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Toyota Announces New Round of Recalls

700,000 vehicles involved in separate safety-related actions.

by on Mar.09, 2012

Toyota is recalling the Venza again.

While Toyota sales in the U.S. are trending up with the market, the Japanese auto giant can’t seem to shake the recall bug that’s haunted it for the past two years.

Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc. has just announced it is recalling nearly 700,000 cars and trucks due to a variety of potential safety-related problems.  The recall comes barely a month after federal regulators opened an investigation into reports of fires in the driver’s side door of the maker’s popular Camry sedan and RAV-4 crossover.

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As part of the new recall, Toyota said certain Camry and Venza vehicles from the 2009 to 2011 model-years will need to have their the stop lamp switches replaced. Approximately 70,500 Camry and 116,000 Venza vehicles are covered by this recall.

In addition, certain 2005 to early 2009 Tacoma pickups will be recalled to replace the steering wheel spiral cable assembly. Approximately 495,000 Tacoma vehicles are covered by that service action.


Bye-Bye Car Czar

Post among many impacting auto industry cut by federal budget compromise.

by on Apr.12, 2011

The last and former car czar Ron Bloom.

The last-minute budget compromise that kept the federal government going will take its toll on the auto industry – among other things eliminating the “car czar” position that helped the White House manage the 2009 bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler.

The bipartisan budget agreement also will trim $408 million from the $2.3 billion originally set aside to help promote research on high-mileage technology, along with another $37 million earmarked to promote seatbelt usage.

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There are actually four different “czar” posts being defunded.  And the one overseeing the auto bailouts, held most recently by Ron Bloom, has been empty since he left the White House last February.  It was originally intended to give oversight to bailouts that included $50 billion needed to keep General Motors in business.

While the elimination of that position might not draw too many tears in Detroit the industry is clearly less pleased to see the government take a sharp knife to a program that is helping fund the high-cost development of advanced powertrain systems.  Funds have so far been dispersed to a wide range of manufacturers, domestic and foreign, as well as to start-up makers, including battery car manufacturer Tesla Motors and Fisker Automotive, which plans to launch production of a plug-in hybrid vehicle later this year.


U.S. Automakers’ Recovery “Ahead of Plans,” Says Obama’s Car Czar

Administration wants to sell off remaining auto stock “as soon as practicable, says Ron Bloom.

by on Jan.12, 2011

U.S. "Car Czar" Ron Bloom, second from left, at the Detroit Auto Show.

Investors aren’t the only ones pleased by the apparent improvements made by General Motors.  Less than two months after the carmaker’s record IPO was completed, U.S. “car czar” Ron Bloom could be found touring the GM exhibit at the Detroit Auto Show, where he declared the efforts to revive the maker – and cross-town rival Chrysler – “ahead of plans.”

What’s all the more surprising, said Bloom, the Obama Administration’s top manufacturing adviser, is that the two domestic makers are doing so well in a still-depressed economy, with the auto market itself only barely showing signs of a true turnaround.

“If there’s a positive surprise, I think it’s in the companies’ ability to execute their plans in this environment,” said Bloom.

That echoes comments made by GM CEO Dan Akerson, yesterday, during and after a speech to the Automotive News World Congress.  The former telecomm executive noted that prior to its bankruptcy-led reorganization, GM could barely make money even in the best years the U.S. auto industry ever experienced.  It is now positioned to make money in some of the worst markets ever – as it did in 2010.


Former Auto Czar Rattner Settles Influence-Peddling Case

Rattner fined $10 million.

by on Dec.31, 2010

Former auto czar Steve Rattner settles in a pay-for-play scandal, which will result in a $10 million fine.

Former auto czar Steven Rattner has agreed to pay a $10 million fine to settle a “pay-to-play” case that claimed the one-time reporter had handed out kickbacks in order to steer $150 million in New York State pension fund business to his Wall Street firm.

The settlement, approved by NY Attorney General – and Governor-elect – Andrew Cuomo also bars Rattner from having any dealing with any public New York pension fund for five years.  But the former NY Times journalist still scored a victory.  Cuomo had originally hoped to force Rattner to pay a $26 million fine and to bar him for life from working anywhere in the securities industry.

