2001 Detroit Show: Sound Bytes

January 14, 2001

Sponsor of TCC's 2001 Detroit Show coverage

Getting it all in perspective:

Carlos Ghosn detroit 2001

Carlos Ghosn detroit 2001

“There is no problem at a car company that good product cannot solve.” Carlos Ghosn, President, Nissan Motor Co.

“I’m paranoid about it, but I’m paranoid about most things.” Ford CEO Jac Nasser, referring to increasing competition.

“A bad decision can destroy our reputation. That is why you strive for the highest standards and quality.” Fujio Cho, President, Toyota Motor Co.

“There are no bad cars out there anymore, just good, better and best.” Honda Motor Executive Vice President Tom Elliott.

“You need them. You don’t want to go broke with them.” GM Chairman Jack Smith on how small cars are a critical part of the lineup, but usually lose money.

On the automotive sales slump:

“The speed things deteriorated was faster than we expected.” Martin Inglis, director of Ford’s North American operations.

“The absolute drop is horrific, but what you’re left with is pretty good.” Inglis, noting that even after the huge fall-off in December sales, the market is operating at a pace that would make 2001 the third-best year in U.S. automotive history.

“All this talk of recession could be a self-fulfilling prophecy that could push us into a crisis.” Juergen Hubbert, the number-two executive at DaimlerChrysler AG.

“It’s not the volume that worries us about the car market. It’s the level of incentives.” Ghosn, referring to the possibility of a price war as sales slip.

“Fortunately, because we have a waiting list, we don’t see the ups and downs. We may have someone drop off, but someone else is already there to take their place.” Stewart Robinson, CEO, Ferrari/Maserati North America.

Pierre Gagnon detroit 2001

Pierre Gagnon detroit 2001

“We have to create demand. We have to create pull.” Pierre Gagnon, the senior American executive at Mitsubishi Motors of America.
“I think you’ll see some large assembly plants closing down permanently.” Jay Ferron, partner in the consulting firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers.

“The supplier base is out of gas and caught between the dog and a fire hydrant.” Consultant Ferron.

On automotive design:

“It seems the world's designers have all caught the same disease at the same time. It reminds me a little bit of modern art in the '50s and '60s when the art became so non-representational that you had to read two pages in the catalog to figure out what the artist was trying to tell you.” Former Chrysler President and now Exide CEO Robert Lutz.

“This is designed to look like a car, and if that’s out of style, I apologize.” Lutz, who is also a major shareholder in the new Cunningham Motor Co.

“This is an animal.” Chrysler CEO Dieter Zetsche, on the next-generation Viper sports car.

“Making a statement of individuality is a part of the Jeep mystique.” Tom Sidlik, general manager of Jeep.

“We’re bringing the wagon back. It had a low image in this country, but it’s…attractive, uses space well, and could be trend-setting.” DaimlerChrysler’s Juergen Hubbert, on the introduction of the C-Class wagon.

Dieter Zetsche detroit 2001

Dieter Zetsche detroit 2001

“Exciting, breakthrough products made this company, and those type products will make this company stand tall again.” Chrysler CEO Zetsche.
“I don’t think too many people (see) retro as the way to go for the future.” GM CEO Rick Wagoner.

“Of all the vehicles we’ve done, this is unabashedly retro,” Ford head of design J Mays, after the roll-out of the automaker’s Forty-Nine concept vehicle.

On concept cars:

“This is not a dream car. This is a work in progress.” Carlos Ghosn, President, Nissan Motor Co., referring to the Infiniti FX45 concept SUV. Infiniti designers referred to the same vehicle as a “bionic cheetah.”

“This takes Jeep back to the original.” Trevor Creed, new director of design for the Chrysler Group, referring to the Jeep Willys concept vehicle.

“It inspires the emotions that got most of us into the (car) business in the first place.” design director J Mays, on the Ford Forty-Nine.

“It’s got character everywhere.” Creed on the high-style sports car, the Chrysler Crossfire.

“This sure doesn’t look like any Honda I’ve ever seen before.” Tom Elliott, EVP of Honda, on the quirky Concept X crossover vehicle.

Rick Wagoner detroit 2001

Rick Wagoner detroit 2001

“We’ll do some of them. Some are basically designer interpretations of what’s (already) coming out.” GM President and CEO Wagoner on the automaker’s ’01 concepts. 

