What they said wasn't what they meant

Inquiring minds want to know if there's a breakout of foot-in-mouth disease among global automotive executives. Did GM's Asia/Pacific president suffer a slip of the lip, or was he misinterpreted? Did Mitsubishi's COO mean what he said, or did an interview even take place?

At least one GM Korea spinmeister tells WAW that Rudolph Schlais Jr. in an interview with three Korean financial reporters didn't mean to say that GM might not make up its mind on buying bankrupt Daewoo Motor Co. Ltd. until sometime next year.

The comment was meant to express frustration and not to be taken literally, sources say. A flurry of news reports to the contrary have caused consternation in Korea's governmental circles and has some leading security analysts believing that GM may back away from the deal.

Observers find it astounding Mr. Schlais said anything, considering GM, Daewoo and its creditor banks have a written confidentiality agreement.

Officials at Hyundai Motor Co. Ltd., likewise, tell WAW they were caught by surprise by a report that DaimlerChrysler AG planned to dump its Korean alliance partner in favor of a cozier relationship with its other Asian partner, Mitsubishi Motors Corp. Hyundai and DC also have a confidentiality agreement.

The published report, picked up by news wires, quotes Rolf Eckrodt, DC's handpicked overseer at Mitsubishi, as saying talks aimed at a 50-50 commercial truckmaking deal with Hyundai would soon cease and that he couldn't rule out DC shedding its 11% stake in the Korean automaker.

DC denies the report. Mr. Eckrodt goes further, saying the interview on the sidelines of DC's annual shareholders' meeting in Berlin never took place, despite numerous quotes to the contrary.