Summit Notebook

Exclusive outtakes from industry leaders

How Leo DiCaprio started a car company

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Henrik Fisker, the storied car designer who has shaped Aston Martins, Fords and BMWs, told the Reuters Autos Summit this week that he now wants a starring role in the green revolution.

But he also wants to make the world safe for sports cars for generations to come.

“Being a car enthusiast and loving cars, to be quite honest, I could not imagine a life without a beautiful, fast sports car,” Fisker said. “I needed to do something to make sure that I could drive one of those nice cars, my children could drive one of those beautiful, fast cars.”

So what was Fisker’s inspiration? What was the epiphany when he realized that the world was ready for the upcoming Fisker Karma, a $90,000 plug-in hybrid with 50 miles of all-electric fun?

from Environment Forum:

A Nightmare on Auto Street: Big boxes

When it comes to competition in the auto business, it's the unknown that keeps the top U.S. Honda executive, John Mendel, up at night.

Mendel, speaking to the Reuters Auto Summit in Detroit, said he is always concerned about the conventional competitors. But what he is really afraid of is a company that "changes the game."

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.

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.

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.

Renault is too complex, COO says

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One of the big challenges for French carmaker Renault, which ranks third in the world with Japanese partner Nissan and Russian ally AvtoVAZ, is that it is too complex, chief operating officer Patrick Pelata told the Reuters Automotive Summit.

“Renault is a complicated company,” he said and explained how many carmakers had embraced a matrix organisation to deal with their international expansion. “We’re definitely more complicated than Nissan,” he said.

Yahoo cedes search game to Google, for now

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(Updated with more quotes)

If you’re losing the game, time to change the playing field. Yahoo is counting on exactly that.

Ari Balogh, Yahoo’s chief technology officer and product development czar, would be among the first to admit that Google reigns supreme in the search space.

Corning CFO and the economist who predicted 8 of the past 4 recessions

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When this is recession number seven for you, the state of the economy begins to drop into perspective — even if the pain is still real.

The chief financial officer of Corning glass, James Flaws, told the Reuters Global Technology Summit in New York that he read from the 158-year-old company’s official history and drew on his own experience to explain to younger managers what these downturns mean.

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