2004 Detroit Show, Part VIII Page 2

January 6, 2004

Bill’s Not Going Anywhere

Bill Ford 2004

Bill Ford 2004

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Ford Motor Co. Chairman Bill Ford isn’t updating his resume anytime soon, he says. There were some rough and unhappy times during his first year on the job, which Ford compares to a “highwire act without a net.” But “I’m actually enjoying the heck out of it at this time,” he insists, adding that “seeing this battleship turn around is giving me enormous satisfaction.” There’s been some speculation in the Detroit automotive community about just how long the young family heir might want to maintain the grueling pace managing a company in turnaround. But if anyone expected him to hand over the reins to an outsider, Ford asserts “I’ve got a job and I’m going to see it through.”


Cowger, Wagoner Upbeat on GM Gains

The New Year is getting off to a good start, or so says Gary Cowger, president of General Motors’ North American automotive operations. He reckons that “the combination of new products and the improving economy bodes well.” That should help GM endure the withering rebate wars. “Incentives will stay,” said Cowger, “but I do not see an incremental rise,” unlike 2003, when givebacks surged to record levels. Cowger even draws comfort from the latest market share figures despite their showing the Big Three again losing ground to their import rivals. “In November and December, we had 30 percent plus” share, well over the automaker’s stretch goal of 29 percent for the year as a whole. GM’s new product will account for about 24 percent of the vehicles it sells in North America, and that should draw in more customers, according to the executive. The big challenge will be winning back passenger car customers ceded to the Japanese over the last two decades. GM is trying to win them back by demonstrating the merits of its new products through its 24-hour test-drive program. And to Cowger, it is proving a solid success. “We’ve done 500,000 test drives,” he tells TCC, “and they have resulted in 170,000 sales.”

GM officials are upbeat about more than just the U.S. market. Despite the economic uncertainties that gripped many of the world’s major nations, booming demand in China helped propel global car sales in 2003 to a record 58.5 million, according to General Motors Chairman Rick Wagoner. And the CEO told TheCarConnection, “It could be closer to 60 million” in 2004, “with growth in every region.”

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