No More Tears

One of the positive signs that has Vice Chairman Bob Lutz confident GM is headed for profitability is the narrowing dollar-yen exchange, which is easing pricing pressure for U.S. auto makers.

“Twenty years ago, when (Chrysler Chairman) Lee Iaccoca first talked about the peril to the U.S. auto industry if the Japanese were allowed to continue to undervalue the yen, it was a $4,000 cost advantage” for Japanese importers in the U.S., Lutz tells a gathering of the Society of Automotive Analysts on the eve of the Detroit auto show’s media opening.

“Now the dollar-yen rate is such that Japanese producers say it is ‘terrible, terrible,’ and they don’t know how they’re going to make money in this market,” he adds.

“And my eyes are dry.”

Grounds for Complaints

In years past, jaded journalists gauged the optimism of auto makers by the size of the shrimp they served at media receptions.

Reflecting, perhaps, a new aggressiveness, American Suzuki this year serves alligator. Go figure.

Meanwhile, in the onsite newsroom here sponsored by Michelin Group, journalists can fortify themselves with “Bailout Blend” coffee.

For the record, it was a little bitter.

Veering to the Right

GM’s Bob Lutz laments to reporters the wind-down of the Pontiac brand, which he has called a personal favorite numerous times.

Never at a loss for a zinger, Lutz notes the acclaimed G8 sedan will live on as the Chevrolet Caprice in the law-enforcement sector.

"So after so many years on the wrong side of law, Pontiac goes over to the right side," he says.

Dingell Darts

Michigan Congressman John Dingell, dean of the House with some 54 years of service, is not known to mince words, and today is no exception.

The 83-year-old Democrat bares his teeth while addressing a luncheon of Washington power brokers visiting the Detroit show here.

"The auto industry didn't cause the economic downturn," Dingell says, blaming instead Wall Street executives bent on making an easy buck on home mortgages.

"And we're still bailing them out."

You Don’t Say

General Motors executives Mark Reuss and Susan Docherty win the understatement-of-the-show award.

At the outset of their news conference to introduce new Buick- and GMC-brand vehicles, Reuss, president-GM North America, says: “A lot has happened since we were here a year ago.”

Adds sales and marketing chief Docherty: “2009 was very tough.”

No kidding.