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Big Wheels' Words of Wisdom

January 02, 2002

Notable quotes from the automotive industry in the last year:

"We have twice as many people who want to buy the PT Cruiser as we can build cars for. We are looking for a solution for this that does not involve cutting the number of customers in half."

--Dieter Zetsche, president of Chrysler Group, speaking in January on the popularity of Chrysler's retro-styled car-minivan

"We may be down, but we are far ... from out."

--Bud Liebler, DaimlerChrysler senior vice president, discussing Chrysler's wrenching turnaround plan in January; he took early retirement a month later

"It's sort of like saying Arnold Schwarzenegger looks just like Mr. Rogers because both of them have nice smiles."

--Brian Akre, General Motors Corp. spokesman, responding in February to DaimlerChrysler's lawsuit charging that the front grille of GM's new Hummer H2 sport-utility vehicle looks too much like Jeep's front grille

"Who would have guessed that a food product would be used in the production of your automobile's engine block?"

--Joel Johnson, chief executive of Hormel Foods Corp., maker of Spam, in February, on his company's supplying GM with a binding agent made from the animal protein collagen to form sand molds for casting metal parts

"I want to make it very clear that I have not deceived anyone. I believed from the bottom of my heart that this was a merger of equals."

--Robert Eaton, who as chairman of Chrysler Corp. agreed to its 1998 merger with Daimler-Benz, generally regarded today as a takeover by the German company, in February

"We have come to the conclusion that we can no longer supply tires to Ford since the basic foundation of our relationship has been seriously eroded."

--John Lampe, Bridgestone/

Firestone Inc. chief executive, announcing in May that his company was severing nearly 100 years of partnership with Ford Motor Co. over the tire recall crisis

"We have moved from the emergency room to the recovery room."

--Carlos Ghosn, Nissan Motor Co.'s chief executive, announcing record profit in July after the first year of a three-year restructuring

"That's what it's about: accountability."

--Tim Lampi, a worker at Ford's Wixom Assembly Plant near Detroit, during a 10-day shutdown in August that contributed to delays of the much-anticipated revival of the Thunderbird roadster

"We bring our experience in the sex appeal of Italian cars that you can drive every day, even to the supermarket.... We are looking for women too, hedonistic drivers."

--Luca di Montezemolo, president of Ferrari, in September, about the return in 2002 of Maserati sports cars to the U.S.

"I don't need the union to speak for me. Nissan is a fair workplace. I feel every individual is treated very fairly."

--Nish Peters, a worker at Nissan's factory in Smyrna, Tenn., after the plant workers voted 2 to 1 in October to reject United Auto Workers representation

"I'm a strong proponent of fake wood because nowadays you can make it look so good that nobody can tell."

--Robert A. Lutz, GM vice chairman, in October, two months after he was hired to help revamp the company's vehicle lineup

"I'm always very careful to divorce my personal taste from my corporate taste, because I don't hold myself out as the arbiter of taste of the American public."

--Lutz, long revered in Detroit as a product guru, on industry buzz that he is going to radically shake up GM's product offerings

"Ten years from now, when Jacques decides to retire, some will say, 'I told you so.'"

--Jason Vines, Ford's vice president for communications, telling the New York Times on Oct. 15 that rumors of Chief Executive Jacques Nasser's imminent ouster were untrue. (Nasser lost his job two weeks later, as did Vines.)

"You got three or four hours?"

--Jacques Nasser, when asked Oct. 29 about the main challenges the auto maker faced going into 2002; he was fired as Ford CEO a few hours later

"Ford Motor Co. is not and never has been about one person; it's about all of us."

--William Clay Ford Jr., announcing Oct. 30 that he was taking over as chief executive of the company founded by his great-grandfather Henry

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