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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.