WBEZ | auto industry http://www.wbez.org/tags/auto-industry Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Electric vehicle company to open local plant http://www.wbez.org/news/electric-vehicle-company-open-local-plant-104076 <p><p>An electric vehicle manufacturer says it will open its third American factory in Chicago.</p><p><a href="http://www.smithelectric.com/about-smith/overview/">Smith Electric Vehicles</a> makes and sells zero-emission commercial electric vehicles for industries like retail, grocery and delivery. The company already has two plants in the US: the company&#39;s headquarters in Kansas City, Mo., and a manufacturing facility in New York City.<br />Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he expects the company will bring at least 100 jobs to the city.</p><p>&quot;It does go to prove, for all those who have been skeptics that being pro-environmental is being pro-jobs and the two are not in conflict, they&rsquo;re complimentary,&quot; Emanuel said.<br /><br />The announcement comes on the heels of the city&rsquo;s new<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/city-hall-wants-diesel-drivers-swap-electric-vehicles-104047"> $15 million dollar incentive program</a> that the mayor hopes will encourage companies to convert from diesel fleets to electric ones.<br /><br />Some Chicago companies, such as <a href="http://www.testaproduce.com/">Testa Produce</a> on the city&rsquo;s South Side, already use Smith vehicles.<br /><br />The location of the new plant hasn&rsquo;t been decided yet.</p></p> Wed, 28 Nov 2012 13:40:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/electric-vehicle-company-open-local-plant-104076 4 things the Japanese earthquake taught the Midwest http://www.wbez.org/blog/bez/2012-03-12/4-things-japanese-earthquake-taught-midwest-97210 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-March/2012-03-12/Mt Fuji_Micki Maynard.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-March/2012-03-12/Mt Fuji_Micki Maynard.jpg" style="width: 630px; height: 473px;" title="Japan's Mt. Fuji, as seen from the bullet train. (Changing Gears/Micki Maynard)"></p><p>A year ago, people in the Midwest were taking stock of the damage that the <a href="http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/japan/index.html?scp=1&amp;sq=japanese%20earthquake&amp;st=cse">massive earthquake and tsunami </a>had done to Japan. And, while the region affected by the earthquake is starting its long recovery, everyone here has learned some permanent lessons.</p><p><strong>1) We are all connected.</strong> To borrow a phrase from the<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQ6ficvJODQ"> Symphony of Science</a>, the earthquake on the coast of Japan reminded us of how closely linked everyone is on earth. The earthquake disrupted parts and vehicle production for automakers overseas and in the United States for months — and had a significant impact on the Midwest.</p><p>In the Midwest, our Niala Boodhoo found that<a href="http://www.changinggears.info/2011/03/21/japans-economic-ripples-and-the-midwest/"> 160,000 people</a> in the Great Lakes states worked directly for Japanese based companies. She reported on the impact for <a href="http://www.npr.org/2011/03/21/134716680/midwest-firms-brace-for-japans-economic-ripples"><em>Morning Edition</em>. </a></p><p>All across the region, companies, charities and even <a href="http://www.changinggears.info/2011/04/19/chicago-chefs-gather-for-japan/">chefs </a>stepped forward to help people affected by the disasters in Japan, sending everything from portable toilets to gas tanks and of course, cash. At <a href="http://www.takashichicago.com/">Takashi</a> in Chicago, an all-star team of restaurant owners from around the city stepped up to cook a meal whose proceeds benefited the American Red Cross.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>2) Recovery is not instantaneous. </strong>We live in a world of the 24-hour news cycle, where word of events happening in one place can be beamed around the world within seconds via Twitter and Facebook. But the comeback for Japanese companies has been a step-by-step process.</p><p>One example is the automobile industry, which is vitally important to our region. Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mitsubishi and Subaru all have factories and employees in our states.</p><p>In March 2011, the same month as the earthquake, Japanese automakers held 40 percent of American sales, according to statistics from Autodata, Inc. By June, with parts and vehicle deliveries disrupted, that fell to 30 percent of the market.</p><p>Last month, Japanese automakers held 37.8 percent, their highest share since the earthquake, but they are not yet back to where they were.</p><p><strong>3) Diversify your production base. </strong>Over the past year, Japan’s currency has been at an all time high against the U.S. dollar. That, plus the disruptions caused by the earthquake, is causing a number of auto companies to hasten the<a href="http://www.changinggears.info/www.forbes.com/sites/michelinemaynard/2012/02/20/while-detroit-gets-the-spotlight-foreign-carmakers-quietly-rev-production-plans/"> shift of production</a> from Japan to the United States.