The crisis at Chrysler:

“Clearly, this was a merger of equals.” DaimlerChrysler Chairman Juergen Schrempp, insisting he didn’t mean it when he told the Financial Times, last October, he always intended a takeover of Chrysler.

“You can never save a company just on the cost side.” Chrysler CEO Dieter Zetsche.

“You have your ups-and-downs in life….(but) whatever criticism is leveled against the company or me personally, I have to take it, but keep my eye on the business.” Schrempp.

“They’re incredibly important to our future. Our job is to keep going and rebuild the reputation of the company.” Chrysler design chief Trevor Creed on how concept cars helped save Chrysler before, and could do it again.

“It would not make sense at all to spin off Chrysler.” Schrempp. 

Green machines:

“We intend to roll it out to other SUVs as rapidly as the resources of the supply base and our own company will allow.” Ford product development director Richard Parry-Jones on the hybrid-electric technology which will be used in the Escape and Explorer SUVs.

Harry Pearce detroit 2001

Harry Pearce detroit 2001

“We are prepared to deliver sustainable mobility worldwide.” GM Vice Chairman Harry Pearce, promising to roll out an array of hybrids, fuel cell vehicles and other “green machines,” if consumer demand warrants.

“In the long-term, how we really can help the environment is not just to make a statement, but to put volume production (of green vehicles) on the road.” Pearce.

“There is a difference between consumer demand and what the public says it wants.” Juergen Hubbert, who oversees passenger car development for Mercedes-Benz. 

On forecasting the industry’s future:

“Here’s what I’ve learned from Nostradamus: If you want to know what the future will look like, look around you.” Ron Zarrella, president of GM North America, reading from the book of the legendary seer, during the automaker’s concept car roll-out.

“The days of anyone having a 50-percent share are over. That has less to do with GM and more to do with the fact that we have more (carmakers) with tremendous capabilities worldwide.” GM Vice Chairman Harry Pearce, downplaying the automaker’s 20-year share slide.

“We always expected the Japanese and Europeans would come into the big truck segments. I’m just surprised it has taken them so long to do so.” Ford CEO Nasser on the new Japanese full-size pickups and SUVs. 

On telematics and other advanced technology:

“We need to learn what level of distraction is unacceptable.” Ford safety “czar” Helen Petrauskas, on how cellphones and other technology can distract drivers from the act of driving.  

On shaking things up:

“I don’t want to give the perspective we’re throwing things out and starting new, because great companies don’t do that. But occasionally, you need a bolt from the blue.” GM CEO Wagoner.

“It was a stimulus for more rapid changes at Mitsubishi.” Pierre Gagnon, the top American executive at Mitsubishi, referring to a sales reporting scandal, in which thousands of cars were reported “sold” to buyers including Elvis Presley.

“It helps Chrysler, because now you have a ‘car guy’ back on top.” DaimlerChrysler’s Juergen Hubbert, on the firing of Chrysler President Jim Holden and his replacement by Dieter Zetsche, one-time product development chief at Mercedes-Benz.

“We haven’t put anyone else on notice. (But) ultimately, if you can’t make a business case out of something, you’ve got to make a tough call.” GM’s Wagoner, on rumors another division may follow Oldsmobile into the automotive graveyard.

“We felt this great sucking sound as attention went elsewhere.” Mazda Motor Co. CEO Mark Fields on what happened when its U.S. partner, Ford, acquired a number of European luxury brands, including Volvo and Land Rover.

“When you find (a problem), you go out and get it (fixed) as quickly as possible, rather than wait until we have a half million of them.” Ford’s Inglis, on why the company ordered five recalls of the Escape, some for only a few hundred vehicles. 

On partnerships and joint ventures:

“What we take to the party is our gasoline engines. What they take is diesels, so we both benefit.” GM Europe President Mike Burns on his company’s expanding partnership with Fiat.

Jac Nasser detroit 2001

Jac Nasser detroit 2001

“If we weren’t having these talks, someone should be asking ‘Why aren’t Ford and Toyota having talks?’” Ford CEO Nasser confirming the two makers are discussing various deals.

For all our coverage on Detroit 2001, click here.

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