Midwest Migration: Detroit Coney Dogs On The Sunset Strip

Alex Ozark on the Hyundai-Kia proving grounds / Credit: Charla Bear

No city has been more affected by Midwestern out-migration than Detroit.

Based on the latest census numbers, the city is losing about 2 people every hour.

Changing Gears has been talking with some of those people who are leaving our region.

Alex Ozark grew up in Detroit. He always wanted to work in the auto industry, but he’s not doing it with the Big Three. He’s doing it in California.

Charla Bear brings us this report:


Alex Ozark drives like a maniac in his company’s cars, treating a black SUV like a cross between a tank and a sports car.

“So we’ll do, we’ll do a hot lap.”

He deliberately hits potholes, runs over lane dividers, and takes corners really fast. So fast, I have a death grip on the grab handle.
Continue reading “Midwest Migration: Detroit Coney Dogs On The Sunset Strip”

Grand Rapids Tries To Re-Brand A Former Auto Plant

When General Motors went into Chapter 11 protection three years ago, it closed factories all over the Midwest. 

One of them was the Grand Rapids Metal Center, a 2 million square foot stamping plant in Wyoming, Mich. Once the biggest employer in that Grand Rapids suburb, it was the first site sold by Motors Holdings, the company created to liquidate GM’s unwanted locations.

Now, new owners are trying to give the 75-year-old factory a new identity, reports Lindsey Smith at our partner Michigan Radio. They’ve demolished most of what was once they’re and re-branded the location as Site 36 (the factory’s address was 300 36th Street).

The developers would like to attract a global company, but they know there’s limited cache to trying to peddle a former GM plant. Thus, the new name.

Can it work? Many communities around the region are trying to find their own solutions, from Janesville, Wis., to Wixom, Mich., and Dayton, Ohio.

Is Detroit’s Comeback Over? Carmakers Lose Market Share Gains

Last year, everyone in the auto industry was chuffed about Detroit’s comeback.

American Landscape, by Sheeler

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.

Basically, there are three issues:  Continue reading “Is Detroit’s Comeback Over? Carmakers Lose Market Share Gains”

Hey, Consumers: You’re Paying Record Prices For Many Cars And Trucks

The auto industry reported strong sales in March, and for some auto companies, the news was even better.

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.

Continue reading “Hey, Consumers: You’re Paying Record Prices For Many Cars And Trucks”

The $50 Billion Question: When Will The Government Sell Its GM Stock?

Ever since the federal government put General Motors through bankruptcy in 2009, investors, politicians and employees have wondered when the Treasury Department  would sell its GM stake.

Some experts been predicting a final sale would come before the 2012 general election, giving President Obama a political tool. But with GM shares trading below their price when GM went public in 2010, any sale would mean a loss for the government.

GM is once again the world's biggest carmaker. Photo by Chris via Flickr.

The reality, GM said Wednesday, is that nobody knows, not even GM. “The day will eventually come when the Treasury sells its GM stake,” company spokesman Selim Bingol said in a blog post. “When is anybody’s guess (we have no say in the matter).” Continue reading “The $50 Billion Question: When Will The Government Sell Its GM Stock?”

The Auto Bailout Gets The Spotlight As Republicans, Democrats Spar

About midway through Wednesday night’s Republican presidential debate in Mesa, Arizona, moderator John King of CNN turned to a topic that’s front and center in the Michigan primary: the auto bailout.

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.

The ad, called Made in America, contends Republicans turned their back on the industry in 2008 and 2009, when the automakers went to Washington for federal assistance. Continue reading “The Auto Bailout Gets The Spotlight As Republicans, Democrats Spar”

GM’s Record Year Is Overshadowed By European Woes

Normally, everyone at GM would be celebrating. The automaker said Thursday that it earned $7.6 billion last year, the most ever, less than three years after receiving a federal bailout and going through bankruptcy protection.

GM is once again the world's biggest carmaker. Photo by Chris via Flickr.

But the 2011 performance masked a disappointing fourth quarter for the Detroit-based auto company. GM’S fourth-quarter profit was flat with 2010. It earned about $500 million, or 28 cents per share before special items.

With those charges accounted for, GM earned 40 cents per share, two cents below what analysts forecast. And the worst headache for GM came in Europe.

It lost more than half a billion dollars during the fourth quarter on its European operations, bringing their loss for the year to more than $700 million. The crisis is escalating: as recently as November, GM was saying it might break even in Europe. Continue reading “GM’s Record Year Is Overshadowed By European Woes”

Midwest Memo: GM’s Record Year, R&D Decline In Chicago And Wisconsin Politics Are Wisconsin Politics

That’s a lot of clams GM made $7.6 billion last year. It was a record profit.

Mixed foreclosure news New foreclosure data is in. The numbers are down in Ohio and Michigan. But they’re up in Illinois.

Research and Decline R&D jobs dropped 43% in Chicago between 2000 and 2010, according to a new study. Crain’s Chicago Business has the write-up.

Collegial process The Columbus Dispatch reports Ohio’s 37 colleges and universities have agreed on a construction wish list for this year’s state budget. Governor John Kasich called the unified process “unprecedented.”

Small power plants, big effect? The closure of four small, little-used power plants is stoking speculation that energy prices in Ohio could rise. The Cleveland Plain Dealer says the common sense analysis would say that the change should have little effect on prices. But, the new world of online auctions for power prices “don’t necessarily make common sense.”

Bus cuts Detroit will cancel early-morning bus service in an effort to save cash.

Mining bill advances A special committee has been disbanded, and a controversial piece of mining legislation has been put on the fast track in the Wisconsin Senate, proving once again that nothing is simple in Wisconsin politics these days. The bill would loosen regulations to help open an iron mine in northern Wisconsin.

3 Things To Know About Mitt Romney’s Latest Op-Ed

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.

Meanwhile, the Treasury also owns about 33 percent of GM, out of an original 61 percent stake. Continue reading “3 Things To Know About Mitt Romney’s Latest Op-Ed”

Mothballed GM Engine Plant Near Buffalo To See New Life

When you drive across the Great Lakes to Buffalo, you probably go through the town of Tonawanda — one of the most industrial places in our region. Now, a General Motors engine plant there that’s been closed since 2004 is getting some new life.

GM said Wednesday that it will revive Plant 4 at its Tonawanda engine complex for use as a training center and for production logistics. The move comes as GM is investing $900 million in its other three engine plants there.

The company is hoping the move eventually will lead to several hundred new jobs, according to the Buffalo News. The announcement came at the start of the Buffalo Auto Show.

Plant 4 first came to life during World War II, when it was used to assemble aircraft engines for Pratt and Whitney. Later, the 1.1 million square foot facility assembled big 3.1 liter and 3.4 liter engines, before it was shut down. Since then, it’s been used as a warehouse and for some shop work.

Under GM’s plan, the plant will be put back into use to train workers in the rest of the Tonawanda complex, and also as what’s called a “Logistical Optimization Center” or LOC. Continue reading “Mothballed GM Engine Plant Near Buffalo To See New Life”