Speaking With Forked Tongue

Although manufacturing is a bigger industry than farming, “every state has a secretary of agriculture, but I don’t know of any that have a secretary of manufacturing,” says Al Frink, assistant secretary for the U.S. Dept. of Commerce.

Frink tells attendees here he will encourage states to add a manufacturing czar, but notes agricultural companies, from fertilizer to irrigation makers, speak with one voice, while manufacturing does not.

Me But Not You

Toyota Motor Corp.’s youth-focused Scion division is giving “guerrilla” marketing a new twist – telling some customers not to buy the car. In a print ad shown to attendees here, a photo of a wildly painted Scion runs with the tagline: “So Wrong for So Many.”

The ad underscores the implicit individuality of the brand, which Steve Haag, Scion corporate manager, says is key to Scion’s success. That means not selling too many cars too fast and trying to avoid enticing anyone older than 30 to buy one – it would be so uncool.

Free to Be Me

If China’s economy were as free as America’s, the Chinese currency could as easily depreciate as appreciate, says Jack Perkowski, CEO of ASIMCO

Technologies Ltd., a Chinese supplier.

China makes products more cheaply than other countries not because of currency manipulation, he says, but because of a huge labor surplus.

Under Wraps ’Til Thursday

General Motors Corp. Chairman Rick Wagoner will add some pizzazz when he addresses the Management Briefing Seminars on Thursday and as GM takes the wraps off some of its upcoming vehicles, spotted on Tuesday near the Grand Traverse Resort.

Among the five vehicles are an E85 version of the Chevy Tahoe; a Saturn Sky convertible – possibly the Redline version coming this fall; a Saturn Outlook cross/utility vehicle; and the all-new ’07 Chevy Silverado pickup.

There’s also an unidentified Chevy compact or midsize car, perhaps the Camaro GM is expected to announce Thursday it plans to build as early as 2008.

To Have and to Hold

Noting cars costing $150,000-$200,000 are the fastest growing segment in America, ASC Inc. Vice Chairman Chris Theodore says, “Sadly, there is a (growing gap between) the 'haves' and 'have nots.' “Maybe the 'haves' and the 'have mores' is more politically correct."

Gimme a Ring

Magna Steyr Fahrzeugtechnik AG & Co. KG chief Wolf-Dietrich Schulz, sockless because his luggage didn't arrive with him from Europe, traded business cards with the well-groomed Mary Barra, GM executive director of global manufacturing engineering.

Both were panelists on the World Class Manufacturing panel, and both know Magna Steyr would love to build more than Saab convertibles for GM. "Can I give you a ring; exchange ideas?" he asks. "Certainly," she answers.

Hard-Drive Heaven

By 2010, 90% of auto makers will be installing hard drives in their cars, says hard-drive maker Seagate Technology, exhibiting at MBS for the first time.

Seagate began shipping to an aftermarket navigation/entertainment customer in Japan two months ago and plans to have OEM business in a year, Sales Manager Mark Baldwin says.

Big navigation files already are approaching more than 10 gigabytes, and future applications using satellite imagery could be as big as 90 gigabytes.

However, the real driver for data storage is rear-seat entertainment. Seagate demonstrates at the briefings here a system that allows each rear-seat passenger to see different movies, while front-seat occupants study navigation and listen to audio, all from a central hard drive.