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Q&A: Ford President Mark Fields

The risks and rewards of skipping a federal bailout.

by on Jul.21, 2009

Ford's decision to skip a federal bailout certainly hasn't hurt sales, says the automaker's president, Mark Fields.

Ford's decision to skip a federal bailout certainly hasn't hurt sales, says the automaker's president, Mark Fields.

The U.S. new car market is bound to recover…someday.  But so far, it has defied predictions of a turnaround and continues operating at levels not seen in decades – volumes down nearly 50% from the record sales of the early part of this decade.  Surprisingly few makers have escaped the impact of the slump, though a few have some positive stories to tell.

While Ford, for example, is down overall, its retail share has actually been up a bit, year-over-year.  Why?  Well, there are several possible explanations, including the automaker’s risky decision to reject a federal bailout, even as Washington tossed tens of billions at its cross-town rivals.

News you need!

News you need!

TheDetroitBureau.com posed that and several other questions to 49-year-old Mark Fields, Ford’s President of the Americas, during today’s media preview of the automaker’s 2010 product line-up.  Jump to the next page to see what he has to say.

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Q&A: GM’s Susan Docherty

“We have no reason to be cocky or arrogant anymore.”

by on Apr.13, 2009

"We have no reason to be cocky or arrogant anymore," says GM Vice President Susan Docherty.

"We have no reason to be cocky or arrogant anymore," says GM Vice President Susan Docherty.

She may have one of the toughest jobs at General Motors.  As the new vice president of the BPG Group, Susan Docherty has to find a way to take three troubled brands, Buick, Pontiac and GMC truck, and stitch them into a cohesive – and profitable – distribution channel. BPG is one of the three remaining pillars of the downsized General Motors, the other two channels being Chevrolet and Cadillac. It’s also one that critics say the company can no longer afford.

Company insiders say that if anyone is up to the challenge, it’s the 45-year-old Docherty, whose most recent assignment put her in charge of GM’s Western Region. It was a humbling experience, considering that in states like California, the automaker is barely an also-ran in an import-dominated market.

TheDetroitBureau’s Paul A. Eisenstein caught up with Docherty following her appearance at the New York International Auto Show, where GMC unveiled its critical new crossover, the Terrain.

TDB: General Motors has been making some major changes since it began asking for a government bailout.

Docherty: There’s an impression people have that we just got religion. A lot of what’s happening was already in place even before we went to Washington (last year) to ask for help. There’s no doubt in my mind that we’re not the same old GM. But with the spotlight on us, it’s forced us to make decisions we might have wanted to years ago. We’ve made more changes, at GM, in the last eight months than we did in the last eight years. But change is not new for us. This isn’t our first rodeo.

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Will Gen Y Destroy the Auto Industry?

They’ve killed the music, newspaper and telecomm industries.

by on Feb.18, 2009

Will Gen Y save or kill the auto industry?

Will Gen Y save or kill the auto industry?

Will Gen Y kill the auto industry?

That’s the provocative question posed by a new study from AutoPacific. And before you write that off as preposterous, consider that the generation just entering the automotive market has already driven the nail in the coffin of the newspaper business, all but destroyed the recording industry, and forever changed the way the telecommunications industry functions.

In some parts of the world, we’re already seeing the impact young consumers can have on the auto industry. In Japan, for example, many potential Gen Y motorists are foreswearing the automobile, insisting they’d rather walk, ride a bike, or stick to mass transit.

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Barack to Arnold: We’ll Get Right On It

Obama expected to announce swift action on California's request to regulate tailpipe CO2

by on Jan.26, 2009

CA Rules Would Limit CO2

CA Rules Would Limit CO2

It is being reported that on Monday President Obama will pledge a quick review of the Bush Administration’s decision last March to deny California’s request for a Clean Air Act waiver that would enable the state to put in place its stringent greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars and light trucks.

On the day after the inauguration, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wrote Obama with such a request, backing a parallel letter from the head of the state’s air resources board to incoming EPA administrator Lisa Jackson.

Mr. Obama ran on “change” and the expected announcements appear aimed at making it clear that his administration is serious in that regard. Although it may take some time for EPA to formally review and reconsider California’s waiver request, granting it would deliver on one of Obama’s campaign pledges. It would also represent a tangible step toward stronger climate regulation, one that the incoming administration can take on its own, without waiting for Congressional action.

Automakers have continued to strongly protest California’s stronger standards, arguing that a single, federal program regulating automobile CO2 emissions is much less costly. They point to Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards as the preferred approach.

The state of California, along with environmentalists, assert that the stronger standards are both feasible and cost-effective, and would result in greater emissions reductions that those from CAFE standards. (This writer testified in favor of the California standards when they were up for approval before the state’s Air Resources Board in September 2004.)

The new administration has also said it will move quickly to finalize new rules setting CAFE standards for cars and light trucks through 2015. A draft rule developed by the Bush Administration had been all but finalized in early December when the GM and Chrysler bailout pleas reached Washington. At that point, the Bush team put the rule on old, leaving it to be finalized by the Obama team. (more…)