Summit Notebook

Exclusive outtakes from industry leaders

Audio – Liking that “first-mover” status

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brown1.jpgAdriane Brown,  president and chief executive of Honeywell Transportation Systems, has had a pretty good year.

In July, Brown’s group was chosen to manufacture new turbochargers for Ford vehicles, which will be used on Ford’s forthcoming 2010 Lincoln MKS with EcoBoost. The V-6 engine will offer performance comparable to a V-8, while using less fuel.

Less fuel is good — especially when gasoline (and just about everything else, for that matter) now costs so much more.

What’s more for Brown’s group? More business, she hopes

As the attached audio clip shows, her team is looking to generate even more business in the coming years for Honeywell’s turbochargers.

Audio – Sad September

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zuchowski1.jpgUsually, when an automotive executive speaks to a group of reporters (hard-edged though we might all think we are), there’s a lot of nodding, maybe some typing or note-taking or positioning to get that next good question in.

But sometimes, a surprise or two shakes people up a little. Such was the case on Tuesday morning at the Reuters Autos Summit, when Dave Zuchowski, Hyundai’s head of U.S. sales, gave his outlook for September sales for the first 10 days.

Audio – Sure, we like leasing!

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lentz1.jpgIf there’s been something most of the guests have discussed this week at the annual Reuters Autos Summit, it’s been leasing.

While Chrysler recently stopped leasing and Ford and General Motors have lessened their reliance on it, Toyota’s president of U.S. sales Jim Lentz said on Tuesday that his company plans to keep on leasing.

Audio – Watch your wallets!

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ron2.jpgUnited Auto Workers head Ron Gettelfinger has been around long enough to know that sometimes things can change very quickly.

But, in managing the union’s new, $38 billion pool of retiree funds, also called a VEBA (Voluntary Employee Benefit Association), Gettelfinger said at the annual Reuters Autos Summit that he and his union will be keeping a close eye on Wall Street and the managers of the funds.

Audio – Timing is everything … and cash is king

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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.

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

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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?

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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

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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!

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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

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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.

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