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Detroit

The Takeaway

2011: The Auto Industry Looks Ahead

Monday, January 03, 2011

Paul Eisenstein, publisher of TheDetroitBureau.com, joins us with his predictions for the auto industry in 2011. "Barring a huge and fast runup in fuel prices, most people are predicting that this is going to be a pretty darn good year," says Eisenstein. The year also looks to be particularly good for Detroit and the Big Three. Meanwhile, rising fuel prices may also create a bigger market for electric cars.

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Transportation Nation

100,000 Caddies Recalled

Thursday, December 23, 2010

(Detroit -- Jerome Vaughn, WDET) General Motors is recalling nearly 100,000 Cadillacs for a possible problem with the airbag system.

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.

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The Takeaway

Kwame Kilpatrik, Family and Friends Indicted for Corruption

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has been charged, along with his father and three top aides, with racketeering, extortion, taking kickbacks and attempting to personally enrich themselves through the mayor's high office. The case is one of the biggest corruption indictments in Detroit history.

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Transportation Nation

First Chevy Volt Ships to Dealers

Monday, December 13, 2010

Image: © GM Corp

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) Chevrolet began shipping Volt electric vehicles to customers and dealerships Monday. The first of 160 cars expected to be shipped this week from the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant are heading to California, Texas, Washington, D.C. and New York, the initial launch markets for the Volt.

Tony DiSalle, Volt marketing director at Chevrolet called it a "historic milestone." Chevy announced plans for the Volt about four years ago, signaling a move from heavier SUVs toward more fuel efficient cars.

The Volt does have a small gas tank and gas powered engine to supplement the electric drive and allow longer trips of up to 379 miles on a single charge and fill up. That's in contrast to the Nissan Leaf, which does not have a gas engine. The first person to order a Nissan Leaf received their car in San Fransisco on Saturday.

Today's batch of Volts are not the first to ship but they are the first batch to go out to dealers for retail consumers. Earlier this year, Chevrolet shipped 15 pre-production Volts to "technology advocates" and "electric vehicle enthusiasts" for a 90-day vehicle and charging evaluation program.

Chevy has offered an incentive to spark early purchases of the car before roadside charging stations exist.  The company is providing free in-home 240 volt chargers to the first customers who pre-ordered Volts.

Recently private companies have announced plans to build charging stations in Tennessee and Texas. Still, early buyers of the Volt, or Leaf, will have to rely, at least in large part, on in-home chargers.

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Transportation Nation

Detroiters Wait To Hear Fate Of Proposed Bridge Project

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Ambassador Bridge. Image: (CC) by Flickr user mcclouds

(Detroit -- Jerome Vaughn, WDET)  Detroiters and their counterparts in Windsor, Ontario, Canada are waiting for Michigan legislators to determine the fate of a proposed border crossing.

Legislation supporting the Detroit River International Crossing will die in a state Senate committee unless it’s brought to the Senate floor today. The lame duck legislature is expected to adjourn later today.

A group of Senators is pushing to get the bridge plan out of committee--but they’re still not sure if they have the votes needed.

If the measure isn’t voted on today, new legislation will have to be written next year and a new group of legislators will have to determine whether the project is worthwhile.

Canadian officials have already approved the project and have even offered to help pay for Michigan’s construction costs. The Michigan House passed the bill in May.

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The Takeaway

Tales from 'The Great Migration'

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The massive migration of black Americans from the South to the North in the early part of last century changed the social and cultural landscape of America forever. Six million African Americans eventually left the South around 1920. Before then, 90 percent of all African Americans lived in the south. By 1970, nearly half lived elsewhere in the country.

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The Takeaway

A Long Tradition of Thanksgiving Football with the Detroit Lions

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Detroit Lions have played football on Thanksgiving nearly every year since 1934, with this year's game marking the 71st time Detroit has hosted an NFL game for the nation to watch while glassy-eyed on turkey and pie. Gregg Krupa, sportswriter for the Detroit News, joins us to discuss the history of the annual game and to consider fans' hopes that the Lions can turn around their poor record this season. The Lions host the New England Patriots at 12:30 CST, Thursday.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Transpo Contractors Investigated Over Minority Hires, DC Metro Shakeup Coming, and Monetizing Old Car Batteries

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Arrive early and bring your patience: It's the biggest travel day of the year!

And it's snowing in the cities of Transportation Nation partners Minnesota Public Radio (Minneapolis) and Yellowstone Public Radio (Billings.) Could start snowing soon at WDET (Detroit).

In other news...

