Tuesday, August 22, 2006

GM exec has story for grandkids

Saturday, August 12, 2006
Business Insider
GM exec has story for grandkids
The Detroit News

The perks of his job are as big as the challenges for Mark LaNeve, General Motors Corp.'s head of North American marketing and sales. So he may have to figure out a way to boost GM's flagging market share, but he also gets to play golf with Tiger Woods and Jerome Bettis. The trio hit the links together during the Pro-Am at the Buick Open in Grand Blanc earlier this month. Business Insider asked LaNeve to describe teeing it up next to El Tigre and The Bus, and this was his account: "I met Tiger for the first time on the first tee and five minutes later he's hitting a laser beam 300 yards down the middle. Somehow, hitting next, I managed to hit one in the fairway and make par and that was a great feeling. Tiger is a regular guy -- except he is Tiger Woods. It was a great experience to play with him and we had a lot of fun with the Bus."

An Element of surprise

The Japanese have a knack for creating niches by spotting opportunities others have missed. They were the first, for instance, to develop the highly popular crossovers -- sport-utility vehicles built on car platforms. How about a sedan for customers hankering for an ordinary-looking vehicle with just a smidgen of pep? Toyota is trying to corner this market with a sport edition of the Camry. Now rival Honda Motor Co. has come up with an even more oxymoronic offering -- a sport-tuned version of the boxy Element. Honda says the Element SC comes with a sportier suspension and projector beam headlights. But where does the spoiler go?

Pick your battles

Toyota Motor Corp. and GM are fighting it out for the title of world's No. 1 automaker. But Gary Convis, one of Toyota's highest-ranking U.S. executives, doubts he'd want to face GM CEO Rick Wagoner on the basketball court. Convis grew up in Battle Creek and played for the Michigan State Spartans. Wagoner hit the boards for round ball powerhouse Duke University and once dreamed of a career in the NBA. The two executives shared the stage this week for a discussion about the future of the auto industry during the annual Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City. "These days, I still do OK playing hoops against most Toyota executives -- at least those that are around five feet tall," Convis cracked. "But I'm not sure I want to get on the court with you, Rick."

Details, details, details

Bo Andersson, GM's top purchasing executive, is known for his impressive command of details, a skill that was on display this week in Traverse City. It happened this way: John Krafcik, Hyundai's vice president of strategic planning and product development in the Unites States, was asked when the Korean automaker would launch its own luxury nameplate in the mold of Toyota Motor Corp.'s Lexus brand. Krafcik declined to answer, saying he didn't want to tip off his competitors, including Andersson. Asked how many suppliers Hyundai has, Krafcik replied: "Ask Bo Andersson." Later that day, Andersson opened his speech by reporting that Hyundai has 440 suppliers, including 64 that serve both GM and Hyundai, and that Hyundai would announce a luxury brand on Oct. 16. He said the name would start with an A or a P, because in the alphabet both are seven letters away from H -- for Hyundai -- and Toyota is seven letters long. It wasn't clear if Andersson was joking.

Like father, like daughter

Andersson's cost-cutting zeal has apparently filtered down to his 14-year-old daughter, who went to Saks Fifth Avenue and saw a $120 necklace she wanted to buy with her own money. She checked out the Internet and got "25 price quotes," Andersson said, and eventually bought the necklace online from an outfit in Hawaii. She then took it to Saks to compare and reported that it was identical. "It's scary," Andersson said. "Now she's benchmarking everything. She thinks her weekly allowance is too low."


After years of enduring golf and fishing tales from David Cole, loquacious impresario of the annual Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City, some auto executives served up some gentle ribbing this week.

DaimlerChrysler AG's Eric Ridenour, arriving with a slide show, suggested novel incentives for next year's attendees.

"Accumulate enough frequent fly-fisher miles and win an outing with Dave Cole. See the angling expert up close, and perhaps become immortalized in Dave's fishing stories for years to come," Ridenour said, projecting an image of Cole holding an enormous fish.

Or, No Fly Zone, a conference track completely free of fishing stories and golf jokes.

And finally, "Traverse Shizzle," a special package featuring a free round of golf and a trip to the casino with rapper and occasional Chrysler pitchman Snoop Dogg.

Contributors: Mark Truby, David Shepardson, Bryce Hoffman and Christine Tierney.

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