Cold Shoulder

Extreme temperature variations have the automotive media and other North American International Auto Show attendees here alternating between profusely shivering and perspiring.

Most of the common areas, including hallways and the main show floor at Cobo Hall, are blazing hot, making for an interesting contrast to the frigid January scene outdoors.

But while the press room at the aging facility is cold enough to numb fingers, particularly teeth-rattling is the sub-floor level where Nissan reserved a room for a media roundtable with top executives Monday.

It was so icy, Nissan North America exec Carlos Tavares apologized to journalists beforehand.

We wonder if jilted show organizers deliberately placed the auto maker in a zero-tolerance space, given the cold shoulder Nissan has given the Detroit show the last two years with no stand on the show floor.

Show Me the Money

Inquiring minds are curious about a confab between General Motors Chairman and CEO Ed Whitacre, GM board-member Stephen Girsky and Daimler AG Chairman Dieter Zetsche Monday.

The closed-door meeting, held at the Mercedes-Benz show stand on the floor of the North American International Auto Show, lasted about 20 minutes.

Daimler insiders close to Zetsche claim no knowledge of the meeting’s purpose, but an affable Whitacre tells Ward’s on the way into the session he is focused on a singular goal.

“To make money,” he says. “And you do that by selling more cars.”

Wrong Turn

GM executive Nick Reilly admits moving from the auto maker's booming international operations, which includes the red-hot Asian market, to lead a moribund European unit represents quite a turnabout.

"What did I do wrong?" Reilly quips. "I was really enjoying the time in the international operations with the growth happening there."

But, he adds, duty called. "We need to fix Europe and get it running in the right direction. I was asked to do it because of my background.

How can you turn down what the company asks?"

Burn, Baby, Burn

SMS Supercars Chairman and CEO Steve Saleen, looking around the Detroit show floor here, muses on the number of environmentally friendly vehicles on display.

“The chemistry of the show is a little bit different with all the green cars, and I want to point out (my) cars are hybrid as well: they burn gasoline and rubber at the same time,” Saleen tells Ward’s.

Game On

Asked during a roundtable discussion if there was a friendly sales rivalry between his Chinese operation and the U.S., Tim Lee, GM's newly installed head of international operations, says, "It would be fair to conclude there is a race."

GM sold 2.1 million light vehicles in the U.S. last year, while it delivered 1.8 million in China. GM nearly met its sales goal in China of 2 million units within five years, a bogey it set just last year.

It gives Lee confidence.

"I grew up an athlete in Ohio with the understanding that you always kept score. I will be keeping score," he says with a grin.

Snow Job

Daimler AG Chairman Dieter Zetsche sports a sling on his left arm. However, he denies arm-wrestling Formula 1 great Michael Schumacher out of retirement.

Schumacher, a 7-time F1 champ, has agreed to drive for Mercedes-Benz this year.

Zetsche claims he was sideswiped on the ski slopes by a 12-year-old snowboarder. “But she’s OK,” he adds.