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Daniel Howes

Daniel Howes is columnist and associate business editor of The Detroit News. A former European correspondent for The News, he has reported from nearly 25 countries on three continents and in the Middle East. Before heading to Europe in 1999, Howes was senior automotive writer and a business projects writer. He is a frequent contributor to NewsTalk 760-WJR in Detroit and a weekly contributor to Michigan Radio in Ann Arbor.

Howes is winner of multiple International Wheel Awards for column writing; a four-time winner of Northwestern University’s Medill award for general markets coverage; three-time winner for commentary from the Society of Business Editors and Writers; and a three-time finalist for the Gerald Loeb Awards, including an honorable mention for commentary in 2007.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in history from The College of Wooster in Ohio, and a master’s in international affairs from Columbia University.

Tesla Tweets Trouble

Aug 18, 2018
Daniel Howes / Detroit News

Tesla CEO Elon Musk needs a timeout.

Big-league auto industry pressure is getting to the, quote, “visionary” hailed by tech fan boys and true believers. You don’t need to take my word for it. Look at his Twitter feed. Less than two weeks ago, he rips one off saying that he’s thinking about taking the electric-car maker private. 

Funding, he said, is secured. By whom, he didn’t say – a not-insignificant detail for a transaction that could be the largest of its kind ever done in the United States. The market swoons. Investors clamor for details … understandably expecting the California automaker to file its thinking with the Securities and Exchange Commission. You know, like any other normal public company.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

Chrysler and its storied American brands live today because ol’ Sergio Marchionne – a poker player – gambled and won.

As Detroit’s number three automaker slumped toward bankruptcy, the CEO of Italy’s Fiat bet he could combine the weakest players in Europe and the United States to forge a global contender. One that could generate fatter profits and carry less debt.

The new Obama administration relented. So an Italian schooled in Canada got control of Chrysler for essentially nothing  arguably the shrewdest acquisition the global auto industry has seen in a generation.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

One of the biggest things to hit Detroit since the moving assembly line marked its fifth anniversary this week. That’s when the Motor City became the largest municipality in American history to declare bankruptcy.

Just weeks before, a union official said, quote: “It’s war.” But the financial restructuring that helped deliver four balanced budgets, drew three credit upgrades, improved delivery of basic city services, and attracted billions in private-sector investment turned out to be anything but.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

It’s not news that Flint has been struggling to get clean water into its homes and businesses, except maybe to Elon Musk.

He’s the visionary behind PayPal, Space X and Tesla. This week Musk tweeted he’s ready to deliver fresh water to the city. But the offer that has Flint officials wondering what, if anything, is next … looks awfully transparent to faithful Musk watchers. Same for people who know just what happened to the city and what it will take to fix it.

Mark Edwards is the Virginia Tech researcher who helped identify the scale of Flint’s problem. He told The Detroit News that Musk should be, quote, “more focused on meeting” his Model 3 production goals.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

By this time, the long-running auto boom was supposed to be coming to an end.

Quick, someone tell that to the truck and SUV buyers who powered the annual selling rate last month to 17.5 million vehicles. That’s according to a Morgan Stanley estimate. If that’s evidence of a slowdown, Detroit and its foreign-owned rivals would like more of the same, please.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

The automakers found their proverbial spines this week. After months of President Donald Trump’s haranguing about tariffs on finished vehicles and auto parts, the industry presented the country with a bill. Realizing the president’s protectionist dream would not come cheaply. The average cost of a vehicle would increase $5,800, says the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

After months in the making, Ford Motor’s play for the Michigan Central Depot is official. Let the grousing begin.

It will start in the suburbs, from the generation that came of age during the urban unrest of the late 1960s, witnessed the controversies and power-shifting of the 1970s, and watched during the 1980s and ‘90s as capital and jobs fled Detroit for the suburbs.

Ford's Corktown Play

Jun 16, 2018
Daniel Howes / Detroit News

Ford Motor is planning a big party on Tuesday. It’ll be at the Michigan Central Depot, that gap-toothed hulk looming over Detroit empty and rotting for thirty years.

But not anymore, once Ford’s plans for what it’s calling a campus in Corktown become more clear.

Here’s what you need to know: Detroit’s oldest neighborhood could be transformed by Ford’s plans. The automaker wants to anchor its next-generation mobility, autonomy and electrification work in the 105-year-old train station.

