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.’” 

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