</p><p>Toyota <a href="http://www.changinggears.info/2012/02/20/after-laying-low-toyota-is-back-on-a-production-march/">told journalists</a>&nbsp;in Toronto last month that it is looking at shifting Lexus and Prius production east from Japan, due to the super-strong yen.</p><p>That’s on top of a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.changinggears.info/2012/02/08/indiana-gets-a-400-million-infusion-from-toyota/">$400 million expansion</a>&nbsp;that’s taking place at Toyota’s Princeton, Ind., plant, which will become its only global location for the Highlander, a sport utility vehicle. And, Toyota’s new plant in Blue Springs, Miss., which opened&nbsp;<a href="http://www.changinggears.info/2011/11/17/will-a-midwestern-town-ever-get-another-foreign-car-plant/">in November</a>, is already up to its full component of 2,000 workers.</p><p>Honda is expanding in Ohio, where it’s building a new engine and transmission family. It also will build the NSX sports car, which returns in 2015 for the first time in a decade, at a new facility in Marysville.</p><p><strong>4) Know your nukes. </strong>The weeks-long crisis at Japan’s nuclear power plants caused many Midwesterners to realize that our region also relies in part&nbsp;<a href="http://www.changinggears.info/2011/03/14/our-region-nuclear-power-and-japan/">on nuclear energy.&nbsp;</a>There are 24 nuclear power plants around the Great Lakes, including 11 reactors in Illinois.</p><p>Michigan has four, Wisconsin has three and Ohio has two. There are none in Indiana.&nbsp;Meanwhile, the U.S. Energy Information Administration offers an in-depth look at each state’s nuclear power status. Here are their entries for&nbsp;<a href="http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/nuclear/state_profiles/michigan/mi.html">Michigan</a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/nuclear/state_profiles/illinois/il.html">Illinois</a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/nuclear/state_profiles/ohio/oh.html">Ohio</a>, and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/nuclear/state_profiles/wisconsin/wi.html">Wisconsin</a>.</p></p> Mon, 12 Mar 2012 14:53:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/bez/2012-03-12/4-things-japanese-earthquake-taught-midwest-97210 How healthy are U.S. auto manufacturers? http://www.wbez.org/blog/bez/2012-02-15/how-healthy-are-us-auto-manufacturers-96427 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-February/2012-02-15/RS4945_P1000862-scr.JPG" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-15/RS4945_P1000862-scr.JPG" style="width: 600px; height: 400px; margin: 7px;" title="A Ford at the 2012 Chicago Auto Show. (WBEZ/Jennifer Brandel)"></p><p>We may not have flying cars (yet), but there are some other pretty nifty features on display at the 2012 <a href="http://www.chicagoautoshow.com/default.aspx">Chicago Auto Show</a>. The future seems more hopeful for U.S. automakers than it did a couple of years ago. Earlier this month, news outlets <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/01/us-autos-sales-idUSTRE8101BP20120201">reported</a> that auto sales for January were up. Then yesterday, different numbers <a href="http://money.cnn.com/2012/02/14/news/economy/retail_sales/">emerged</a>. So just how healthy are U.S. auto manufacturers?</p><div class="inset"><div class="insetContent"><p><span style="font-size:10px;">Listen to this discussion</span></p><p><audio class="mejs mediaelement-formatter-identified-1332734887-1" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/sites/default/files/AfternoonShift_AutoTalk.mp3">&nbsp;</audio></p></div></div><p>We’ll find on <em>Afternoon Shift with Steve Edwards </em>today, when we put that question to two people who keep a close eye on the auto industry: NPR business reporter <a href="http://www.npr.org/people/130330851/sonari-glinton">Sonari Glinton</a> and <em>Changing Gears </em>senior editor <a href="http://michelinemaynard.com/">Micki Maynard</a>.&nbsp; They’ll join us to take the pulse of the auto industry and talk about what kinds of cars we could see 10 years down the line.</p></p> Wed, 15 Feb 2012 15:48:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/bez/2012-02-15/how-healthy-are-us-auto-manufacturers-96427 Chrysler once again returns to The Big Three http://www.wbez.org/story/chrysler-once-again-returns-big-three-87300 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-June/2011-06-01/Chrysler Assembly Line_Getty_Bill Pugliano.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>For nearly a decade, the auto industry’s Big Three included at least one company that wasn’t from Detroit. Now, Chrysler is <a href="http://jalopnik.com/5807465/">back </a>among the three best-selling automakers.</p><p>It ranked behind General Motors and Ford in May auto sales. It’s the first time the Detroit Three have been the Big Three since February 2006, according to <a href="http://www.edmunds.com/">Edmunds.com</a>, a Web site that offers car-buying advice.&nbsp; During its worst days, such as its 2009 bankruptcy filing, Chrysler fell as low as fifth in the industry, outsold by Toyota and Honda as well as its Detroit neighbors.</p><p>The gain isn’t only because Chrysler’s sales have rebounded, although the company has received an<a href="http://www.changinggears.info/2011/02/07/super-buzz-for-chrysler-super-bowl-ad/"> image boost</a> in recent months.