DETROIT ‚Äď Chin up, Detroit.
That‚Äôs the message fromMotor North America Inc. President Jim Press, who says better days are ahead for the auto industry here.
Calling this the ‚Äúyear of turmoil‚ÄĚ because of all the plant closings, job cuts and wrangling over health-care and labor costs atCorp., Motor Co. and Group, Press says Detroit still is and will remain the ‚Äúepicenter of the auto industry.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúThis is a brief moment in history that will give us a stronger foundation,‚ÄĚ he says of the restructuring under way. ‚ÄúThe opportunities for growth are many.‚ÄĚ
Press, recently named as the first American toMotor Corp.‚Äôs board of directors and singled out here by the Automotive Industry Action Group as its executive of the year, says industry insiders should ignore today‚Äôs depressing headlines and concentrate on the long-term objectives and global opportunities that are emerging for their companies.
‚ÄúRight now, we‚Äôre working through a situation of excess supply,‚ÄĚ he says. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs a tough period. But you have to avoid short-term thinking. There are long-term, global opportunities ahead.‚ÄĚ
Detroit should focus on a technological path back to good health and seek to solve issues surrounding vehicle safety, driver distraction and traffic congestion, Press says.
‚ÄúAll these things will be solved through innovation and technology,‚ÄĚ he says. ‚ÄúAnd the foundation will be right here in Detroit. Detroit will emerge from this in a strong position.‚ÄĚ
Press says he is encouraged by the restructuring moves at GM andand the potential sale of by DaimlerChrysler AG.
‚ÄúThe paradigm is changing,‚ÄĚ he says. ‚ÄúSolutions are being confronted. The issues have been there, but who‚Äôs done something? We‚Äôre finally getting down to addressing the root causes (of the industry‚Äôs problems).
‚ÄúDetroit just has to go through the process of entering the global age.‚ÄĚ
Press says Toyota, which will break ground today on a new assembly plant in Mississippi and launch Camry production at Subaru of Indiana Automotive Inc. on Friday, hasn‚Äôt ruled out Michigan as a site for any future manufacturing facilities.
‚ÄúEvery time we look at a new plant, it‚Äôs a blank sheet of paper,‚ÄĚ he says. ‚ÄúMichigan‚Äôs been looked at before and we will continue to look at it. You can‚Äôt have 10 first-place finishers.‚ÄĚ
Press would not speculate as to if and when Toyota would need to add more North American manufacturing capacity.
‚ÄúWe have 600,000 units (of vehicle assembly capacity) under construction right now,‚ÄĚ he says, citing its new Tundra plant in San Antonio and the Mississippi and Indiana operations. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôve got other projects on the table that need to get finalized. It‚Äôs too early to talk about what‚Äôs next.‚ÄĚ