TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Most people up here think Jim Press gave the most powerful speech of this year's Management Briefing Seminars, at least through Wednesday. That's based on a quick, unscientific compilation of unsolicited comments.
It was the stuff you heard in conversations at the lunch table and in the buzz underneath the yellow tent during social hour.
If you've heard the Toyota sales honcho speak, you know he is great on his feet, connects well with the audience, uses humor effectively and stays on message.
And Wednesday's message was strong.
In what political pundits might call a major policy address by an industry leader, Press called for a meeting of the industry's top minds to chart a course toward social responsibility by voluntarily tackling issues such as fuel economy and global warming. It would be at a neutral site where automaker and supplier execs would meet without company name badges to hash things out and collectively decide what is best.
Yeah, I know, it sounds a little like a meeting of the Trilateral Commission. Or maybe a sit-down of the five families held somewhere in upstate New York. And it's the kind of confab that's certain to attract the attention of the feds and other regulators that worry about antitrust issues.
(Can't you see the execs pulling up in long, chauffeur-driven limos or being whisked to an undisclosed mountain resort by mysterious black helicopters with no markings?)
But, you have to admit, it's a big idea.
It could give the auto industry a new image -- and, of course, make the world a better place at the same time. All it would take is establishing goals for raising fuel economy, reducing emissions and a couple of other things.
Yeah, I know money is tight right now. And people resources are stretched thin, too. But it makes good long-term sense to deal with these issues sooner rather than later.
Press said the industry should develop its own vision for the future and not wait for regulators to do it. Drive the process, he said, don't get run over by it.
It makes perfect sense in Traverse City, where people expect to hear big ideas. The trick will be to get the right people into the limos and the helicopters.
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