Philip J. LeBeau is a CNBC auto and airline industry reporter based at the network's Chicago bureau. He is also editor of the Behind the Wheel section on CNBC.com.
LeBeau has reported one-hour documentaries for the network, including "Dreamliner: Inside the World's Most Anticipated Airplane," "Ford: Rebuilding an American Icon" and "Saving General Motors."
Prior to joining CNBC, LeBeau served as a media relations specialist for Van Kampen Funds in Oak Brook Terrace, Ill., and was instrumental in implementing an initiative to communicate the company's mutual fund and investment practices to the public and the press. While at Van Kampen, LeBeau held a Series 6 license.
Previously, he held general assignment reporting positions at KCNC-TV, the CBS affiliate in Denver, and KAKE-TV, the ABC affiliate in Wichita, Kan. LeBeau began his career as a field producer at WCCO-TV in Minneapolis, where he wrote, produced and researched consumer stories. He graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism with a bachelor's degree in journalism and broadcasting.
Follow Phil LeBeau on Twitter @Lebeaucarnews.
A new survey today by Auto Futures Group/TechnoMetrica concludes that people would rather buy gas/electric hybrids instead of diesel powered cars. Diesel fans will roll their eyes and say that's ridiculous, but that's the way it is.
The switch to 4 cylinders is picking up momentum, with the small engines powering almost half of all the vehicles sold last month. Yes, that's right, the 4 banger is doing a lot more than driving small and mid size cars. The reason? People are desperate to save money and these engines do that on two fronts.
Chrysler is not playing up the Challenger's HEMI engine as the classic muscle car returns. Who can blame them. The HEMI was a hot selling point a few years ago when gas was cheap and buyers clamored for power.
When gas prices spike, the public finally opens its eyes to alternatives. It happened in the mid '70's when compact cars became big sellers. It's happening again today with hybrids flying off of lots.
With oil surging to $138.54 and being projected by some to hit $150 by July 4, it's putting immediate pressure on automakers to adjust production and push small cars and crossovers while pulling back on trucks and SUVs. On paper, this shift seems simple enough. In reality, it's not so easy.
It's a major achievement Chrysler should rightfully be proud of. But it also highlights the next challenge for them, as well as GM and Ford: closing the "perception gap." First, here's the good news for the Big 3 on assembly plant efficiency.
This year Porsche is number 1 with an average of 67 problems per 100 made. It's followed by Infiniti (jumping from 9th to 2nd), Lexus, Mercedes and Toyota. The Porsche victory is not surprising given it historically does well in quality surveys. Infiniti's jump is impressive and will help that brand continue on the resurgence it's enjoyed in the last couple of years.
Mark it down. May is the month that finally broke the back of the Big 3's great run with trucks and SUVs. Oh sure, Detroit still dominates the truck business, but it's clear buyers want something less, that's what is hurting Detroit.
The plant closings are prudent. If gas remains at high levels, there will be fewer and fewer buying trucks and SUVs. Sales are down 17.3 % this year, and may not get much better the rest of this year. With 4 fewer plants, GM will save roughly a billion dollars. More importantly, it will reduce the number of SUVs sitting on dealer lots in the future.
Mary Barra's success rests on whether she can make GM more competitive, profitable and live up to its potential.
GM is dropping Chevy as its primary brand for mass-market vehicles in Europe and making Opel its mainstream line.
And Ford is targeting the global market: The newest Mustang was unveiled in six cities around the world on Thursday.
Auto loan interest rates hit their lowest level in at least six years, and Americans took out a record number of loans.