</p><p>The return of the Big Three is in large part due to weakness by Japanese auto companies. They had a terrible month, in part because of disruptions caused by the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.</p><p>Sales at Toyota dropped 33 percent from a year ago, while Honda was down 22.5 percent and Nissan was down 9 percent. Hyundai and Kia, combined, came within a thousand vehicles of outselling Toyota. Honda failed to put a vehicle on the top-selling list for the first time that anyone can remember.</p><p>Last month, eight of the top 10 selling vehicles in the United States were from Detroit automakers, reported Nick Bunkley in <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/">The New York Times. </a>That compares with four of 10 a year ago. The country’s best selling car in May, long the Toyota Camry, was the Chevrolet Malibu.</p><p>Says Justin Hyde at<a href="http://www.jalopnik.com/"> Jalopnik.com</a>, “And for one month, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler can reclaim the mantle of the “Big Three,” which had until now been stored in a government warehouse next to the Ark of the Covenant. It’s expected to return to its resting place within a few months.”</p></p> Wed, 01 Jun 2011 22:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/chrysler-once-again-returns-big-three-87300 Detroit: A boom town goes bust http://www.wbez.org/blog/city-room-blog/2011-03-23/detroit-boom-town-goes-bust-84135 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-March/2011-03-23/Detroit Skyline Flickr Luke Duncan.JPG" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img style="width: 491px; height: 369px;" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-March/2011-03-23/Detroit Skyline Flickr Luke Duncan.JPG" alt="" title="" /></p><p style="text-align: left;">For almost a half century last century, Detroit was a boom town. Between 1910 and 1950, few cities grew faster, were wealthier, were more attractive to those seeking success than what became known as the Motor City.</p><p>But for the past 60 years, the decline has been long and relatively slow &mdash; until the year 2000. Since then, Detroit has lost one-quarter of its population, as the<a href="http://www.changinggears.info/2011/03/22/like-other-places-in-the-midwest-michigan-cities-shed-population/"> 2010 census figures</a> released on Tuesday showed.</p><p>The reasons for its decline are numerous, but can be summed up in two words: jobs, and demographics. In 1950, when Detroit had 1.8 million people, about 200,000 were employed in manufacturing, according to <a href="http://history.osu.edu/people/view/AllFac/665">Kevin Boyle</a>, the author and professor of history at Ohio State University, who is a native Detroiter. That was about one of out every 10 people in the city.</p><p>Now, fewer than 20,000 of Detroit&rsquo;s remaining 714,000 people work in manufacturing, or about one in 50 residents.</p><p><img width="300" vspace="7" hspace="7" height="204" align="left" alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-March/2011-03-23/detroit-2-300x204.jpg" />Sixty years ago, car makers from Chrysler to Cadillac, Studebaker to Dodge had plants in or near the city limits. There were hundreds more parts plants, steel mills, foundries and parts depots, where the products built in Detroit factories were sorted and sent on to the vast networks operated by the auto companies across the country.</p><p>People in all parts of the city could walk to work, or take a streetcar or bus. Some of them chose to drive, because they earned enough to afford to vehicles they were making (something their parents and grandparents might not have been able to do).</p><p>Professor Boyle says that in Detroit&rsquo;s glory years, from 1910 to 1950, the city was a boom town, equal to any of the gold rush towns of the American West.</p><p>It has a mirror in Calumet, Mich., known as Copper Town, which swelled in <a href="http://www.uppermichigan.com/coppertown/history.html">population </a>as high as 70,000 people between the late 1800s and early 1900s when people from all over the country swarmed there to work in the copper mines of the Upper Peninsula. (Legend has it that in 1910, one out of every 10 people in Calumet was a millionaire.)</p><p><img width="150" vspace="7" hspace="7" height="150" align="right" alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-March/2011-03-23/big_map2-150x150.jpg" /></p> <p>Visit Calumet, now a town of 799, and the mansions built by those mining barons remain, as does the impressive opera house. But like Detroit, it is another ghost town with a glorious past.</p> <p>Now, there are just two big car factories left in Detroit, Chrysler&rsquo;s Jefferson North Assembly Plant on the east side, and General Motors&rsquo; Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant just north of I-94. While some of those smaller factories remain, dozens are empty, their structures dotting the city&rsquo;s landscape like dandelions on a spring lawn. All that&nbsp; presents an enormous challenge to Mayor Dave Bing in his efforts to <a href="http://www.changinggears.info/2011/02/14/leadership-dave-bing-reimagines-detroit/">reinvent</a> the city.