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Retailers, consumers and prices

Auto show-Dealer CEOs share their thoughts on industry

January 11, 2010

Executives from two top U.S. automobile dealers sat down with Reuters’ Detroit bureau chief Kevin Krolicki and correspondent James Kelleher at the Detroit auto show and dished on the industry. Some thoughts on various automakers¬† and the sector follow:

Earl Hesterberg, Group 1 Automotive CEO

Regarding GM and CEO Ed Whitacre:

“I am happy to see some sense of urgency and aggressiveness. We have not had nearly enough sales activity in our GM dealerships for the last year and we’ve been waiting for them to get aggressive and try to get back in the market and get it growing. … (Whitacre) seems to have that same urgency to step up their volumes.”¬†

“Clearly he has a sense of urgency and a mandate. There’s been a lot of government money and support put into this so there’s certainly isn’t any lack of focus.”

“We’re still waiting. We haven’t seen the results on our end yet.”

About Ford:

We’re looking for growing brands. And we can see Ford starting to grow again.”

About Toyota:

“Their brand is so strong. They’ve taken some body blows, but they’re so powerful.”

About Chrysler:

“The issue with Chrysler is simply how long is this vacuum in their product pipeline.”

About overall industry:

“Consumers can get financing. The issue with consumers right now is strictly psychological — it’s consumer confidence.”

“I really don’t see anything that fundamentally changes the consumer’s outlook right. Still a lot of unemployment and uncertainty. ”

jackson1Mike Jackson, AutoNation CEO (pictured)

About Ford’s Transit Connect, which won 2010 North American Truck award:

“Whoever greenlighted that deserves a medal. It certainly would never get past market research. That was a gut call somebody made and it’s hit a sweet spot in the marketplace.”

About GM’s new responsiveness to dealers:

“As soon as we say, ‘This is not selling,’ General Motors backs off on production. That’s historic. Normally they call the factory and say, ‘Put another shift on.’”

“I’m very optimistic about GM. I think it’s going to be a great comeback story.”

About GM Chairman Ed Whitacre:

“He’s an outstanding executive who takes complex issues and reduces them common sense with no bullshit and that’s refreshing — and needed.”

About Chrysler and Fiat:

“They’re going to struggle until this alliance with Fiat matures. Also, they mishandled the consolidation of the dealer network, which created tremendous ill will between the Chrysler retailers and the Chrysler corporation. That really hurt them in the marketplace.”

(Reuters photo)

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