This is huge, people. Detroit hasn’t seen a business move this big in eight years. That’s when Dan Gilbert moved his Quicken Loans headquarters to the city and followed with a downtown real estate buying spree.

This may be even bigger because it’s eight years later. Because Quicken blossomed into a major corporate presence downtown. Because Ford’s presence is likely to turbo-charge redevelopment of a neighborhood … and set the example for more.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

Three thousand delegates and members of the United Auto Workers will descend on Detroit next week for their Constitutional Convention.

They’ll hear happy talk about organizing gains, three years of fiscal discipline and fiery rhetoric, because that’s what these sessions are for. Fire up the membership in advance of next year’s bargaining with the Detroit automakers and others.

It’s what the folks leading today’s UAW won’t be talking about that matters. The union’s three joint-training centers funded by the Detroit Three remain under a federal corruption investigation.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

The race to replace Governor Rick Snyder is on.

Here on Mackinac Island this week, we learned from a gubernatorial debate: That Democrat Gretchen Whitmer is a mom. She’ll “Fix the Damn Roads.” And she has a “backbone of titanium.” Just ask her.

Republican Pat Colbeck has Michigan’s roads disaster all figured out. He’d order “a complete review” of the state’s road-building process and upgrade them to higher standards – all without raising taxes. Right.

Democrat Abdul El-Sayed would dismantle the “Betsy DeVos agenda” for Michigan’s public schools and “end this profit motive in our schools.” And every student coming from a household making $150,000 or less should graduate from college debt-free. How and who’s paying the tab he didn’t say.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

President Trump says America needs tariffs on foreign-made cars and trucks to safeguard our “national security.”

Really? How many pickups do the Russians sell in the United States? Zero.

How many cars do the industrious North Koreans and Iranians ship here? Zero.

And how many Chinese-brand cars sit in U.S. showrooms? Essentially zero.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

Now we know what incompetent governance cost at Michigan State University.

Half a billion dollars. That's the price to settle with 332 women sexually abused by Dr. Larry Nassar and a reserve fund to compensate women who still might come forward. It’s the prospect of a 2.5 percent budget cut to free up cash to make good on the settlement. It’s untold damage to the university’s reputation, to its attractiveness to would-be students and, yes, to the state.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

Paddlesports are becoming Big Business in the Great Lakes state. The Coast Guard estimates some 650,000 kayaks, canoes and paddleboards ply Michigan waters every year. And that number is expected to grow seven percent a year, reports The Detroit News.

At that rate, paddlecrafts would outnumber registered power boats within three years. The crush of paddlers from rank beginners to advanced Great Lakes paddlers … threatens to overcrowd the 1,300 boat launches around the state.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

Apparently, hell hath no fury like environmental regulators who've been deceived.

Just ask Martin Winterkorn. The former Volkswagen CEO was indicted this week on federal conspiracy charges that he defrauded the United States, committed wire fraud and violated the Clean Air Act.

The reckoning was inevitable. Ever since regulators discovered VW’s scheme to evade diesel emissions rules almost three years ago, it’s only been a matter of time for ol’ Winterkorn to get the book thrown at him.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

A few years after the bankruptcies of General Motors and Chrysler, I found myself on the long porch of Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel chatting with Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne.

He was talking about the Chapter 11 process to help failing companies and how it helped Chrysler and GM survive – thanks to Obama's auto task force and American taxpayers.

It also forced the people running those companies – and those who would follow – to make hard decisions. I was reminded of that this week. In less than 24 hours, those who care got three separate looks at the financial health of Detroit’s three automakers and things looked different.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

The Chinese say they’re willing to change the rules that protect their precious auto industry. That’d be the industry companies like General Motors have spent a generation building with Chinese partners because, over there, he who controls the government rules.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

Now we know why Michigan State’s interim president, John Engler, tapped an ol’ Republican hand to head government relations at the school. He understands politics well enough to know they’ll need the help.

And the politics surrounding the aftershocks of the Larry Nassar sexual-abuse scandal are very simple: someone must pay.

For the assaults on hundreds of women under the guise of sports medicine. For the lawsuits that followed. For the dreadful management inside State’s vaunted athletic department and the office of former president Lou Anna Simon.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

The Detroit auto show isn’t dead.

It just feels that way.

The latest casualties are the princes of the German auto industry. First Mercedes-Benz won’t be attending next year’s auto show. Neither will its Bavarian brother, BMW.

