GM Makes Detroit Three History With First Female CEO


Back in September, GM CEO Dan Akerson told a leadership diversity conference that it's "inevitable" a woman would eventually lead one of the Detroit Three automakers. Today, GM made that official. Mary Barra, who heads up global product development, purchasing and supply chains, will succeed Akerson after he steps down on Jan. 15, 2014.

Barra, 51, was elected by GM's board of directors to become the automaker's next CEO; she'll also join the board. The news comes a day after the federal government sold its remaining stock in the automaker. The Detroit News reports other candidates for the position included GM North America President Mark Reuss, Vice Chairman Steve Girsky and CFO Dan Ammann — all men.

It appears GM, whose brands include Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC, will be the only Detroit automaker with a female chief executive for some time. Ford's Mark Fields is the heir apparent to CEO Alan Mulally, and Chrysler's Sergio Marchionne reportedly has no plans to leave anytime soon.

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By Kelsey Mays | December 10, 2013 | Comments (1)

U.S. Sells Remaining GM Stock


Remember TV commercials in early 2010 where GM's then-CEO Ed Whitacre proclaimed the automaker had paid back its loans in full? Though technically accurate — the automaker repaid $8.1 billion in loans from the U.S. and Canadian government in April 2010 — the ads suggested taxpayers had no more involvement in Detroit's largest automaker. Critics argued that wasn't the case. When the Bush and Obama administrations orchestrated a $49.5 billion bailout of the ailing automaker in 2008 and 2009, part of the deal involved the U.S. Treasury taking a 61 percent ownership stake in The General. Taxpayers have held a stake until now.

The Treasury announced Monday that it sold its remaining shares in GM, whose U.S. brands include Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC. But the automaker may want to hold off an ad blitz this time around. That's because the final chunk of a progressive sell-down means we can finally total the losses, and the bill for taxpayers is $10.5 billion.

By Kelsey Mays | December 10, 2013 | Comments (3)

GM, Ford Rev Up Deals for Black Friday


Big-box retailers aren't the only ones broadcasting Black Friday discounts. Automakers have thrown their, uh, pilgrim hats in the ring. GM and Ford are offering incentives for deal-hunting car shoppers that go well beyond existing programs. GM has Black Friday specials among its Chevrolet, GMC and Buick brands. The automaker's Cadillac division, like many luxury brands, has separate holiday-themed deals. The same goes for Ford, whose namesake brand, but not its Lincoln luxury division, has a Black Friday program.

We tallied up the best Black Friday deals you can find once the food coma subsides. As always, regional pricing may vary so check with your local dealer for specifics.

By Kelsey Mays | November 26, 2013 | Comments (0)

GM's Engineering Chief Explains Technology, Global Development Challenges


"Do unto yourself before others do unto you," GM's John Calabrese said. "Paranoia isn't a bad thing in this business. There's a lot of [competing] companies out there that want to go after the consumer."

Calabrese champions data analysis at GM, a task he likens to what the Oakland Athletics baseball team did in the book-turned-movie "Moneyball." The 34-year company veteran is the automaker's vice president of global engineering, directing some 16,000 engineers across facilities from Detroit to South Africa. He works with GM's other executive teams — from design to powertrain — to concoct the automaker's future cars.

We chatted with Calabrese at a Midwest Automotive Media Association event, and he gave a candid look at what it's like to develop a car for consumers across six continents.

By Kelsey Mays | October 31, 2013 | Comments (2)

Is the Buick Encore Underpowered?

"Is the Buick Encore underpowered?"


By Rick Popely | October 6, 2013 | Comments (0)

2014 Buick Regal: First Drive


Buick's resurrection in the U.S. market as a brand for younger, modern buyers really started with the Regal way back in 2010. But the arrival of the less-expensive Verano and the larger, well-appointed LaCrosse threw the Regal's position in the lineup into confusion — at the low end, you could get a loaded Verano for the cost of a lesser-equipped Regal, while at the high end, it encroached on the much roomier LaCrosse.

For 2014, Buick has cleaned up the lineup a little, repositioning the Regal and emphasizing its newly available all-wheel drive as a direct competitor for import models like the Audi A4. GM invited us to come to its test track in southeast Michigan for a brief walk-around and test drive of the 2014 Regal and sportier Regal GS models to see if the work paid off.

By Aaron Bragman | September 9, 2013 | Comments (7)

Which Crossover SUV Is the Most Fuel Efficient?

"Which crossover SUV is the most fuel efficient?"

Norman M., Brooklyn, N.Y.


