Detroit's auto dominance won't return
BY TOM WALSH
DETROIT FREE PRESS COLUMNIST
WARNING! Do not mistake the happy buzz at the North American
International Auto Show for a harbinger that the good old days are
coming back to Detroit.
No one should be lulled into old, parochial assumptions about Detroit
being the hub of the world's auto industry, or into thinking that old
ways of doing business are relevant anymore.
Just a few minutes on the show floor Tuesday with transplanted
Detroiters Susan Docherty and John Krafcik was a vivid reminder of how
much the global auto game has changed.
A year ago, Docherty, 47, was General Motors' top U.S. sales executive,
with home and family in suburban Detroit. Now she has a similar role
with GM International Operations (GMIO). She lives with her husband and
11-year-old child in an apartment overlooking the river in Shanghai,
China, a mega-metropolis with a population nearly the size of Docherty's
Docherty spends one week a month in China, the rest of her time
traveling to India, Russia, Abu Dhabi and other faraway places.
When I asked what competitors keep her up at night, she didn't mention
Ford, Toyota, Honda or the other traditional suspects.
"Hyundai and Kia," she said, rattling off market-share numbers for GM
and the Korean automakers in Pacific Asia, Russia, Latin America, Africa
and the Middle East.
"GM has a 9.1% market share in GMIO countries," she said. "Hyundai and
Kia, with a combined 8.8%, are next, and the Kia numbers are floating up
because they're doing well with a younger audience."
And oh, by the way, Docherty adds, 90% of the world's children under 15
are in emerging markets -- not the U.S., Japan or western Europe.
Krafcik, president and CEO of Hyundai Motor America, was a 14-year Ford
executive before joining Hyundai in 2004.
Hyundai's U.S. sales grew 23% last year, double the 11% rate of the U.S.
market. Kia sales rose 18%.
On Tuesday, Krafcik was explaining Hyundai's unconventional
back-to-the-future moves to vertical integration -- such as spending $5
billion last year to build its own plant to make lightweight, stronger
steel alloys to improve fuel economy. And it's doing its own advertising
with a captive agency, Innocean, producing three new spots for next
month's Super Bowl.
Encouragingly, new Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder seems to get that the world
business order is changing rapidly. Touring the auto show Tuesday, he
didn't just stop at GM, Ford and Chrysler -- but also visited Toyota,
Hyundai and Kia (which have tech centers near Ann Arbor.)
It's important that all Detroiters open their minds to the opportunities
in this changing world. Otherwise, the good buzz of our nascent recovery
will fade fast.
"Your first, last, and only line of defense-a Cohort of Roman Heavy
Click to see the full signature.