Economy, not terrorism, cuts auto industry travel

Air auto
7 industry giants that own or lease private aircraft

1. General Motors

2. DaimlerChrysler AG

3. Delphi Automotive Systems Corp.

4. Visteon Corp.

5. Johnson Controls Inc.

6. Dana Corp.

7. AutoNation Inc.

The decrease in commercial flight schedules and the increase in airport security are not changing the way top automakers, suppliers and dealers are transporting their employees.

The industry's giants have not increased their dependence on charter aircraft and are not thinking of purchasing new planes.

The Big 3 and suppliers this year placed restrictions on travel, limiting employee air travel to trips deemed critical to business, but those decisions were made to cut costs, not to avoid flying commercial aircraft.

For example, before Sept. 11, DaimlerChrysler, in its attempt to save money, reduced travel costs by about 50 percent compared with the previous year.

"After 9-11, we initially thought we should make that more stringent," said Charles Braswell, director of global travel management and business services for DaimlerChrysler. "(But) we thought no, we don't want to curtail more."

Dependence on private planes has not increased since Sept. 11, says Tony Cervone, General Motors spokesman.

About six months ago, Lear Corp. urged employees to conduct business through conference calls instead of flying, to cut costs, says Andrea Puchalsky, a Lear spokeswoman. But the Southfield, Mich., supplier has not made any other drastic changes in its travel policies.

Said Puchalsky: "At some point, you're going to have to get on commercial aircraft. The company is too large to look for alternatives that would accommodate everybody."

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