Ten minutes before a scheduled speech to the DaimlerChrysler technical symposium in Stuttgart on June 11, Dieter Zetsche, CEO of the Chrysler group, was nowhere to be found. As the minutes ticked down, aides started to sweat. "Anyone see him at the coffee break?" one staffer hissed. "No," was the anxious reply. But with two minutes to spare, Zetsche strode calmly to the podium. Had he been summoned for an emergency meeting? Had there been a closed-door session about vital goals? Well, yes and no. Zetsche admitted he had been outside in a limo watching Germany whip Cameroon in World Cup soccer action.
HOW GOOD IS GOOD ENOUGH? - Dr. Jeffrey Runge says the agency he heads, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, takes too long to write regulations - an average of 48 months. He says a reorganization he's implementing will help. But he also told auto writers last week that agency employees should stop trying to make every rule absolutely perfect. "Perfection takes a long time," said the NHTSA chief.
TALKING THE TALK - Kenneth Gilman, who became CEO of dealership group Asbury Automotive Inc. in December after a 25-year career with clothier The Limited, is getting comfortable with the auto retail business - so comfortable that he has caught onto the jargon. In a recent interview, Gilman made reference to training "green peas," the industry's slang for inexperienced dealership employees, particularly salespeople. Complimented on his growing knowledge of the industry, Gilman quipped: "I like to think of myself as more than just overhead."
DOING ITS PART - Six members of the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet in the Persian Gulf got to see the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in France this month, thanks to General Motors. The invitation came during another effort by GM to boost military morale: a five-day trip in May by the Corvette Race Team to the aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy in the gulf region. Gary Claudio, group marketing manager for GM's racing unit and a former New York cop, said, "We did it to build up morale and show these guys and gals we care." Claudio lost several friends and family members in the Sept. 11 attack on New York.
AWASH IN PRAISE - The redesigned 2002 Toyota Camry wasn't Motor Trend's Car of the Year, but it has been named the International Carwash Association's Most Washable Car. The suds-savviness of the Camry is no accident, Toyota says. "I can't say (it) is our top priority," said Dana Hargitt, a Toyota engineer. "But it does blend nicely with other things we're trying to do with these vehicles." Hargitt said a lack of protruding features make the car less wind-resistant as well as more at home in the car wash.