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. 

Toyota’s Arashima on Reuters Financial Television

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Toyota Motor Europe President and CEO Tadashi Arashima talked to Reuters Financial Television during the Auto Summit in Paris. See here.

Toyota will not freeze out Iceland, bets on Russia bounce

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The world’s biggest carmaker, Toyota, will not follow the road of McDonald’s and abandon Iceland even though it is selling ‘very few’ cars there at the moment and its distributor has been seized by the banks as its owner went belly-up, Toyota Motor Europe President and CEO Tadashi Arashima told the Reuters Auto Summit in Paris on Tuesday.
“We have a big market share there, of 25 percent, and it is good for our after-sales,” Arashima said.
The banks are trying to sell the distributor but Toyota does not plan to take ownership like it does in its key European markets of Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom, and some Scandinavian countries.
 

Arashima said he believes the Russian market will recover sooner than many think, after the west European markets but well before the rest of East Europe — in 2011 or 2012.

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. 

Diehl: Ford & UAW need to “work at it” a little more…

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William Diehl, chief executive of advisory firm BBK says Ford and the United Auto Workers union need to work a little harder to come to some sort of agreement that puts the automaker on a more level playing field with its rivals. Click here to listen to what he had to say at the 2009 Reuters Autos Summit.

Diehl on Ford-UAW contract talks from Reuters TV on Vimeo.

Investors do not realise Valeo’s Asian potential-CEO

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Valeo generates 18 percent of its sales in Asia, and 7 percent in China alone, and that percentage will increase due to fast organic growth in these booming markets, but investors still see Valeo as a company anchored in mature European markets.

“They still see us as mainly a west European company,” chief executive Jacques Aschenbroich told the Reuters Auto Summit in Paris. But despite a decline in turnover, Valeo is keeping up its research and development spending and is continuing to forge forward countries in China, Thailand, India, Turkey or Brazil.

Reports of the death of the car industry are premature-Valeo

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A glimmer of light in a world of darkness for stressed-out car industry managers. Jacques Aschenbroich (pronounce Ashenbrough), the new CEO at French car supplier Valeo has been visiting the Frankfurt and Tokyo motorshows, as well as travelling to places such as China.

“This is not a dying industry, this is an industry in strong mutation,” is the verdict of the man who joined Valeo in March after a career with construction materials group Saint-Gobain.

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.

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