Did two of New York's largest construction companies finesse minority hiring requirements in order to win contracts? Federal authorities are investigating Schiavone and the U.S. unit of Swedish construction company Skanska AB. Skanska is working on a number of transit projects, including the Brooklyn Bridge rehabilitation, the 2nd Avenue Subway, and the PATH terminal at the World Trade Center site. (Wall Street Journal, New York Times, New York Daily News)

DC Metro shakeup in the works? The governors of Maryland and Virginia and the incoming D.C. mayor directed their top transportation officials to come up with a detailed plan for carrying out broad changes in how Metro is run. (Washington Post)

After your Nissan Leaf or Chevy Volt dies, what will happen to its lithium-ion battery?  Automakers are trying to find ways to monetize old batteries. (Wired)

Riders at NYC's Union Square subway station might wonder: does this train go to Hogwarts? (New York Daily News).

The number of bicyclists in Portland continues to rise--8% increase over 2009. 190% increase (yes, 190%) since 2000. (KPTV)

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Transportation Nation

General Motors Increases Size Of IPO

Thursday, November 18, 2010

(Detroit -- Jerome Vaughn, WDET) General Motors is expanding the scope of its initial public offering of stock.

GM says it will offer 478 million shares of common stock in its IPO, a 31 percent increase.

The Detroit automaker says it’s making the change because of substantial demand. The company has also decided to raise the price per share to $33, up from a range of $26 to $29 per share proposed earlier this month.

Positive financial news from the company has pushed interest in the IPO even higher in recent weeks. The automaker posted a two billion dollar profit in the third quarter of this year and expects to show its first full-year profit since 2004.

General Motors filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in June 2009, emerging just over a month later. The U-S government currently owns about 61 percent of General Motors.  Federal ownership could shrink to as low as 33 percent after the IPO.

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The Takeaway

The Detroit Opera House: Thriving in an Ailing Economy

Monday, November 15, 2010

The national media frequently paints Detroit as a near constant subject of sad stories during this ailing economy. But there are outliers in every struggling economy, and in this city there is a bright and beautiful outlier: The Detroit Opera House is not struggling at all.  It is thriving, thanks in part to the leadership of its director, David Dichiera.

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The Takeaway

Detroit's Players, Seen Through an Operatic Lens

Monday, November 15, 2010

Thinking about the Detroit Opera company trying to survive Detroit’s economic woes, it certainly seems that the abandoned buildings and tragic urban landscape of parts of Detroit  provide that city with an opportunity for theater at the very least.

The stark triumph (or not so much) over adversity themes in "La Boheme" ought to make it a Motown fave given the economy. You could stage it in some of Detroit's most troubled neighborhoods. "Boheme" is obvious though, so why not imagine other stories of operas starring some of the fallen, or embracing some of the narratives in the motor city? You’ve got discredited mayor Kwame Kilpatrick as Lt. Pinkerton in "Madame Butterfly" leaving Detroit in the lurch. GM would be perfect as suicidal "Tosca," or evil "Don Giovanni." Ford is clearly "The Magic Flute" in this narrative… you could imagine Andre Chenier for Alan Mulally over at Ford but then he doesn’t climb the scaffold in the end.

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Transportation Nation

The Detroit-Windsor Tunnel--For 80 Years, the Only Place You Can Drive Underwater Between Two Countries

Thursday, November 11, 2010

(fritzmb, Flickr)

(Detroit -- Rob St. Mary, WDET) From his office above the toll plaza, Neal Belitsky, the general manager of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, has a commanding view of downtown Detroit. But this morning he stares into a computer monitor displaying dozens of camera views of the almost mile long international crossing.

"This is the pillar section down the tunnel, and these are all pan tilt zoom cameras," he said, explaining what we're looking it.  "They're fine enough that if someone dropped a quarter on the roadway we'd be able to see it. And they are all digitally recorded."

Belitsky runs the tunnel's day-to-day operations for both owners - the Cities of Windsor (Canada) and Detroit. Although both municipalities now have a stake in the tunnel, it didn't start out that way. In the late 1920's, the border crossing was conceived as a for-profit competitor to the Ambassador Bridge. But that idea changed.

"What happened was folks back then who were granting the permits said you know, maybe we need to do something a little bit different from the Ambassador Bridge," Belitsky said. "So, where they got the rights in perpetuity, they told the tunnel folks they could go ahead and do that--but they could only have it for 60 years."

The tunnel was given to both cities in 1990--which means 2010 marks the 80th anniversary of this unique structure. But why is it so unique?

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The Takeaway

Remembering Sparky Anderson

Friday, November 05, 2010

Sparky Anderson, beloved longtime manager for the Detroit Tigers, died yesterday. Celeste Headlee had the privilege of interviewing Anderson many times, as did Ron Cameron, long time host of the Detroit sports radio show Sports Talk. 

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Transportation Nation

GM IPO Details Emerge

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) General Motors post-bailout, post-bankruptcy IPO is expected to raise between $8-$13 billion and transform the U.S. government's role from majority owner to minority shareholder.  But the federal government would still be the largest owner.