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Rattner, who is worth a minimum of $188 million according to knowledgeable sources, served as the Obama Administration’s first “auto czar,” helping put in place the bailout of, among others, General Motors and Chrysler, in early 2009.  But shortly after leaving the government he became enmeshed in an ongoing scandal involving the illegal efforts by various private equity firms to gain lucrative pension fund business.


Has GM Set Nov. 17th As Date For IPO?

Former “Car Czar” leaks plan.

by on Oct.25, 2010

Former auto czar Steve Rattner's settlement of a pay-to-play scandal is on hold.

The timing of General Motors Corp.’s initial public offering of stock has been a closely guarded, if eagerly-anticipated, secret.

But while GM officials have adamantly refused to discuss the time line for the IPO, former U.S. “auto czar” Steven Rattner may have given it away during an interview on the PBS interview program, the Charlie Rose Show.

While talking about his new book, “Overhaul,” Rattner told the host that the IPO was scheduled for November 17. So far, no one has come forward to support Rattner’s assertion but it appears to fit with the time line GM has established. GM’s current management is eager to shed the “Government Motors” tag as quickly as possible.

The Detroit Economic Club has withdrawn the invitation it had extended to former auto czar Rattner, who was previously scheduled to appear before the business group at a meeting in downtown Detroit next week.  But DEC President, Beth Chappel, has canceled the invitation, DEC officials confirmed Tuesday.

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“I am very sorry to inform you that we must cancel Mr. Rattner’s appearance at the Detroit Economic Club next Tuesday, October 26th.” Chappel said in an e-mail to DEC members. “We do not believe it is appropriate to proceed with this meeting, given the recent settlement between Mr. Rattner and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission,” Chappel said.

The DEC is one of the most prestigious public speaking venues for presidents, foreign leaders, leading American politicians and top business executives over the years.


Car Czar from Wall Street Faces S.E.C. Ban?

Bribes by Democratic contributor Steven Rattner are an issue.

by on Jun.04, 2010

Are you shocked that kickback money played a part in New York politics?

I'm shocked, shocked that money played a part in a Wall Street contract.

A Wall Street financier who was the Obama administration’s Car Czar is apparently fighting a Security and Exchange Commission move to ban him from working in the financial industry for his part in a “pay to play” scheme.

According to numerous press reports, Steven Rattner, who masterminded the Treasury Department bankruptcy filings of General Motors and Chrysler last year, is under investigation by Andrew Cuomo, New York’s ambitious and Democratic attorney general.

Cuomo  looked at his role as part of the Quadrangle Group in a kickback scheme that netted the firm millions of dollars of business from a New York State pension fund.

The problem in trying to sort out this controversy is that the source, or sources, are un-named in the stories claiming that a brouhaha is underway between the Obama Administration, a politically ambitious prosecutor and yet another federal regulatory agency that failed to do its regulatory job.

According to the gossip, the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission wants to ban Rattner from the business for several years because of Quadrangle’s conduct. Rattner resigned his Treasury position shortly after the auto bankruptcies and 363 sales were accomplished, but has since been harshly critical in a series of public appearances  or written pieces of Detroit executives – including Rick Wagoner and Fritz Henderson of GM, who were fired by Treasury as part of the reorganizations that cost taxpayers billions.

Rattner’s former firm, Quadrangle, paid $12 million in fines last spring to settle the charges with state and federal officials. However, Rattner was not part of the plea-bargain deal with Quadrangle, where he was a founding partner-  and where he made millions upon millions – because he, allegedly, resisted the proposed settlement requiring his exile.


Q&A: GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz

A candid look at government intervention, and his own legacy.

by on May.28, 2009

Whether in or out of bankruptcy, says "car czar" Bob Lutz, the automaker is about to face a "cleansing fire."

Whether in or out of bankruptcy, says "car czar" Bob Lutz, GM is about to face a "cleansing fire."

It’s down to the proverbial wire for General Motors. Within the next several days, the automaker will either work out a last-minute settlement with bondholders or face a historic bankruptcy filing.

