Leuliette even proposed a name for such a group: the American Automotive Industry Association. It would represent the interests of carmakers, suppliers, dealers, labor and other stakeholders, he said.
In addition to external communications, the association would help the industry by promoting a "common product creation process" to speed and reduce the cost of bringing products to market, Leuliette said.
It would be an open-source information portal that would use the Internet to connect the automakers, suppliers, associations, universities, government agencies, unions and others, he said.
"This is no pipe dream. There is a group working on this strategy right now," he said.
He said the Obama administration could be asked to help fund "this collaborative, next-generation management and product development process."
Leuliette said the American movie industry faced a similar crisis in the 1960s when nudity and violence in films began to erode consumer confidence in the product.
The industry organized and found a forceful spokesman in Jack Valenti to convince Congress and regulators that the industry could police itself, Leuliette said. The result was a voluntary rating system that labeled content G for general audiences, M for mature audiences, R for restricted and finally X.
The auto industry, he said, faces a similar challenge in showing that it has made strides to achieve the kinds of quality, fuel-efficient and reliable products that the public can support.