It's a study in contrasts: Jobs, sales and prosperity are shifting from old Detroit to Asian automakers as import brands gain market share.
Last week's headlines highlighted the shift. First, General Motors canned its ad purchasing company and gave the $3.3 billion worth of media buying to a rival. GM's ad agencies got the message: Don't get complacent in tough times.
Next, Bill Ford Jr. said he would link his compensation to Ford Motor Co.'s automotive profits. No profits, no paycheck.
Meanwhile, several suppliers confronted a cash-flow crisis as Ford Motor and GM trimmed production. Collins & Aikman CEO David Stockman resigned, and Visteon Corp.'s credit rating fell two notches as the company delayed its quarterly earnings report.
Inexplicably, supplier CEOs are making more money than ever. According to Automotive News' annual survey of 31 automotive chief executives, supplier bosses took nine of the top 10 spots this year.
But Detroit's gloom isn't universal. In fact, it's shaping up as another solid year for the U.S. auto industry, with projected sales of 16.9 million units. That figure is the same as in 2004, the fourth best in history.
The winners are Asian automakers, who are expanding their capacity to design future vehicles to suit U.S. tastes. Toyota, Nissan and Hyundai each have plans to expand technical centers. And they are doing it in the Big 3's back yard.
Toyota plans to build a $150 million technical center in suburban Detroit - its second in the area. And Hyundai plans a $117 million technical center near Detroit that will hire 550 engineers.
And who is watching over all of this? Billionaire Kirk Kerkorian, who brought in financial whiz Jerry York to help him manage his newly purchased GM stock. A decade ago, Kerkorian called on ex-Chrysler Corp. CFO York to mastermind his attempted takeover of Chrysler. Stay tuned.
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