(Detroit - Noah Ovshinsky, WDET) Toyota released its 2010 sales numbers this week. The company continues to be the top seller in the US market with almost 1.8 million units sold last year. But a closer look at the numbers reveals that sales are trending downward. Experts say recent recalls involving unintended acceleration are mostly to blame. And today's news of further recalls will likely haunt the company well into the future. (Listen to the audio here, or read the story below.) Meanwhile, Toyota continues to struggle to attract younger drivers.
The reason, at least partly, lies in what the drivers I interviewed had in common. Most are either middle-aged or have prior experience with Toyotas. Experts say these are the buyers that will return to Toyota. For the younger generation–it may be a harder sell.
Let’s be clear. Toyota is still a very popular brand in this country. The Camry remains the number one passenger car in the US. For most of the last two years, however, the company found itself in an unfamiliar place.
(Detroit -- Noah Ovshinsky, WDET) Delta Airlines reported its fourth quarter earnings today. Michigan’s dominant carrier reported a quarterly profit of 19 million dollars, disappointing Wall Street analysts, who had expected higher numbers. Delta President Ed Bastian says the company was hurt by bad weather during the holidays.
"The severe winter weather that we experienced throughout the U.S. and western Europe reduced our December quarter profit by 45 million dollars due to approximately 4,000 flight cancelations and the associated effects.”
Bastian say Delta will take another hit in the first quarter due to severe weather. The airline canceled flights at its Atlanta hub last week. Officials say higher gas prices are also taking a toll on Delta’s bottom line.
(Detroit -- Jerome Vaughn, WDET) General Motors is expanding a recall of sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks because of a faulty part could cause the rear axle to lock up.
The recall includes a dozen different models from 2011, including the Cadillac Escalade SUV as well as the Chevrolet Avalanche and GMC Canyon pickup trucks.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says pins in the rear axle may not have been heat treated…making them more susceptible to fracture. Broken pins could allow the rear axle to lock, increasing the possibility of a crash.
GM had originally recalled 1,200 vehicles last month, but expanded the action to more than 26,000 after finding more trucks with the faulty parts.
The automaker is advising owners not to drive the vehicles until the rear axle pins have been replaced by dealers.
(Detroit -- Jerome Vaughn, WDET) Ford Motor Company says it is adding 7,000 jobs to its workforce by the end of 2012. Ford President of the Americas Mark Fields made the announcement during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on Monday.
“This year alone, Ford is adding nearly four thousand jobs at our U.S. plants. And we plan to add another 750 salaried jobs.” Fields says the Dearborn automaker plans to add another 2,500 additional manufacturing jobs in the U.S. next year.
Detroit - Jerome Vaughn, WDET) Detroit’s automakers say their sales began to rebound in 2010.
Industry analysts say consumers who have been waiting for the national economy to improve felt confident enough to make vehicle purchases in the last month of the year.
General Motors sold more than 2.2 million cars and trucks last year. That’s a six percent improvement over 2009 -- the year GM emerged from federal bankruptcy protection.
Ford sold just under two million vehicles in 2010 -- a 15 percent jump in year-over-year figures. The automaker’s F-150 pick-up truck saw sales grow by nearly a third, making it the country’s best selling vehicle. The F-150 has held that title for 34 straight years.
Annual sales at Chrysler rose 17 percent. Company officials say the figures match the goals they set out late in 2009. Demand for the company’s trucks in December showed double digit growth.
Of the major automakers, only Toyota posted lower sales for 2010. They were down about a third of a percent. Throughout the year, the automaker dealt with the negative effects of safety recalls
The recall affects the Cadillac CTS from the 2005 through 2007 model years.
The automaker says the sensor that detects when a passenger is in the front seat could fold or develop a kink when the seat is in use. The issue can prevent proper signals from being sent to the airbag system and might keep the airbag from deploying during a severe crash. That could increase the risk of passenger injury.
(Detroit -- Pat Batcheller, WDET) Emergency officials in Ontario say they believe everyone who was stuck in deep snow on Highway 402 has been rescued. Blinding lake effect snow and strong winds off of Lake Huron have closed the highway between Sarnia and London, Ontario. The Blue Water Bridge, which carries traffic between Sarnia and Port Huron, Michigan, is closed to commercial traffic.
More than 300 people became stranded on the highway Monday after a massive winter storm dumped almost two feet of snow and ice along a stretch of 402 between London and Sarnia. The weather made plowing all but impossible, leaving motorists to fend for themselves overnight in sub-zero temperatures — many without food, water or warm clothing. The National Post reported that in some areas, snow drifts reached as high as five feet.
Larry Gordon, the news director at Blackburn Radio in Sarnia, says the Canadian military used helicopters to reach motorists--some of whom were stuck for more than 24 hours. “They are actually landing at various locations along that usually busy highway," he said," "and taking those people to their first meals in over a day and warm and dry conditions at a number of warming centers that have been set up around the community.”
Environment Canada is forecasting snow squalls through Wednesday for counties near Lake Huron.
The closure of the Blue Water Bridge is forcing trade to be re-routed through Detroit. Many of the trucks that normally cross there are being diverted to the Ambassador Bridge, causing heavy traffic on I-75 in Southwest Detroit.
You can see a slideshow of travelers and cars stranded in the snow here.