Bets on how long until Audi follows, if only to prove parity with the other two? Sooner rather than later, unless that Volkswagen luxury brand sees opportunity staying with Detroit.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

So Bill Ford wants the Blue Oval to buy the decrepit Michigan Central Depot. You know that toothless edifice, empty and decaying since 1988, towering over Detroit’s Corktown. It’s an 18-story high reminder of the industrial and financial decline that has been synonymous with this town.         

Until very recently.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

The Blue Oval has seen the future, and it looks a whole lot like its past.

Ford Motor claims a rich heritage building the nation’s best-selling pickup and the best-selling three-row SUV. Its Mustang is an American icon. And its performance pedigree is enjoying a renaissance under product planners who understand emotion still matters in the business.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

Doesn’t matter to Donald Trump what his fellow Republicans say.

Or what Wall Street and America’s closest allies say.

The president wants tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, and this week he got them, along with some last-minute carve outs for those national security threats known as Canada and Mexico.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

In the land of Big Three universities and football wins, tiny Marygrove College doesn’t much matter. That’s the Michigan way – a not-so-flattering reflection of its warped values.

That’s a mistake. Marygrove is the creation of Catholic sisters from Monroe still deeply committed to helping Detroit. They opened Marygrove in 1927, establishing what became the state’s only predominantly African-American small liberal arts college. In later years, many of the students were the first in their families to go to college and most of them hailed from Detroit.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

The push is on to change the way Michigan selects trustees for its Big Three universities.

Using statewide ballots to choose trustees is no way to govern highly paid university presidents running multi-billion dollar institutions.

Michigan is the only state in the country to do it that way.

In the school of bad practices, the home of the Green and White perennially contends for Number One. Time for that to change.

Former Michigan Gov. John Engler speaks at Hillsdale College on on January 25, 2009.
Chuck Grimmett / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Michigan State University is consumed by the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal. It’s so far claimed the school’s president, its athletic director and a growing chunk of its reputation. So, what does MSU’S partisan Board of Trustees do? They tap former Republican governor John Engler as interim president.

As confidence-building measures go, the move doesn’t rank among the best of them. It nakedly exposes just how partisan the governance of MSU really is – and how irrelevant the students, the faculty and transparency are to those making the decisions.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

Michigan’s Big Three universities have a big problem, and it starts in the boardroom.

Michigan is the only state in the country that elects its major university trustees by at-large statewide ballots. They don’t represent districts.

Few have the sharp business acumen needed to govern multi-billion dollar institutions. And as the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal in East Lansing shows, it doesn’t hold them accountable, either.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

Detroit’s comeback narrative doesn’t play in Seattle.

That’s the home of Amazon, the giant online retailer. It dropped the Motor City this week from its list of towns vying to land the company’s second North American headquarters.

Realists will not be surprised.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

The future arrived Friday, courtesy of General Motors.

Just in time for the Detroit auto show. Imagine that.

Yep, that alleged archetype of American industrial decline says it will have a fully self-driving car on the road next year.

Not in three years, like its rival Ford. Not in whenever, like Elon Musk and his Tesla. Next year.

But let’s be clear: This isn’t the end of road for anything. It’s barely the beginning of the revolution transforming the auto industry.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

The American car is dying.

And it took an Italian to point it out.

That’d be ol’ Sergio Marchionne. He’s the heretical CEO who shocked the industry when he said Fiat Chrysler would stop producing cars in its U.S. plants. They’d be converted to building higher-margin SUVs because that’s what Americans want in more shapes and sizes. 

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

For way too long, the Detroit narrative arced only one way – and it was down.

It’s the nation’s poorest major city. It’s home to “ruin porn,” an American affliction so fascinating to condescending Europeans. Nearly half of the city’s adults are functionally illiterate, we’re told. And economic revival of this moribund municipality is about as likely as achieving peace in the Middle East.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

After nearly 20 years of waiting, nostalgia-mad Detroit got what it’s long been waiting for. Mortgage mogul Dan Gilbert, architect of downtown’s revival, cut the ribbon on the site of the ol’ J.L. Hudson’s store.

It’ll be a, quote, “city within a city.” It’ll be a “vertical” statement. It’ll be the tallest building in Detroit, overtaking that one built by the last pair of heavyweights who aimed to change the city's direction by sheer force of will.

Max Fisher and Al Taubman meant well with the Renaissance Center. But their timing stunk. Gilbert? Not so much.

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