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Forget the power suit. Behold the rise of the power sweater.

Sergio Marchionne, the auto executive steering the still-evolving alliance between Fiat and Chrysler, came to the Detroit auto show this week with no new models to display.

So the attention of the automotive press turned instead to Marchionne's signature styling -- rumpled sweaters, casual slacks and a professorial air that makes him a stand-out in Detroit's sea of sober dark suits.

Known for his long work hours, limited sleep and chain smoking, Marchionne's penchant for dropping quotes from Friedrich Nietsche, Karl Marx and Karl Popper also adds to his air of an academic who has wandered into the board room by mistake.

So how many black sweaters does Marchionne own?

"I buy them in the dozens," he said at an auto industry conference on the sidelines of the auto show. "I don't sleep very much so I buy them on the Internet. They come in all the time."

Auto show-Consumer Reports analyst talks Toyota, other issues


toyota1Consumer Reports magazine’s senior director for automotive testing, Dave Champion, sat down with correspondents Bernie Woodall and Ben Klayman at the Detroit auto show to discuss the U.S. auto industry, including Toyota’s future, the changing nature of the show, small cars and Chrysler.

About Toyota:

“Toyota’s grown incredibly quickly; not only in the number of vehicles that they sell but also in the number of vehicles that they produce. They have a range of vehicles now that’s extremely wide. What Toyota used to have was a great attention to detail on every single part that went into the car and a real focus, very tightly, on the product. Now, with so many different variants and iterations and models, it was very difficult to keep that same focus and that same attention to detail on all the products.”

Auto show-IHS Global Insight analyst’s thoughts


concept1IHS Global Insight analyst Rebecca Lindland met with Reuters TV and text reporters at the Detroit auto show to discuss the industry, including electric and small cars, GM, Chrysler and Toyota, and auto shows past and future.

About electric cars:

“We will eventually see electric cars, mostly because fuel economy regulations are really being forced upon the manufacturers from Washington. It’s a policy and regulation issue. We are not seeing huge amounts of consumer demand out there. Whether it’s an education issue or whether they just say, ‘I’m getting a smaller vehicle anyway. I’m happy with the fuel economy I’m able to get.’ I was disappointed to see that hybrids were still less than 3 percent of the market in 2009, which means 97 percent of people are picking something else.”

Auto show-Rattner: Both GM and Chrysler will survive


rattner1(Written by correspondent David Bailey)

Steve Rattner, a key figure in the restructuring of General Motors and Chrysler in bankruptcy last year as the head of the U.S. Treasury autos task force, said Monday he believes that both automakers can survive and repay at least some of the taxpayer money allotted to their bailouts.

“There is a lot of excitement and energy around the whole show and around GM and Chrysler for the first time in a long time and I think that’s great,” Rattner told reporters after touring the Chrysler layout at the Detroit auto showwith Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne, who also is the head of Italy’s Fiat.

Auto show-Dealer CEOs share their thoughts on industry


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.” 

Auto show-Chrysler boss shows UAW chief some love


sergio1No one can accuse Sergio Marchionne of hogging the limelight at the Detroit auto show.

When the head of both Chrysler and Fiat gave U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi a primer on the 3.6 liter V-6 engine on some Jeep products, he found himself surrounded — as is often the case — by a throng of journalists and other show attendees.