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Today on Stateside, less driving statewide during the COVID-19 pandemic means insurance companies need to distribute refunds. We find out about what this means for drivers, as well as how they’ll be affected by upcoming changes to the state’s no-fault law. Also, a look at how the history of LGBTQ Pride and the Black Lives Matter movement intersect. Plus, social media’s relationship to social change.

two cars in a rear ending accident
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

While business as usual has nearly stood still over the past couple months, folks were driving less and getting into fewer accidents. Michigan, along with Illinois, New Jersey, and other states have told insurance companies they need to refund overages in car insurance premiums paid during the pandemic. The companies have until June 10th  to come up with a plan. At the same time, the state is on the cusp of big changes to our unique, no-fault law. To sort through everything you need to know about your auto insurance bill, Stateside talked to Chad Livengood, senior editor at Crain’s Detroit Business.

United Auto Workers

A former UAW president faces prison time after pleading guilty Wednesday to charges including embezzlement, racketeering and tax evasion.

When he’s sentenced in October, Gary Jones could get up to five years on each of two counts and fined a quarter million dollars, though the sentence will likely be less, since Jones has agreed to cooperate with a federal investigation into the union.

The COVID-19 pandemic has slammed Ford Motor Company’s bottom line.

Company officials announced on Tuesday Ford lost $2 billion in the first quarter of the year. Ford blamed the loss largely on the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

The automaker said Tuesday that its revenue from January through March fell nearly 15% to $34.3 billion as most of its factories were shut down for the final week of the quarter.

Ford’s Chief Financial Officer Tim Stone expects the automaker will take an even bigger hit in the second quarter of 2020.

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Financial rating services are eyeing Detroit automakers as the COVID-19 outbreak slams auto sales.

On Wednesday, Moody's placed General Motors on negative watch for a possible ratings cut to junk level due to the disruption around the pandemic.

The rating service says GM is vulnerable to shifts in the market, due to “unprecedented operating conditions.”

a ventilator with tubes coming out of it
Adobe Stock Images

General Motors is working with Ventec, a ventilator company based in Washington, to boost supplies of the desperately needed equipment.

Hospitals say they do not have enough ventilators to care for the expected surge of critically ill COVID-19 patients.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Updated March 18 at 3:10 p.m.:

The Detroit 3 are shutting down production for the rest of the month. The automakers made the announcement this afternoon.

Ford is halting production at its U.S., Canadian and Mexican manufacturing facilities after Thursday evening’s shifts through March 30 to thoroughly clean and sanitize the company’s plants.

GM

Update: 10:40 p.m.  

GM, Ford, and Fiat Chrysler have agreed to new measures to protect UAW plant workers from the coronavirus. The measures include deep cleaning of facilities and equipment between shifts, increasing time periods in between shifts, and plans to increase social distancing between workers as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control. Currently, many of the companies' white collar workers are working remotely.

UAW sign.
UAW

The United Auto Workers union wants Detroit's three automakers to shut down their factories for two weeks to keep its members safe from the spreading coronavirus. But union President Rory Gamble says in an email to members obtained by The Associated Press that the companies were not willing to shut factories down.

General Motors

General Motors says significant economies of scale will drive down the cost of its next generation of electric vehicles. 

On Wednesday, the automaker revealed a highly flexible platform that can be used for many different vehicles, along with its new "Ultium" batteries, developed in conjunction with business partner LG Chem.

The company says its future EVs will be profitable from the get-go, something its previous EV program could not boast.

The automaker also revealed some of its latest EV prototypes.

Delta airplane
Delta Airlines

Ford Motor Company is restricting all air travel, domestic and foreign, to reduce employees' risk of contracting COVID-19.  GM and Fiat Chrysler aren't going quite as far - yet. 

Ford says it will allow only rare exceptions to its near-complete travel restriction, which ends on March 27th - although that date could be extended.

UAW
UAW

Another former UAW official has been sentenced to federal prison for his role in the ongoing corruption investigation of the union.

A judge sentenced Michael Grimes to 28 months in prison. That’s longer than what prosecutors requested.

the Renaissance Center at night
Author BriYYZ / Wikimedia Commons bit.ly/2uVI57b

Today on Stateside, General Motors backs further into its comfort zone as it exits some markets around the Pacific Rim. We'll talk about how the company's effort to focus on strengths is playing out. Plus, we talk to comedian Joe Pera about his series that follows a mild-mannered oddball living in Marquette. 

UAW

Former United Auto Workers President Owen Bieber has died.  

Bieber led the UAW through a recession, industry downsizing and expanding global competition.

