Summit Notebook

Exclusive outtakes from industry leaders

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.

That would be about flat to a little higher than sales this year.

On the first day of Reuters annual sojourn to Detroit for the Reuters Autos Summit, defining what the “new normal” is going to be for everything about the auto industry is much on everyone’s mind. What will happen with the big manufacturers, the dealerships, the suppliers.

It’s a lot to assess all at once.

Bob Carter, head of Toyota’s U.S. operations kicked things off for the summit by talking about what he sees for the coming year.

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. 

Sticks and Stones

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When General Motors rolled out its new “May the Best Car Win” ad campaign this fall, it turned its competitive fire on Toyota Motor Corp, rather than one of its Detroit competitors. 
Toyota, which last year displaced GM as the world’s largest carmarker, takes the ads — which compare the Chevy Malibu with the Toyota Camry — as something of a compliment. 
“When Ford names Toyota and not Chevrolet and when Chevrolet names Toyota and not Ford, that speaks to some consumers about our position in the market,” Toyota group vice president and general manager Bob Carter told the Reuters Autos Summit in Detroit. “So it’s not all bad.” 
But the Japanese automaker has no interest in getting drawn into an advertising tit-for-tat similar to Apple Inc’s “Get a Mac” ads, which compare a young, hip actor representing a Macintosh computer with a dowdy middle aged actor playing a PC run by Microsoft’s Windows operating system. 
“We think the most effective way to approach the market is to talk about our products and our brands,” Carter said.

Washington divided, more trouble ahead for Obama?

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Washington insiders say that not since the 1890′s have the people that represent the U.S. been so divided. From Gay rights to Afghanistan lawmakers are at polar opposites on issues that are on the Obama administration’s agenda. What’s next? And, what’s likely to get the green light or the stop sign?

Wealth Management: What does the future hold?

Even the rich aren’t as well-off as they were a year ago but that’s not stopping the wealth management industry from focusing on what the future of private banking will look like after the economic downturn has passed. Click below to view my latest story:

Stop lumping us together! say Central Europeans

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An invitation to the Reuters Central European Investment Summit may sound perfectly acceptable to many policy makers and executives but not to Czech central banker Mojmir Hampl. It’s not that he objected to visiting our Vienna office and being interviewed by a crew of editors — Hampl was ready and willing to do that. He just questioned the very idea of lumping together all the different countries in a very diverse region.

 

“I’m a bit disappointed that the key topic is how the Central and Eastern European region will develop,” Hampl told us, reviving a complaint often heard around the region. It’s a serious issue, one that has bothered many policy makers in central European countries, who grew frustrated at the height of the financial crisis that investors were not differentiating between those with sound fundamentals such as the Czech Republic and Poland and those on decidedly shakier ground.

The Nowotny-shaped recovery

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By Petra Spescha

 

European economists have been nearly unanimous about what Europe’s recovery from the crisis will look like on a chart: L-shaped — a severe slump with a prolonged period of flat or minimal improvements in the economy.

 

But at the Reuters Central European Investment Summit Ewald Nowotny created a new shape when he tried to clarify a statement he made to an Austrian newspaper earlier this month about the economic turnaround.

Emerging Europe – what’s next?

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Reuters Central European Investment Summit, September 28-30, 2009

 

The former Communist countries of central Europe have been the last to be hit by the global economic crisis, but th e hit they took was among the hardest. Only big neighbour Russia’s deep plunge into recession is rivaling the sharp fall from record economic growth that’s in store this year for the economies between the former Soviet Union and Western Europe.

 

Global risk aversion and deleveraging exposed the weaknesses that the countries had been able to gloss over during the boom years – which in retrospect appeared to have been, in some countries, a colossal binge bankrolled by cheap foreign credit extended by Western European banks that had to come to an end when funding dried up.

Moscow: The least worst place for your money

   Russian investment bank Renaissance Capital was a big backer of Moscow’s ambition to become a major emerging-markets financial centre, a bridge between European and Asian capital, a rival to Dubai.

    It not only trumpeted the idea, but was one of the first big local firms to take out offices in a sleek glass skyscraper by the Moscow River, surrounded by foundation pits and towers of naked steel girders that were to become Moscow’s Canary Wharf.

Note to OPEC: Siberia not Saudi

   An episodic courtship between Russia, the world’s second largest oil exporter and its sometime rivals in the OPEC group of oil exporting nations, went cold at the beginning of this year when Russia failed to make good on hints that it might cut output in line with OPEC, dominated by Saudi Arabia and other desert states of the Middle East.     Prices for oil, the economic lifeblood of Russia and OPEC countries alike, had fallen below $40, OPEC argued, and supply cuts had to be made to boost prices and finance investment into the oil industry.     Alexander Medvedev, deputy chief executive of Russian energy giant Gazprom, told this year’s Reuters Russia Investment Summit that Russia had an excuse for avoiding the multimillion barrel cuts imposed by OPEC: the Siberian chill .    “It is a very simple explanation for this: We are not in a desert where it’s easily to regulate, we are in an extreme situation in Siberia where reserves could be damaged if you up and down your production levels.”     If Russia shuts down Siberian wells, its industry members argue, they could seize up forever as they go cold.     And Russia hardly left OPEC hanging, Medvedev argued: The financial crisis took its toll even on Russia’s cash rich oil companies: “Actually the supply was substantially lower in the first half of the year.”       Medvedev also said he was still struggling to understand where from the rival Nabucco pipeline will get its gas to rival Gazprom on European markets.      “Even at the (Nabucco) signing ceremony I looked at the photos and tried to find any gas supplier and with all my attempts I could not find any. And it looked strange.”

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