To some, bankruptcy or not,  there’s an equally significant event occurring with the retirement of GM’s Vice Chairman and “car czar,” Bob Lutz.  The spry septuagenarian executive surprised the automotive world when he joined the automaker, early in August 2001 for what was supposed to be a couple-year assignment helping rebuild GM’s once-legendary product development operations. As he leaves, there’s little doubt that the carmaker is building some of the best products it’s made in decades, if not, as he suggests, “the best in our history.”  But what happens “if and when” it goes into court-appointed bankruptcy protection?

That was the central theme of a speech by the former Marine pilot to the Automotive Press Association, on Thursday. While he acknowledged there are many unknowns, Lutz insisted, “We will pass through the cleansing fire of a radical restructuring — whether in or out of court” and emerge a “smaller, leaner powerhouse.”  Surprisingly, the traditionally conservative Lutz said much of GM’s potential turnaround can be credited to the Obama Administration, which is the first administration “in decades” to actually pay attention to “the largest manufacturing industry in the country.”

Following his speech, Lutz offered his thoughts on a variety of other issues in this question-and-answer session.

Subscribe to TheDetroitBureau.comQ: It seems certain GM will declare bankruptcy by the June 1st deadline set by President Obama.

Lutz: It’s a matter of  ‘if,’ and not when.  And if we do, we intend to get in and out very, very soon. (more…)

Finally, A Car Czar of Sorts

The Obama administration’s latest appointee supported Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

by on Feb.24, 2009

 Steven Rattner, committee czar, has money and political savvy, but no experience in vehicle manufacturing.

Steven Rattner, committee czar, has money and political savvy, but no experience in auto making.

The co-founder of a private equity group with long-standing political ties to the Democratic party is joining the U.S. Treasury Department to head the team that will recommend whether or not Chrysler and General Motors should continue to receive government loans or be liquidated.

Steven Rattner is now Counselor to the Secretary of the Treasury and no longer Managing Principal of Quadrangle Group, a private investment firm he co-founded. Quadrangle has more than $6 billion of assets under management, and invests in media and communications companies.

Rattner will advise Secretary Timothy Geithner regarding “a variety of economic and financial matters” and “will lead the team” advising Secretary Geithner and National Economic Council Director Lawrence Summers on the automobile sector.


UAW Agrees to Givebacks — TDB Has Details

Hunting or church? Guess which won.

by on Feb.18, 2009

Bambi's the big loser in the UAW concessions package


With word that the United Auto Workers Union has reached a tentative settlement with each of the Big Three on a package of concessions, we also learn what really matters to American autoworkers.

As negotiations came down to the wire, two separate sources tell, a critical issue on the table concerned contractual time off. The UAW had already agreed to relinquish one of its many vacation days, but which one: the Monday following Easter, or the opening day of Michigan hunting season? If you can’t figure out which the union opted to keep, you obviously don’t own an orange vest, camouflage gear – or a gun.

The loss of the Monday vacation day was just one of many givebacks in the revised contracts (plural, because each of the Big Three has its own, separate agreement, with subtle, and occasionally significant differences between them).


Ford’s Fields Sees Positive Side to Bailout Bid

Obama’s upbeat view of industry “bodes well.”

by on Feb.18, 2009

Mark Fields: Sees positive side

Mark Fields: Sees positive side

Though it has chosen to rely on its own resources, rather than seek a federal bailout, officials at Ford Motor Co. have been keeping a close eye on the progress its two cross-town rivals are making in their bid for further government support.

And while it’s too early to tell whether Washington will approve the viability plans submitted by General Motors Corp. and Chrysler, on Tuesday, Ford’s President of the Americas, Mark Fields, told, in an exclusive interview, that he sees signs that “bode well” for Ford’s domestic rivals.

One of the most critical signals came from President Obama himself, said Fields, noting the Commander-in-Chief’s recent reference to the auto industry as “one of the pillars of the economy.”

“For the sake of the industry, it’s very positive that the administration views the auto industry as (being so) vital,” Fields said.