Summit Notebook

Exclusive outtakes from industry leaders

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. 

Funneling federal money to new entrants to the automaking world does not sit right with Tim Leuliette, chief executive of parts supplier Dura Automotive. 

“If there’s a real market for electric vehicles, the OEMs will do it,” Leuliette said, using industry jargon for automakers. “We don’t need to have people who have never built a car in their life take $1 billion of our tax money and say ‘I can do it too.’” 

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. 

How to gum up an exchange merger: salt water

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It’s a puzzle M&A bankers and corporate executives have been trying to solve for years: how far from your home market can an acquisition take place and ultimately stumble over cultural differences? It’s a question that looms large as quintessentially Italian automaker Fiat prepares to swallow up Chrysler – inventor of the K-car and the minivan – and which reportedly haunts St Louis-based employees of Anheuser Busch in the aftermath of their company’s takeover by the penny pinching Belgians and Brazilians at InBev.

Gary Katz, CEO of Deutsche Boerse unit International Securities Exchange, insisted during his appearance at the Reuters Exchanges and Trading Summit that all has been sweetness and light since the Germans assumed control of the upstart American options exchange and that there has been “nearly zero turnover” since the takeover.

AUDIO – For the automakers — No Chapter 11, please

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The plans are in.

Now comes the waiting, which, as Tom Petty can tell you, is the hardest part.

Now that General Motors Corp and Chrysler LLC have filed their plans of reorganization to the U.S. government and have started what looks like a long and not-painless process to make themselves smaller, more profitable and better suited to the current U.S. demand for new cars.

For Bill Diehl, chief executive of manufacturing consulting firm BBK, one thing that he would not favor would be a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing by one of the two troubled automakers.

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