Special Coverage

Management Briefing Seminars

Anyone Bring a Corkscrew?

Ralph Gilles, vice president-Jeep/Truck and Advance Interior Design for Chrysler, is one guy who understands dinner-party protocol.

“We’re late to the hybrid party, but at least we’re going to bring a really nice bottle of wine,” he says, referring to his confidence in the upcoming hybrid versions of the Dodge Durango and Chrysler Aspen.

The new models will feature a dual-mode hybrid system coupled with the auto maker’s iconic Hemi engine.

Air Show

General Motors Vice Chairman Bob Lutz takes to the air during his speech here, flying a remote-control miniature helicopter around the room to demonstrate the increasing power and longevity of lithium-ion batteries.

“Sadly, miniature helicopters are not part of our future product plan,” says Lutz, known to fly real helicopters for fun.

All’s Fair

Bo Andersson, GM group vice president-global purchasing and supply chain, and former Swedish Army officer, on his recent trip to St. Petersburg, Russia: “What I felt very sad about is (St. Petersburg) used to be part of Sweden. We lost it in 1703 after a 21-year war, and we’re thinking about taking it back.”

The Chinese Are Coming

ArvinMeritor’s Chip McClure and Hyundai’s John Krafcik believe Chinese auto makers will build cars for established OEMs in the U.S., rather than trying to establish their own brands. But the Chinese don’t necessarily agree.

“I’ve looked at the map of the basement at Cobo Hall for (January’s) Detroit auto show,” says one Tier 1 supplier here, “and we’re surrounded by four Chinese auto makers.”

Lutz Gets Plugs In

Bob Lutz says he was asked to refrain from delivering a GM commercial when he accepted an invitation to speak at the Management Briefing Seminars.

“I thought, ‘Do you think I’d do something as blatant as delivering a GM pitch?’” Lutz tells the gathering, as three jumbo video screens behind him flash “Buy GM.”

“And do you think I would be so crass as to tell this respected audience that GM is the best?” he says. The screens flash “GM=Best.”

“Or do you think I’d show photo after photo of our great product lineup,” he says, as the screens show photo after photo of GM product.

Lutz not only managed to get the plugs in, he got a lot of laughs, too.

Chrysler VII?

Frank Klegon, Chrysler’s executive vice president-product development, notes its deja-vu all over again for his company, which once again is a standalone American auto maker.

“We’ve had more comebacks than Rocky,” he says. “And come to think of it, we’ve had our noses bloodied a few times, too.”

GM Ready to Ante Up

Product guru Bob Lutz calls General Motors’ upcoming product lineup “a good hand,” prefacing the statement with this icebreaker:

“A man walks into a poker game and he’s stunned to see a dog sitting there playing. Its paws are full of cards, he’s got a cigar dangling from his snout and he’s tossing chips in to cover his bet.

“The man says, ‘That’s gotta be the most amazing dog I’ve ever seen.’ And another man says, ‘Nah, he’s a lousy card player. Every time he gets a good hand he wags his tail!’”

Back Traction

The chiropractor for Jim Orchard, president of French seat maker Faurecia, says he likes Orchard and his colleagues.

“I love auto executives,” he tells Orchard. “They sit on their fat wallets, drive three or four hours a day, and when they get outside they go to the golf course and torque the hell out of their backs.”

Indiana Bob

Indiana Jones, move over. GM’s Bob Lutz takes a few digs at academia as he uncovers the real truth about Detroit’s “dinosaurs.”

“How many times in recent months have you seen some so-called expert, usually not from the industry and usually a professor at some unknown business school down South somewhere use the phrase ‘Detroit dinosaurs?’” he asks MBS attendees, referring in part to a recent USA Today guest editorial.

“We have routinely been dismissed as dumb, unprepared, entrenched, anachronistic and an endangered species,” he says. “Frankly it leaves me quite incredulous.

“Are we really to believe that three independent companies with three diverse global management teams, grounded by three different and independent boards all at once nearly imploded because we were all just at the same level of stupidity at the same time?

“Are we to believe there are no macroeconomic factors contributing to this situation? Are we to believe that there are no outside factors driving the domestic industry in a certain direction – factors that may not necessarily impact import manufacturers in the same way?

“Though if you listen to these experts, you must know this is really just a bunch of buffoonery on the part of a bunch of greedy, short-sighted U.S. car company executives. Well, I know that’s not true, and you know that’s not true.”