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, Chrysler, which is based in Auburn Hills, Mich., said it earned $473 million in the first quarter, its best results since the SUV-profit fueled first quarter of 1998, and almost four times what it earned in the same period last year. Chrysler’s revenue in the quarter was $16.4 billion, up 25 percent from a year ago.
The Chrysler earnings keep it on track to reach its goal of earning $1.5 billion for 2012, and $25 billion in revenue. The results are the best since Chrysler began reporting quarterly profits again after its bailout.
The strong results mean that Chrysler’s 26,000 U.S. hourly workers will get bonuses of $1,750 each for 2011.
Last year, everyone in the auto industry was chuffed about Detroit’s comeback.
The carmakers were enjoying a healthy rebound from the bankruptcies at General Motors and Chrysler. And for a while, at least, Chrysler outsold Toyota to make the Detroit Three the Big Three again.
But this year, Detroit’s market share has been slipping, and that has ramifications all across the Midwest.
In fact, the auto companies have fallen back to the market share level they held in 2009, as GM and Chrysler were struggling. In a piece for Forbes.com, I look at what happened to the Detroit companies during the first quarter.
Buyers at General Motors, Chrysler, Nissan and Hyundai paid record amounts for new vehicles during May, according to True Car.com, which tracks statistics about buying habits.
True Car bases its calculations on transaction prices: the final amount people pay, after incentives, bargaining and trade-ins. The numbers include the whole range of vehicles that the companies sell, such as cars, sport utilities, pickups, and minivans.
Transaction prices are way up since the beginning of 2010. Take a look at this chart by Meg Cramer of Changing Gears, which shows the industry average and what consumers at major carmakers are paying.
It momentarily turned into a free for all between Michigan’s native son, Mitt Romney, and Pennsylvania’s former U.S. senator, Rick Santorum, over what kind of help the federal government should have given the auto companies. You can read and see CNN’s coverage here.
On Thursday, President Barack Obama’s campaign jumped into the fray with a new television ad that began airing in Michigan, which holds its primary next Tuesday.
Yesterday, we told you that Michigan’s native son, Mitt Romney, has fallen behind former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum in two pre-primary polls. Now, Romney is firing back in the Detroit News. not at his rival, but at union leaders and Obama administration officials.
Romney touches on many themes about the 2009 auto industry bailout. You can read the entire op-ed here. We picked out three things and provide some context.
1) The UAW. Instead of standing up to union officials, Romney says President Obama “rewarded them” with stakes in General Motors and Chrysler.
The stakes he refers to are held by the health care trust fund that administers benefits for UAW members. But the UAW did not get the terms it wanted. The union originally sought a greater share of GM, only to accept a counter offer from the Treasury Department.
The ad makes it clear that Chrysler is sticking with its strategy to promote the Motor City as a way to promote its vehicles.
After declaring that “it’s halftime in America, the ad’s narrator, Clint Eastwood, says:
People are out of work and they’re hurting. And they’re all wondering what they’re going to do to make a comeback. And we’re all scared because this isn’t a game. The people of Detroit know a little something about this. They almost lost everything. But we all pulled together. Now, Motor City is fighting again.
The ad got us thinking: When people say Detroit, oftentimes what they mean is “the auto industry” or “metro-Detroit.” So, what exactly are we talking about when we talk about Detroit?
Call it the Timex of assembly plants. Chrysler’s Belvidere, Ill, factory takes a licking and keeps on ticking.
On Thursday, the carmaker said it will add 1,800 jobs at Belvidere, in northwestern Illinois, not far from the Quad Cities area. Some of the workers will make the new Dodge Dart, a revival of the 1970s nameplate, which Chrysler unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show. Others will produce the Jeep Liberty and Compass.
Right to Work, right away Indiana is expected to be the first state in the industrial Midwest to become a Right to Work state. And it could happen as soon as today. Right to Work rules prohibit companies from negotiating contracts with their unions that make union membership mandatory. Instead, workers will have a choice whether to join the union. Business leaders say the changes will make Indiana more competitive. Union leaders say the changes will let some workers benefit from union bargaining without having to pay to support the union. They say it will ultimately weaken the union.