</p> <p>Some of that job decline actually was due to the auto companies&rsquo; growth strategies. From the 1940s to the 1990s, the auto companies branched out across the country, pursuing a strategy of building vehicles closer to their customers. The jobs that might automatically have gone to Detroit, or in G.M.&rsquo;s case, to Flint, Mich., instead went to places such as Doraville, Ga., Framingham, Mass., Tarrytown, N.Y., St. Louis, Fremont, Calif., and elsewhere.</p> <p>Many of those outlying factories are now closed, too, but there was a key difference. A car plant was part of those places&rsquo; economy, not its sole focus. In Detroit, the car plants and everything they fed became the dominant force.&nbsp;</p><p>Beyond the job loss, demographics played a role in the shift away from Detroit. A century ago, as planners were looking at where the city could grow, they envisioned three centers of commerce: downtown, the <a href="http://www.newcenter.com/">New Center</a> area about 10 minutes drive north, and a third area in northwest Detroit, the area known as<a href="http://www.palmerwoods.org/"> Palmer Woods</a>.&nbsp;</p><p>The first two areas, and surrounding neighborhoods, filled in by World War II and the thought was that the third area, from New Center to the city&rsquo;s northwest boundaries, would then come to life after the war.&nbsp;</p><p>But as veterans returned, and their families were born, the suburbs beckoned. Rather than move back to their city neighborhoods, they headed beyond Detroit&rsquo;s borders. That demographic change, as much as the &ldquo;white flight&rdquo; so talked about after the Detroit riots of 1967, had an equally important influence on the city&rsquo;s drop in population.</p><p>Those shifts were underway well before 2000. They help explain what led up to the latest, and stunning drop, in the city&rsquo;s population. But why leave now? And where did those people go?</p><p>Those are questions we will be looking at over the next few weeks at Changing Gears. If you&rsquo;ve left Detroit in the past 10 years, we&rsquo;d like to hear from you. Where are you living now? Why did you leave? If you&rsquo;re still there, tell us why, too, and what you&rsquo;d like to see happen in your city.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em>Micki Maynard is Senior Editor of <a href="http://www.changinggears.info">Changing Gears</a>, a public media project about the future of the industrial Midwest.&nbsp; It's a collaboration between WBEZ Chicago, Michigan Radio, and Ideastream in Cleveland, and is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.</em>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 23 Mar 2011 16:12:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/city-room-blog/2011-03-23/detroit-boom-town-goes-bust-84135 Japanese tsunami threatens to delay production at Mitsubishi's Illinois plant http://www.wbez.org/story/auto-industry/japanese-tsunami-threatens-delay-production-mitsubishis-illinois-plant <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-March/2011-03-15/Mitsubishi_Getty_Tim Boyle.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Officials at the Mitsubishi Motors North America plant in central Illinois say they have enough parts to keep making cars for another two weeks but they're awaiting word on whether Japan's massive earthquake and tsunami could lead to production disruptions.</p><p>Mitsubishi Motors North America spokesman Dan Irvin told The (Bloomington) Pantagraph that the production hubs of the firm's parent company, Tokyo-based Mitsubishi Motors, weren't affected by the disaster. But Irvin says the North American subsidiary is still waiting for updates from companies that supply some parts for use at the plant in Normal. </p><p>The plant produces about 34,000 vehicles a year and employs more than 1,000 people.</p></p> Tue, 15 Mar 2011 21:37:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/auto-industry/japanese-tsunami-threatens-delay-production-mitsubishis-illinois-plant The Chicago Auto Show touts the rebirth of the industry http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-02-08/chicago-auto-show-touts-rebirth-auto-industry-81975 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/car_getty.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>One of the most popular ads from this past Sunday&rsquo;s Super Bowl was for Chrysler. The two-minute spot featured rap star Eminem, but the real star was the rapper&rsquo;s hometown &ndash; Detroit. In the ad, a raspy-voiced narrator characterizes the Motor City as a survivor, just itching for its come back. That may be true. Thanks to federal funds, American auto manufacturing is undergoing a possible rebirth.<br /><br />But will catchy ads and government incentives be enough?&nbsp;And what about &nbsp;this week&rsquo;s annual <a href="http://www.chicagoautoshow.com/default.aspx" target="_blank">Auto Show</a> in Chicago?<em> Eight Forty-Eight's </em>business contributor David Greising has been keeping an eye on all the buzz around the auto industry and he joined <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em> to assess strategies.</p><p><em>Music Button: Simian Mobile Disco, &quot;Sweetbread&quot;, from the CD Delicacies, (Redeye) </em></p></p> Tue, 08 Feb 2011 14:48:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-02-08/chicago-auto-show-touts-rebirth-auto-industry-81975