Summit Notebook

Exclusive outtakes from industry leaders

AUDIO – Mornings with Ron: A Reuters Autos Summit tradition

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A few years ago, there was a book out called “Tuesdays with Morrie.” At Reuters, though, we spend our Tuesday mornings during Auto Summits with Ron.

It wouldn’t be a Reuters Autos Summit without our yearly visit from United Auto Workers head Ron Gettelfinger … at the crack of dawn.

Gettelfinger is not one to loaf around and show up at our summit at a leisurely hour of, say, sometime after the sun rises. Oh no. Gettelfinger was scheduled to kick off our Tuesday slate of guests at 7:00 am. But by now we know better.

In fact, when coming into the building this morning sometime after 6:00 am, Gettelfinger was already in the lobby of the Detroit Chamber of Commerce building doing a radio call-in program on his cell phone.

Upstarts!

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The U.S. government has pumped more than $100 billion into Detroit over the past year to keep automakers General Motors and Chrysler alive. But some of the sector’s remaining capitalists are having a hard time stomaching a $25 billion Department of Energy loan program intended to spark new developments in electric cars. 

Start-ups Fisker Automotive and Tesla Motors have won about $1 billion in combined funding, while longtime players Ford and Nissan have received substantially larger loans from Washington to work on vehicle electrification — a technology the White House and many in the industry hope will reduce the United States’ dependence on imported oil and lower emissions of carbon dioxide, a leading greenhouse gas. 

AUDIO – Commercial real estate: The auto industry’s next big (bad) thing

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The U.S. auto industry has had one heck of a year.Sales have fallen off, credit has been pretty much nonexistant and two of the major U.S. automakers were bankrupt. Other that all that, things were fine.But Bill Diehl, chief executive of advisory firm BBK, said at the first day of this year’s Reuters Autos Summit, that one of the main concerns for 2010 (if it’s not THE main concern) is the industry’s overall exposure to commercial real estate.We have been hearing about the problems with commercial real estate in many other sectors of the U.S. economy and Diehl gave the strongest statement so far about the auto side.(To hear Diehl\’s comments, please click here)The Reuters Autos Summit continues through Thursday in Detroit and Paris.

The secret lives of auto executives

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Ed Whitacre sneaks off to breakfast at a Detroit greasy spoon. Sergio Marchionne’s attention to detail extends to the condition of his factories’ bathrooms. And Bill Ford helped save his great-grandfather’s company by hocking the blue oval. 

These are just a few of the glimmers of top Detroit auto executives’ lives that you get when you sit down with Ron Gettelfinger, head of the United Auto Workers union. 

AUDIO – The ‘new normal’ for the U.S. auto industry

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A few years ago, one of the guests at our annual Reuters Autos Summit — Tom Stallkamp from Ripplewood — pretty much stopped everyone dead in their tracks by predicting that auto sales in the United States was likely to fall to an obscenely low level of 14.5 million.

Those were the days.

Of course, Stallkamp was making that prediction at a time when U.S. car manufacturers were selling in the neighborhood of 16 to 17 million a year. If the number hits 14.5 million in 2010, people will be wild with enthusiasm as most now expect something in a range of 10 to 11 million.

BMW keeping wary eye on rivals

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After a year of unprecedented turmoil in the auto industry, BMW’s U.S. head smells blood in the water.

Changes in ownership at some of its historic European rivals may present the German luxury automaker with a chance to grab market share. 

Exclusive look inside Sweden’s greenest paper mill

For most of us, printing e-mails or making copies is just part of the daily routine in the office. But, the paper we use does come from somewhere. Last week, we had the opportunity to visit Stora Enso’s Nymolla Mill in southern Sweden to get an exclusive look at how MultiCopy paper is made. Nymolla is an integrated mill (it produces pulp and paper on the same site) and most of the wood used is sourced locally. Also interesting, the mill is the only one I could find in the world that emits zero carbon dioxide from fossil fuels during the paper making process. Check out my look inside the Nymolla Mill.

Inside Sweden's greenest paper mill from Reuters TV on Vimeo.

AUDIO – The Spiral

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This has not been a cheerless week — after all, Chicago is a pretty fun place to be.

In reviewing many of the stories, though, from this week’s Reuters Manufacturing and Transportation Summit, one gets the idea that all was gloom in the Windy City.

AUDIO – For Nordson — “Get ‘em right, or get ‘em out”

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Throughout the current recession, many of the companies’ executives at this week’s Reuters Manufacturing and Transportation Summit have found an opportunity to review, pare back and possibly add on to their existing business mixes.

Such is the case for Edward Campbell, chief executive of Nordson Corp, which has a uniquely diversified set of businesses under its umbrella and is looking at what makes sense for them going forward.

AUDIO – Staying the course at CAT — But it’s a rough row to hoe

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Caterpillar Inc Group President Ed Rapp knows that 2009 has been a tough one for his company, but he still thinks they can hit their numbers on revenue and earnings per share.

Speaking at the Reuters Manufacturing and Transportation Summit, Rapp (who, incidentally, has been with Caterpillar for almost 30 years and is still considered something of a “youngster” there!!) said that while there are still many hurdles for the company to avoid in the short term, he thought CAT’s previous guidance was within reach.

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