DETROIT (WWJ) Auto beat reporter Jeff Gilbert spends his days on factory floors and in boardrooms to bring listeners the hottest car stories every day.
He knows cars. So we’re taking this space as the year wraps up to bring you the biggest, most controversial stories that dominated Motown in 2012. Drum roll, please, they follow in no particular order:
ELECTION: Four words written by a headline writer–“Let Detroit Go Bankrupt”–help cost Mitt Romney the election. The auto bailout took center stage throughout the presidential campaign and it turned out being on the wrong side of Detroit meant being on the wrong side of the country.
NEW PRODUCTION: Those new sales have car companies adding shifts and hiring people. An industry that was closing plants three years ago could soon start building new factories if the demand stays high.
SALES: Analysts were expecting sales to cool off at the end of the year. We’re still waiting. They are now expecting things to cool off in early 2013. But better credit, pent-up demand, and a lot of new products keep bring people to showrooms.
FUEL ECONOMY: Electric vehicle sales aren’t taking off, but vehicles — as a whole — are becoming more fuel efficient. Coming in 2013, a whole crop of plug-in hybrids, and a Ford with a three cylinder engine.
CAW: There’s a lot of drama, but no strike south-of-the-border (at least as Detroit is concerned.) Canadian Auto Workers agree to give car companies flexibility in return for new investments.
RECALLS: There are almost daily recall notices, as the government puts pressure on car companies to act quickly. Still, Toyota is fined again, and the amount that companies can be fined will double next year.
RIGHT TO WORK: The UAW leads an effort to put collective bargaining rights into the Michigan Constitution. It backfires, and the state adopts right to work laws. It could mean more changes and more protests in 2013.
GLOBALIZATION: GM rules in China, Ford and Chrysler want a piece of the action. Cultural differences hurt Toyota. There’s so much expansion in emerging markets that global sales hit 760 million for the first time ever, and are expected to grow next year.
FORD SUCCESSION: After a year of speculation, Alan Mulally is going to stay a while, Mark Fields has moved into a clear number two position. Other executives like Joe Hinrichs and Jim Farley are being groomed for bigger things.
INTERESTING PERSONALITIES: You meet the most interesting people covering the Auto Beat, and they say the most interesting things. Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne would have to be the most quotable person. Ford’s executive lineup the most tight-lipped. GM CEO Dan Akerson is trying the hardest to be an “agent of change.”