Changing Gears is a public media project about the future of the industrial Midwest. Each week, reporters Dan Bobkoff in Cleveland, Niala Boodhoo in Chicago and Kate Davidson in Ann Arbor cover issues of interest to the Great Lakes region. Changing Gears also sponsors public events and conversations.
Today’s news cycle has prominently featured the U.S. auto industry. Here’s a quick roundup of three stories about Detroit’s Big Three making news this afternoon:
1. Ford Reinstating Dividends. Ford will reinstate its quarterly dividends in 2012, the company announced Thursday. “We have made tremendous progress in reducing debt and generating consistent positive earns and cash flow,” Bill Ford, executive chairman, said in a statement. Ford will pay five cents per share to holders of Class B and common stock as of Jan. 31, 2012. Payments will be made on March 1. Ford had suspended its dividend payments more than five years ago, as the company grappled with the recession. Now, it has posted 10 consecutive profitable quarters, according to the Los Angeles Times.
2. GM Chief Shakes Up Detroit. For generations, executives at the Big Three adhered to a code of conformity and predictability. More recently, that culture has been shaken up by outsiders. None are having a more dramatic impact than General Motors CEO Dan Akerson, according to Bill Vlasic of The New York Times, who profiles the senior executive today. Vlasic examines Akerson’s handling of the recent federal investigation into the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid. By offering to buy back Volts from concerned owners, Akerson adopted an “aggressive – and potentially risky – strategy,” said one analyst. Akerson saw the company’s reponse to the crisis as a potential defining moment, Vlasic writes.
3. Detroit Comeback Featured In Time. The comeback of the American auto industry has reached the front page of TimeMagazine. The lead story of an issue that hits newsstands tomorrow examines the resurgence of a domestic industry that faced extinction only three years ago. Specifically, the weekly news mag looks at Chrysler and the role of CEO Sergio Marchionne in boosting sales 23 percent in October 2011 year over year. The headline: “How America Started Selling Cars Again.”
Three stories making news across the Midwest today:
1. China jolts Chevy Volt. China is increasingly looking to leverage access for Western Markets in exchange for concessions on advanced technologies. The latest example, reports The New York Times, is a press for General Motors to share core technology from the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid. The Chinese government will not let the Volt qualify for subsidies worth up to $19,300 per car unless G.M. agrees to share engineering, a possible violation of World Trade Organization rules, according to some international trade experts.
2. Ohio’s green power retreat? Three years after legislators voted nearly unanimously to require Ohio power companies to meet new green energy standards, some Republicans tell The Columbus Dispatch it’s time to repeal the rules. State Sen. Kris Jordan said in a release that the standards, which require at least 12.5 percent of energy generation come from renewable sources by 2025, will drive up energy costs for Ohio businesses and families. Environmental groups have criticized the proposed repeal.
It’s official: Chrysler repaid $7.6 billion in loans this afternoon to the United States and Canadian governments.
The automaker plans to mark the occasion in a ceremony at an assembly plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan where the Chrysler 200 is built. Our partner station Michigan Radio reports the payments are expected to save $300 million per year in interest.
In terms of the company’s history, USA Today says it’s the biggest moment since the completion of a similar turnaround under Lee Iaccocca, but there’s not as much acclaim this time around.
More than 3,200 of you voted. And the results of the first Changing Gears-Jalopnik-TrueCar poll are in.
You say Volt is a hybrid-electric car.
How you voted:
25.6% Whatever GM says it is
6.9% Electric vehicle
The Chevrolet Volt is finally on the verge of reaching showrooms, just in time for a lively debate about what it actually is. We want you to settle it.
Senior Editor Micki Maynard appeared on The Diane Rehm Show on NPR stations Monday to discuss the future of the automobile industry.
The show featured a number of callers from the Changing Gears region, who had interesting stories and opinions on federal assistance for General Motors and Chrysler. Other guests included David Shepardson, the veteran Washington automotive reporter for the Detroit News.
Did you listen to the program? Let us know your thoughts on the industry’s future.
General Motors is finally giving some of the most important details about the Chevrolet Volt. It’s a plug-in hybrid car that goes on sale late this year.
G.M. says the Volt will cost $41,000 (buyers may be eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit for alternative fuel vehicles). The automaker also will offer leases on the Volt for $350 a month, since its sticker price puts it in the range of a small BMW or a Lexus.
G.M. has been talking about the Volt for a long time. Here’s a story I did for the New York Times in November 2008. Back then, G.M. used the Volt as the centerpiece of its efforts to win a federal bailout from Congress. Those efforts failed, and G.M. went through a government-sponsored backruptcy a year later. Continue reading “Volt and Leaf: Auto Companies Changing Gears?”