GM is expected to file a final registration for the IPO on Wednesday, the same day they release quarterly earnings (and are expected to announce they are profitable for the third straight quarter). That's when we'll officially know how much they are trying to raise, as well as the exact share price. Some hints have already leaked out, though, and early reports are that shares will likely be priced at $26 to $29--considerably higher than earlier estimates. And at that price, AP estimates the total company valuation will be around $46 billion, which is similar to Ford.

During the bailout, U.S. taxpayers ponied up $50 billion to save the company and has so far gotten about $10 billion back. GM will use the money from the IPO to pay off debt, not raise operating capital. Initially, GM will only be offering a portion of their shares. The rest will come in subsequent offerings at a higher price, GM and the U.S. Government are hoping.

According to multiple reports, GM executives will now begin meeting with major investors --like foreign-based sovereign wealth funds, including those based in Kuwait and China.

For a breakdown of likely ownership stakes see the Detroit Bureau.

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Transportation Nation

Nissan Recalling Two Million Vehicles

Thursday, October 28, 2010

(Jerome Vaughn, WDET—Detroit) Nissan is recalling more than two million vehicles worldwide for an issue that could lead to engines stalling.  The recall affects more than a dozen models from the 2003 through 2006 model years, including selected Nissan Xterra sport utility vehicles, Titan pickup trucks, and Infinity QX56 SUVs.

About 750,000 of the vehicles were produced in the US.  Others were manufactured in Japan and Europe. A faulty electrical relay for the engine control module could cause the engine to stall.
Nissan says no accidents have been reported in connection with the issue.Dealers will make repairs at no cost to consumers.  Affected owners will be notified by mail.

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Transportation Nation

GM to Expand Production, Pay Back More of Bailout Money

Thursday, October 28, 2010

(From WDET—Detroit, and Transportation Nation) General Motors will build a new small Cadillac at its Lansing Grand River plant.  It will be built on the same platform as the Cadillac CTS, which was named Motor Trend’s car of the year in 2008.

Motor Trend Detroit Editor Todd Lassa says the new ATS will be designed to compete with the best small luxury cars like the Mercedes-Benz C- Class and the B-M-W 3 series. “The Cadillac ATS, I think, will do well against the Mercedes C-Class.  The BMW 3 series is the car everyone wishes they could build.  Cadillac wishes it could build that," he says.

GM CEO Dan Akerson tells WDET his company will invest $190 million in the Grand River plant to make the ATS.  That will mean the addition of a second shift, creating 600 jobs.  The car is set to launch in 2012.

Bailout Payback

In other GM news, the Department of the Treasury announced they have approved the buyback of $2.1 billion in preferred stock from GM. This brings the total repayment of government bailout money up to $9.5 billion of the $49.5 billion total.

Here's the official announcement from GM and from Treasury. They are only slightly different in what they highlight.

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Transportation Nation

GM Workers Getting Ready to Purchase the New GM Stock

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

(Jerome Vaugn, WDET - Detroit) General Motors’ employees will soon have a chance to purchase the company’s new stock.  The Detroit automaker is working on details of its initial public offering of new, post bankruptcy stock.

GM has sent letters to its employees, retirees, and auto dealers allowing them to register for a chance to purchase the stock at its IPO price. The prospective stockholders must invest at least one thousand dollars to register for the purchase.

GM officials hope to raise enough money through the IPO – and later offerings – to repay about $43 billion in government loans.  The U.S. government currently owns about 61 percent of General Motors.

The automaker filed for federal bankruptcy protection in June 2009, essentially wiping out the value of the company’s original stock and many workers' retirement savings as well.

The deadline for employees, retirees and dealers to register for the IPO is October 22nd.  The IPO is expected to take place next month.

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WQXR Features

Detroit Symphony Strike Has Ripple Effects

Friday, October 08, 2010

As the Detroit Symphony strike continues, concerts this weekend have been cancelled and musicians are picketing outside the orchestra's home.

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Transportation Nation

Detroit loses in Federal Transit Sweepstakes; SF, LA, Atlanta Win

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation, and Quinn Klinefelter, WDET, Detroit ) While many of the usual suspects got a piece of yesterday’s Federal Transit Administration’s $776 million “State of Good Repair" program, there was one notable absence from the list: Detroit.

While roughly $11 million is going to Michigan cities like Ann Arbor, Flint and Saginaw, Detroit is NOT receiving any federal money from this particular grant. But FTA chief Peter Rogoff says the federal government is keenly aware of the need for transit funding in the Motor City. “Detroit has started off, for a city of its size, way behind comparable cities in providing a real network of transit service. And they’re struggling to do so, given the financial challenges they have.”

Although Detroit missed out in this round of grants, the mayor’s administration estimates Detroit has received more than $37 million to improve the city’s bus system, and has used it to buy 46 new bus coaches--four of them hybrid models.

Other embattled urban transit agencies were successful.

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Soundcheck

Walking The Line

Monday, October 04, 2010

If the striking musicians win now, they may lose big later.

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