Retailers, consumers and prices
from Blogs Dashboard:
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."
(Written by correspondent James Kelleher)
The U.S. auto retail market — long controlled by franchised dealers and state laws that critics call anti-competitive and inefficient — will open up in the coming years and Honda will not be left in the dust, a top U.S. executive for the Japanese automaker said.
Honda has already been confronted by the new paradigm in the retail motorcycle market, where upstart rivals from rapidly emerging nations have begun selling bikes directly to consumers — or very nearly so — using sporting goods stores and other unconventional channels, John Mendel, executive vice president of auto sales at American Honda Motor Co, said at a conference held in conjunction with the Detroit auto show.
When DelphiCEO Rodney O’Neal talked of losing weight and quitting smoking, it was his recipe for getting the global auto industry back on track and not a New Year’s resolution.
In his first public comments since the auto parts maker emerged from a four-year bankruptcy in October, O’Neal said the global auto industry will need to shrink to match consumer demand and stop pining for the good ‘ole days when demand was much higher.
Advertising during the Super Bowl doesn’t score for Mazda.
While the Japanese automaker plans to boost its marketing budget this year as it launches the Mazda 2 small car, running TV ads during the National Football League’s championship game in February won’t happen.
“You’re never going to see us on Super Bowl,” Mazda North American chief Jim O’Sullivan said at the Detroit auto show. “We’re not going to spend that kind of money on that kind of property because, yeah, you get a lot of impressions and stuff out there, but the fact of the matter is, do you really get to the target you really wanted? That’s more of a feel-good ad for a lot of people.”
Consumer 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.
“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.”
J.D. Power and Associates analyst Jeff Schuster met with Reuters TV and text reporters at the Detroit auto show to discuss the U.S. auto market, including the changing nature of the show and 2010 demand.
About the subdued nature of this year’s show:
“If you look around this show, the message here really is an industry getting back to business. They’re obviously here to sell cars.”
IHS 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.”
(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.
(Written by Correspondent Nick Carey)
This was not merely because the two protests — one by workers protesting for more help for workers amid the bailout of the U.S. financial sector, the other ostensibly by “tea party” activists — were rather small, barely a few dozen altogether. Though it must be said that seeing protesters outnumbered by journalists, and there are hordes of us here, is always a surreal experience.
But Tata Technologies wants to become a supplier of “frugal engineering” solutions to a global industry that, as it restructures and adjusts to lower industrywide sales at least in North America, looks for ways to squeeze out product development costs.