe Louis Arena.  "So the new Fusion is going to build on that success and be very, very popular with consumers."

But Ford Executive Chairman, Bill Ford, Jr., says the company is not going to pursue an increase in market share for the coveted midsize sedan segment just for the sake of market share.

"We are not going to play that volume game," he says.  "If it happens organically, great, but we don’t have some magic number on the wall that we’re all pushing toward."

Meanwhile, Cadillac on Sunday introduced a new small luxury vehicle, the ATS, to compete against BMW and Mercedes Benz.   GM North American President Mark Reuss says the car is a "true driver's car," and can compete head to head with the Mercedes Benz C class and the BMW 3 series.

BMW North America head Ludwig Willisch says a new competitor is always a concern, but he's confident that upgrades to the new 3-series will enable the company to keep its leadership position.

For its part, Chrysler introduced a new small car called the Dodge Dart.  The car will compete against small cars made both by its Detroit rivals and foreign-based companies including Toyota, Honda and Hyundai.

General Motors says it will modify all of its Volt models. The announcement comes after federal side-crash tests resulted in three battery fires.

The fires occurred up to three weeks after the tests when coolant leaked into the cars' batteries.

There has been no recall of  GM’s electric Volt, but the automaker is voluntarily asking owners to bring their cars in for a fix.

"We've added some structure that allows the load to be spread, so it doesn't cause intrusion into the battery pack or coolant leak," says Mary Barra,  GM’s senior vice president of Global Product Development.

GM sold about 8,000 Volts in the U.S. over the past two years. No fires have been reported by customers.

Volt owners will be notified when dealers get the repair parts – probably in February. GM says the modification should not take more than a day and a loaner car will be provided.

Consumers appear to be more confident in the economy, and it showed in the salesrooms of American car companies last year.  

Chrysler saw the biggest improvement, with sales up 26 percent over 2010.

The company says its Jeep Wrangler and Chrysler 200 sedan were the most popular of the 16 new or revamped models it rolled out.

Ford sales rose 11 percent, driven by demand for its trucks and SUVs.

General Motors reports a 14 percent increase for 2010 bolstered by its passenger car sales, including the new Cruze and Sonic.

Don Johnson is GM’s vice president for U.S. Sales Operations. He says the company predicts more growth next year, but is keeping an eye out for bumps in the road:

"Clearly we have to, as always, keep our eye on oil and gas prices, and on the political environment as we prepare for an election in November.”

Altogether, U.S. automakers sold nearly 6 million vehicles in 2011.

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