General Motors headquarters in Detroit.
Jodi Westrick / Michigan Radio

General Motors says it's pulling out of Australia, New Zealand and Thailand as part of a strategy to exit markets that don't produce adequate returns on investments, dismaying officials concerned over job losses.

A worker handles finished auto parts on an assembly line
ADAC Automotive Muskegon operations

Today on Stateside, the coronavirus outbreak in China is beginning to have an effect on Michigan manufacturers. We hear from an executive at a west Michigan auto parts supplier about how the virus is affecting their business. Plus, we'll learn about Michigan's first African American settlers, as well as Enbridge's plan to replace a section of Line 5 under the St. Clair River.

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General Motors is making a $2.2 billion investment in an assembly plant entirely devoted to electric vehicles, the company announced today. The Detroit-Hamtramck plant will support 2,200 manufacturing jobs.

interior of a Tesla automobile
David von Diemar / Unsplash

Michigan residents can now order a Tesla vehicle and have it serviced in state. On Wednesday, Michigan’s Attorney General and Secretary of State announced a settlement with the California-based car manufacturer.

State of the Takata Air Bag Recalls

Toyota and Honda have recalled millions more cars over problem airbags. 

Honda says it's recalling 2.7 million cars with Takata air bags that have a risk of exploding when they inflate in an accident. 

man in car looking out windshield at traffic
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Battle Creek police officers can now pull over drivers who are holding a cell phone.

Battle Creek commissioners passed the distracted driving ordinance earlier in the year, but the police department says it wasn’t enforcing it until signs went up along roads this month.

GM

Analysts at the research firm Cox Automotive expect U.S. car sales to just tip over the 17 million mark by the end of December. That would make it the fifth year in a row that car sales have exceed 17 million.

The group says total car sales for 2019 will drop only a little from the year before, about 1.3% – but there are some signs of softening in the market.  

Cox analysts say without big boosts in sales to companies that maintain fleets, car sales would likely have dropped more. 

And automakers have been offering fairly sizeable incentives to keep sales robust.

General Motors

Today on Stateside, bribes, kickbacks, lavish spending of union dues and federal bailout money. We hear about the recent Detroit News investigation that revealed years of corruption orchestrated by Fiat Chrysler and UAW leaders. Plus, a domestic abuse survivor who became an activist focused on preventing relationship violence among young people.  

red car driving on road
Fiat Chrysler

Fiat Chrysler and PSA Peugeot have signed a deal for a 50-50 merger. The deal creates the world's fourth-largest automaker with annual sales of 8.7 million cars. It’ll be valued at $50 billion.  

The merger was first unveiled in October and the companies announced the binding terms in a joint statement Wednesday.

A mighty big shoe has dropped in the still-unfolding UAW corruption probe. This twist involves a racketeering lawsuit that GM has filed against crosstown rival Fiat Chrysler. Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton reported on what the lawsuit is all about and how FCA has responded to it. We also talk to Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes about how the suit, tied to an ongoing federal investigation into corruption at the UAW and FCA, might impact the legacy of the company’s late CEO Sergio Marchionne.

a young black boy raises his hand at a desk with a book on it
Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Today on Stateside, General Motors is suing rival automaker Fiat Chrysler. We’ll hear about how corruption charges against the UAW and Fiat Chrysler are at the heart of the lawsuit. Plus, a case before a federal appeals court looks at whether some Detroit students’ constitutional rights were violated by subpar learning environments and instruction.

General Motors

United Auto Workers President Gary Jones announced on Wednesday that he’s stepping down as president and retiring from the UAW.

That comes just as the union announced it was moving to expel Jones and another top UAW official, Region 5 Director Vance Pearson.

Gary Jones stands at a UAW podium
United Auto Workers

Ford Motor Company and the United Auto Workers have a new, four-year contract with 56.3% of the vote.

The UAW has been striking since September 16.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

It’s a challenging time, to say the least, for the United Auto Workers Union. The UAW’s president is on paid leave amidst a widening federal corruption probe, which has resulted in 13 charges and 10 guilty pleas.

Acting president Rory Gamble has pledged to “clean up” the UAW, but how do its rank and file members feel about their union’s future?

Ford Motor Company's headquarters in Dearborn.
Ford Motor Company

A United Auto Workers leadership group has voted to send a proposed contract with Ford to members for a ratification vote.

The agreement largely follows the pattern set by the agreement with General Motors, with a few differences.

Ford Motor Company's headquarters in Dearborn.
Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company and the United Auto Workers have struck a tentative agreement on a four-year contract after three days of negotiations.

The agreement comes after a lengthy UAW strike against General Motors, which ended in a new four-year contract. It's typical for the UAW to use its first deal as a model for negotiations with the other two Detroit car companies.

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