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A new logo for the newly formed Fiat and Chrysler company.
FCA

Fiat Chrysler officials have pleaded guilty for the company’s role in a corruption scandal.

The automaker says it did make more than $3 million in bribery payments to United Auto Workers union leaders.

The deal, reached in U.S. District Court, will require the company to pay a $30 million fine.

Cadillac

General Motors has joined a growing list of global auto companies that have had to pause or slow production of a number of their vehicles due to a shortage of computer chips.

The chips, often made in Taiwan, control many of the functions of a modern car, including starting the engine, the infotainment system, electronic steering and electronic braking.

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Today on Stateside, General Motors has announced that it's working toward a fully electric fleet. Two journalists talk us through what the change could mean for consumers, as well as the auto industry. Also, a Michigan National Guard Specialist discusses the recent reversal of the federal ban on transgender people serving openly in the military. Plus, a look at the disproportionate losses women have suffered in the workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Martin Luther King Jr. and Walter Reuther at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
Courtesy of Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs.

The United States now honors the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a day of remembrance each January. However, while he was alive, his public disapproval ratings were as high as 75%. Many Americans disliked him for a variety of his stances, from expanding civil rights protections to opposing the Vietnam War. Still, King found supporters of his work throughout the nation, among them Walter Reuther, the president of the United Auto Workers union.

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The merger of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) and French-based Groupe PSA is now complete.

The new company will be called Stellantis, and be led by CEO Carlos Tavares and Board Chairman John Elkann.

Michelle Krebs, a senior analyst with Autotrader, says the merger is intended to help increase global sales, reduce costs, and invest in new technologies like electrification.

Wikimedia commons

Ford Motor Company is shutting down its three manufacturing plants in Brazil as part of a global cost cutting strategy that began in 2018. 

The cost-cutting is aiming to achieve an 8% EBIT (earnings before interest and taxes) as well as greater free cash flow, in part to boost Ford's long-flagging stock price.

The shutdowns will result in the loss of about 5,000 jobs in Brazil.

Calm Vistas / wikimedia commons

Organizers of the North American International Auto Show say they're calling it off this year. But there will be an outdoor replacement of sorts.

Organizers of the NAIAS decided in 2019 to move it to the summer, with the inaugural summer show to be held in June of 2020.  Then, the pandemic hit, and the June date for the show was postponed, and then postponed again. 

Now, the show will not happen in 2021 at all, at least not in its traditional setting of Detroit's TCF Center, formerly known as Cobo Center. 

An iconic Detroit automaker is merging with another European auto company.

Shareholders of Fiat Chrysler and PSA Peugeot decisively voted Monday to merge the U.S.-Italian and French carmakers. The deal has been in the works for more than a year.

Ford Motor Company

AutoTrader estimates car companies will sell significantly more new vehicles in 2021 than they did in 2020, and, more of those vehicles could be electric.

Right now, only about 2% of total new car sales in the U.S. are EVs.  Analyst Michelle Krebs of AutoTrader says major car companies plan to boost the number of electric car models they offer. 

creative commons

Analysts like Michelle Krebs of AutoTrader threw their 2020 U.S. new vehicle sales forecasts out the window when the pandemic struck the U.S.

Many were fearing the worst - a catastrophic plummet to sales similar to the worst years of the Great Recession. 

And indeed, in March and April, new vehicle sales did fall into the basement.

"But as quickly as they plummeted they started rising again," says Krebs.  "It's been remarkable how the consumer, the dealers and the auto manufacturers have been so  resilient and adaptable."

Jodi Westrick / Michigan Radio

General Motors says it will no longer support the Trump administration in legal efforts to end California's right to set its own clean-air standards.

CEO Mary Barra said in a letter Monday to environmental groups that GM will pull out of the lawsuit and it urges other automakers to do so. She said the company agrees with President-elect Joe Biden's plan to expand electric-vehicle use.

Steve Fecht / GM

General Motors says it is accelerating its development of electric vehicles, promising less expensive, longer-range electric vehicles within five years as its effort to become an all-electric car company continues.

GM says a pending breakthrough in battery chemistry will cut the price of its electric vehicles to near-parity with the cost of those powered by gasoline within five years.

The technology also will increase the range per charge to as high as 450 miles, with batteries that offer higher energy density at approximately 60% lower cost.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

General Motors is expanding its technical workforce.

By early next year, GM plans to hire 3,000 additional technical workers to help with virtual product testing and to develop software. The automaker wants to hire electrical system and infotainment software engineers to help develop electric and autonomous vehicles.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Former United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams pleaded guilty to conspiring to embezzle union funds during a federal court hearing Wednesday.

As part of a plea deal, Williams will likely be sentenced to no more than two years in federal prison. He’ll be sentenced in January. 

Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company is building a new factory, on the grounds of its Rouge Complex in Dearborn.

The new factory will build battery-electric F-150 trucks.

Current Ford COO (and soon-to-be CEO) Jim Farley  says the new truck will be able to haul materials to a work site, and then power all the tools with its batteries.

"This is no gimmick," says Farley. "It is a work horse, it's not a show horse, destined to a shiny garage filled with four luxury cars. It's for serious truck owners."

Farley will replace outgoing Ford CEO Jim Hackett next month.

Sonari Glinton with a Ford Bronco
Ford Motor Company

Ford's rollout of the new Bronco was one of the marquee online events of the summer. Millions of people tuned in for the online reveal, or at least caught some part of the vast advertising blitz as the grand dame of SUVs was reborn for a new generation of consumers. Ford also commissioned a new podcast, titled Bring Back Bronco: The Untold Story, to share the history of the iconic car.  The mind behind the series is journalist and former NPR reporter Sonari Glinton. 

Ford Motor Company

After three years at the helm of Ford Motor Company, CEO Jim Hackett is retiring.

He will hand leadership of the 117-year-old car manufacturer to Jim Farley, Ford's current Chief Operating Officer, as of October 1st, 2020.

Farley assumes the top job at Ford in the middle of its effort to restructure its global operations and cut costs. 

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Fiat-Chrysler is no more.  Neither is PSA.

The merger between the Italian-American hybrid, Fiat Chrysler, and France-based PSA has taken another step, with the choice of a name for the new company:  

"Stellantis."  

Stellantis is rooted in the Latin verb "stello," which roughly translated means to brighten with stars.  

The choice of a brand new name puts to rest waggish speculation that the new company might be named some tongue-twisting combination of Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot. 

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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.

Andrea_44 / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

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.

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