That honor goes to the 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV — a low-production electric version sold only in California at the moment — that earns the equivalent of 78 mpg for city driving, 74 mpg for highway and a combined city/highway rating of 76. Given that the RAV4 EV might not be available in your neighborhood, or be a good choice for your needs, the Lexus RX 450h hybrid has a combined city/highway rating of 30 mpg with front-wheel drive and 29 mpg with all-wheel drive. The similar, but less-luxurious, Toyota Highlander Hybrid comes in at 28 mpg with standard all-wheel drive.

Other crossover SUVs with higher EPA ratings are the Buick Encore (28 mpg), Mazda CX-5 (29 mpg), Subaru XV Crosstrek (28 mpg), and the Mini Countryman and Paceman (31 mpg with manual transmission, 27 mpg with automatic). The XV Crosstrek has standard all-wheel drive, but the other ratings are for front-wheel-drive models. The numbers will be lower on all-wheel-drive versions, and because these are just estimates, your mileage is sure to vary.

The Vehicle Recommender, found here, can help you sort through the dozens of crossover SUVs to find the ones that offer the right combination of mileage, price, size and features.

Have a car question you'd like us to answer? Send us an email at, or ask in the comments below.

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By Rick Popely | August 25, 2013 | Comments (1)

GM to Add Wireless Smartphone Charging to Some 2014 Models


In-car wireless smartphone charging has been a long time coming. Back in January 2009, Powermat — a leader in the field — said an in-vehicle charging platform, which replaces a cord with a wireless electromagnetic charging mat, was on the way. Then, in early 2011, the company announced that the 2012 Chevrolet Volt would debut wireless smartphone charging. GM's venture-capital subsidiary would invest $5 million in Powermat to "accelerate the technology's development," the companies said in a joint press release at the time.

Well, the Volt never got its Powermat. Now both companies promise availability in some GM models by the 2014 model year. Powermat CEO Ran Poliakine told the Detroit News that GM would be the first carmaker to integrate wireless charging. Toyota and Chrysler have also said wireless-charging technology may become available for the 2014 model year, the newspaper notes. Of course, you could rig your own in-car setup today by connecting a Duracell Powermat to a DC-to-AC inverter for functional — if inelegant — wireless charging. GM's integrated setup should be a lot more seamless, but it will likely require phones outfitted with Powermat's wireless charging case.

Research firm IHS told the Detroit News it projects worldwide shipments of wireless charging devices to increase twentyfold between 2012 and 2015. Still, we'll believe in-car versions are here when we see them.

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By Kelsey Mays | August 19, 2013 | Comments (2)

GM Quality Director Bullish on CUE, Multimedia Systems


In two influential studies from J.D. Power and Associates, GM got both ends of the stick. The Detroit automaker finished strong in the firm's 2013 Initial Quality Study released in June, but it ranked midpack in the firm's Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout report a month later.

Mike Hardie pays a lot of attention to those studies. Hardie directs global quality strategy at GM, whose U.S. brands are Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC. In IQS, some of GM's awarded products are its oldest: the soon-to-be-discontinued Chevrolet Avalanche, the outgoing Cadillac Escalade and the old GMC Sierra 1500. Tech-laden new Cadillacs, by contrast, earned no awards.

That may not mean older technology, particularly around the often-scrutinized multimedia system, is automatically better from a things-gone-wrong standpoint, Hardie said. He spoke with earlier today.

"Simpler can excel, and I think quite honestly that pushes its way to new technology, as well," Hardie said. He pointed to the redesigned Chevrolet Impala, which nabbed Consumer Reports' top score among sedans on Thursday. The magazine called the Impala's multimedia system "refreshingly intuitive and easy to use."

By Kelsey Mays | July 26, 2013 | Comments (0)

GM Design Chief Talks Quality and Corvettes


In more than 80 years of GM design history, Ed Welburn is just the sixth chief designer for the Detroit automaker. Welburn, a Philadelphia native, has overseen designs from the Cadillac CTS to the Chevrolet Corvette. GM appointed him chief of GM Design North America in 2003 and head of GM Global Design in 2005 — a new position he filled. Today, the 62-year-old oversees some 2,500 designers and creative associates across 10 global design centers. He oversees design for GM's four U.S. brands — Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC — alongside international ones like Opel and Vauxhall.

Welburn has plenty to celebrate. GM fared well in J.D. Power and Associates' latest Initial Quality Survey, an assessment of things that break — and, critics point out, subjective issues that drivers simply don't like — in the first 90 days of vehicle ownership. On Wednesday, we sat down with him near our Chicago offices. He held forth on a range of topics: GM's recent quality scores, the state of so-called "capacitive" dashboard buttons and the ramp-up to the 2014 Corvette.

By Kelsey Mays | July 11, 2013 | Comments (2)

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