More than 20 state governors are taking an unusual step to boost the natural gas vehicle industry. Independent of the federal government, they're asking Detroit carmakers to build them a new kind of car: a midsize sedan that runs on compressed natural gas instead of gasoline.
The governors are hoping to boost demand for natural gas cars with their collective buying power. Combined, the states say they could ultimately buy thousands of CNG vehicles to replace their current vehicle fleets — if those cars were available.
Ford Motor Co. intends to prove that good things come in small packages — really small packages. The company has taken engine downsizing to a new level with its new three-cylinder EcoBoost engine, which has been introduced in Europe and is set to hit the U.S. market next year.
The EcoBoost offers more power than many conventional four-cylinder engines, with fuel economy numbers a hybrid could envy. Early fans are calling it a modern "little engine that could," and Ford is betting that American customers are ready to embrace a three-cylinder engine.
Now, today is an important day for more than 40,000 salaried retirees of General Motors. They're facing a major financial decision. This evening marks the deadline for accepting a pension buyout.
Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton explains.
TRACY SAMILTON, BYLINE: The GM retirees have two choices: either take a lump-sum payment - which can range from 400,000 to $800,000 - or their pensions will be shifted from GM's books to the private insurance company Prudential.
As car companies struggle to meet growing demand, the third shift is making a comeback. But many factories running on three shifts are doing it differently from in the past. And that new "three crew" shift pattern could make what's normally a hard job even harder.
At Ford's Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, employees work 10-hour shifts four days a week. The so-called A crew gets days, while the B crew gets afternoons. But the C crew shift rotates its start time every week. On Fridays and Saturdays, workers start at 6:00 a.m. On Mondays and Tuesdays, they start at 4:30 p.m.
Thousands of people in Windsor, Ontario, say they are being invaded by an obnoxious noise emanating from outside Detroit. They call it the "Windsor Hum," and it's really two sounds — a deep, very low-frequency hum, like a diesel truck idling in your driveway, and a deep, vibrating pulse that you feel more than you hear.
Paul Schubert and his wife decided to buy a new car last summer — a really fuel-efficient one. After a lot of research, they settled on a Toyota Prius. But there was a problem: They couldn't find one.
The tsunami that devastated Japan in March had dried up supplies of the Prius, which is made in Japan, and a dealer told them they would have to wait — "about four months," Schubert says. "And we thought, well, it'd be, probably, end of November, early December before we were going to have a car."
Well, from a classic American company to a classic industry. It turns out automobiles are improving, so much so in fact, that the U.S. seems to be entering a golden age of vehicle quality and reliability.
Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton has this story about the demise of the lemon.
Seventy years ago, 70 percent of U.S.-made cars came with a stick shift. The number is less than 9 percent today.
But at least one man is on a quest to reverse that slide.
Eddie Alterman loves automobiles. He's a gear head. He's the top editor at Car and Driver magazine. His whole career, he has watched the sales of cars with stick shifts decline. And when Ferrari failed to offer a manual option for the new 458 Italia, he said, enough's enough. Basta.
Detroit automakers are creating thousands of new jobs amid a sales boom. And as they expand, their suppliers are racing to keep up, adding tens of thousands of new jobs.
At Bridgewater Interiors in Warren, Mich., for example, the pace is intense. Hundreds of union employees scurry to fill a growing list of orders. The factory floor is packed with stacks of foam cushions, seat covers and headrests.
General Motors made a record-breaking profit last year. And to date, taxpayers have recovered close to half the $50 billion federal investment in the company. So the auto bailout worked, right? Wrong, say Republican presidential candidates, who insist the bailout was a huge mistake.