WASHINGTON -- Fred Webber says he won't change things much now that he is the permanent head of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. But there's one notable exception.
Webber says he will step up efforts to expand the membership of automakers' main Washington lobby. He confirms that Hyundai Motor America and Nissan North America Inc. are the principal targets, calling the Asian companies "critical components" of the U.S. industry.
Frank Shin, Hyundai's Washington representative, says the company is "not yet ready" to consider membership. Nissan officials did not comment, but Nissan recently indicated it is satisfied with representation provided by its Washington office and its membership in the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers represents nine automakers that control 80 percent of the U.S. market. The other conspicuous nonmember is American Honda Motor Co. Inc.
Webber, 67, a four-decade veteran of the Washington scene, became interim president and CEO in 2004. Since then, member companies sought a high-profile leader.
Alliance members determined that "the person we're looking for is right here,'' Vice President Gloria Bergquist said last week.