He said it
On Feb. 11, 2009, just months after the Detroit 3 were first called to Washington to testify before Congress, Hyundai Motor America CEO John Krafcik spoke at the Midwest Automotive Media Association's annual breakfast during the Chicago Auto Show.
Among his messages, Krafcik discussed accountability and the troubled auto industry's perception problem.
Some excerpts from Krafcik's speech that day on reputation, fuel economy and customer satisfaction:
There is no other business with a bigger perception problem. Let's face it, our reputation as an industry is horrible.
In the U.S., we are viewed for the most part as a slow, dimwitted industry that is typically unresponsive to consumer and environmental needs.
If that weren't bad enough, our executives are criticized for lavish compensation, abundant perks and unnecessary entitlements.
We consistently damage our own brand reputations by resorting to costly discounts, rebates and desperate sales tactics to keep our plants running and to cover our fixed costs.
No wonder our industry is viewed with contempt.
We need to work more consistently as an industry to change those negative perceptions.
By taking personal responsibility for our shortcomings, rather than ignoring them, we gain back our credibility.
I believe that in standing up and declaring ourselves accountable for the quality of our products, our sales tactics, our commitment to customers and the environment, we can bring this great industry back to the esteemed position it deserves.
It's abundantly clear that improved fuel economy makes sense for our industry and for our country.
In this regard, we've taken significant steps at Hyundai to move forward as an environmental leader.
... We've pledged to achieve a fleet average of 35 miles per gallon by 2015 -- a full five years ahead of NHTSA's original deadline.
A bold position perhaps, but we were honestly surprised to be alone amongst all automakers in taking a position like this one.
Going forward, we'd love to have some company here.
As an industry, we need to take a longer term view of our environmental strategies.
That means stepping up and getting ahead of the regulators where that makes sense.
We think that time is now.
We will exercise more sensitivity, more discipline and be more inclusive in all aspects of our business.
We will increasingly lead government regulators on key matters of safety, energy efficiency and the environment.