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.

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.

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. 

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.

Dubai returns to fixed income sphere

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Dubai returns to the fixed-income sphere for the first time in more than a year after raising about $2 billion from dirham and dollar-denominated Islamic bonds.

Confidence in the emirate had run aground earlier this year as investors bet on Dubai’s state-linked entities not being able refinance debt. So far, this year it has met all its obligations and with the fresh issue booking about $6.5 billion from regional and international investors, Dubai’s doomsday scenario appears to be vanishing. 

from Chris Wickham:

Climate change is off the agenda in Dubai

The headline in the Gulf News English language daily reads 'UAE tops world on per capita carbon footprint'.

For a place so reliably bathed in sunlight, the Dubai property explosion seems to have generated enough construction noise to drown out the environmental debate raging elsewhere in the world.

from Raissa Kasolowsky:

Dubai is super enough, thanks

Dubai has sufficient superlatives – record-setting landmarks unique in their size, cost or concept -- to last it for the next decade – so enough already, says Deyaar CEO Markus Giebel.

“I endorse having the tallest building in the world, the first seven-star hotel in the world, the palm,” he says. “What I don’t endorse are attempts to now outdo these superlatives…they are going to last us the next 10 to 15 years.”

Being socially responsible investor in the Gulf

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Socially responsible investing, which takes into account social, environmental and governance risks, is arguably still in its infancy in the Gulf, where the enormous wealth created by hydrocarbons sometimes flows into extravagant projects like an indoor ski resort.

But Mustafa Abdel-Wadood, managing director of Abraaj Capital – the Middle East’s biggest private equity firm — sees SRI as enlightened self interest and the firm puts its own money where its mouth is.

from John Irish:

Mid-East business leaders to discuss economic recovery

Starting Monday, Reuters is inviting  business leaders from various sectors in Dubai, Riyadh and Cairo to discuss key challenges facing them in the aftermath of the global financial crisis and the lessons they have learnt.

Is the downturn over or are we set for a double-dip? Will buyers flock back to Dubai's property bonanza or will they stay away for the foreseeable future? Will the oil-reliant economies of the Gulf manage to diversify as they had hoped at the start of the boom in 2002 or will they continue to rest on their barrels of crude? Read this for a preview.

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