Summit Notebook

Exclusive outtakes from industry leaders

Audio – Timing is everything … and cash is king

ron1.jpgUnited Auto Workers head Ron Gettelfinger knows that a bird in hand is far better than one flying around with a bunch of promise.

For that reason, Gettelfinger, speaking at this year’s Reuters Autos Summit, said that the sooner that the U.S. government can commit to the hoped-for $50 billion in loan guarantees (it’s not a bailout, he reminded us) to help the auto companies, the better it’ll be for them to make the kind of investments they need to transform themselves and strengthen their future prospects.

Gettelfinger, as always, tells a compelling story and we can imagine he’s quite a foe on the other side of the bargaining table.

He was one of the featured speakers on the second day of the summit, which runs through Thursday in Detroit.

Audio – To lease or not to lease, that is the question

york1.jpgWith apologies to the Bard, that is one of the key questions that U.S. automakers are asking themselves now.

For Chrysler, the answer was no, and Jerry York, an adviser to Tracinda Corp, which has a $1 billion investment in Ford Motor Co, thinks they were wrong.

Audio – Three?

stallkamp1.jpgThe Big Three.

Remember when GM, Ford and Chrysler carried around that nickname with pride?

Then, a few years ago, we noticed some of the automotive folks we know starting to call the three companes “The Detroit Three”. Still an impressive title. Detroit’s a big city and they make a lot of cars.

But this year, we’re hearing a few rumblings that the question is not whether the name should be Big Three or Detroit Three — now the question is whether the number should remain “Three”.

Audio – Feeling for a bottom

henderson1.jpgIt can’t get any worse.

Right?

Automotive executives and investors would love to have the answer to that question, but they just aren’t there yet.

General Motors Co Chief Operating Officer Fritz Henderson would like to think the industry — crippled in 2008 by a debilitating credit crunch, scared consumers and a worsening employment picture — was at the bottom.

Audio – The hits just keep on coming in 2008!

henderson2.jpgIt’s not like 2008 has been a dance around the maypole.

Fritz Henderson, chief operating officer of General Motors Co, said on Monday at the Reuters Autos Summit that the events of this past weekend — with the collapse of Lehman Brothers and sale of Merrill Lynch are just another things making a tough year worse for struggling U.S. automakers.

Now, as some companies need to raise cash to survive, they are facing a marketplace that doesn’t look too favorably on anything below triple-A.

Audio – No parades yet for Ford’s CEO

mulally2.jpgIn a week where the U.S. financial system has been thrown for an enormous loop, Ford Motor Co Chief Executive Alan Mulally warned that it will be some time before the U.S. consumer feels free to spend, spend, spend.

Mulally, the leadoff speaker at this year’s Reuters Autos Summit said he expects until the end of 2009 or beginning of 2010 before the auto industry turns the corner.

Audio – Looking ahead with Ford

Ford Motor Co Chief Executive Alan Mulally found himself in a rather strange situation this week.

mulally1.jpgIt’s hard to imagine that during the week with our annual Reuters Autos Summit, there could have been a spate of bad news from another sector of the economy where one might say, “Well, maybe things aren’t that bad for the automakers”.

Video – Car makers speed into Russia

U.S. and Asian automakers are rushing to lure Russian consumers to offset declining sales in the U.S., Europe and Asia.

U.S. and Asian automakers, facing declining sales in almost every market around the world, are speeding into Russia to try and gain market share as the growing middle-class expands and car sales appear set double in the next three years.

Ask a Car Maker …

 

The U.S. autos sector has hit a wall like some kind of crash test dummy – record gas prices, rising supply costs and sales hitting a 15-year low. Can car makers ride it out?

Reuters journalists will interview car companies, including some from the Big 3 , next week as part of our Autos Summit 2008. We will ask why investors should hang on, and is the sector about to hit the wall?

Inflation in Argentina worries Toyota

toyota-argentina.jpgHigh inflation in Argentina is “worrying” Toyota’s local unit but the company is optimistic that concerns over energy shortages will ease in the medium term, said the firm’s president.

Investors are concerned about inflation and energy shortages in Argentina, where the red-hot economy has grown 8 percent a year for five years straight after a 2001-02 economic crisis.

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