WASHINGTON - Perhaps America's two major political parties should take notes.
While politicians here struggle with the transfer of U.S. governmental power, America's top trade association of automakers is having no trouble with a momentous change in its leadership.
Toyota executive Jim Press is expected this week quietly to take the reins of the group, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.
The event apparently will lead to no significant changes in the operations of the organization. And that is what's remarkable - that globalization of the industry has made the formerly unthinkable almost unremarkable.
'There were those who debated whether the industry could come together in a global association,' said Gloria Bergquist, alliance vice president. 'We hope we have shown we can agree on the issues.'
The alliance, open both to U.S. companies and those with overseas parents, was formed almost two years ago. Its creation followed Daimler-Benz AG's acquisition of Chrysler Corp. and the dissolution of the powerful Big 3 group, the American Automobile Manufacturers Association.
Alliance members decided to rotate the chairmanship of the new organization. Peter Pestillo, then the vice chairman of Ford Motor Co., was alliance chairman in 1999. Tom Gale, executive vice president of DaimlerChrysler, has held the post in 2000.
Now the alliance board of directors is scheduled on Tuesday, Dec. 5, to name its chairman for 2001. He will be Jim Press, executive vice president of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.
Harry Pearce, vice chairman of General Motors, is to be named vice chairman of the alliance, putting him in line to head the organization in 2002.
The board consists of representatives from Ford, GM, DaimlerChrysler, Toyota, Volkswagen of America Inc. and Nissan North America Inc. Seven other automakers are associate members.
The organization works mainly on environmental and safety issues.
Press declined to be interviewed until after the board meeting, but Jim Olson, senior vice president of Toyota Motor North America, said U.S. investments by companies such as Toyota made the end of us-vs.-them thinking inevitable.
Nevertheless, Olson said the changes have come more quickly than expected.
'If you'd have told me three years ago that Jim Press would be chairman (of an American automakers' association) and Harry Pearce vice chairman, I'd have said, `Nah, not that fast.' '
Olson, who becomes chairman of the alliance executive committee, believes more is at stake than mere collegiality among competitors.
Citing such challenges as the high cost of developing and building cleaner, more efficient powertrains, he said, 'It's forcing us to all march together.'