Phil 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" and "Failure to Recall: Investigating GM."
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.
You'd think by now the message would be clear: Ed Whitacre Jr. is not going to stop making changes. Once again, he shook up the management at the automaker. And once again, people are asking why Whitacre keeps moving executives around—and whether or not he knows what he's doing.
There has long been a belief in the auto industry that as pick-up truck sales go, so goes the broader economy. After all, as business and spending picks up, the folks who drive pickups (contractors, builders, small business operators) are likely to buys a new work truck. And for the most part, the historical evidence points to truck sales and housing starts trending up or down together.
As brand deaths go, the demise of Mercury is being met with a collective shrug of the shoulders. Aside from the 276 Lincoln/Mercury dealers who are losing half their sales, few others will care that Mercury is leaving the Ford orbit.
A year ago, who would have thought GM would be where it is today? A year ago, as then GM CEO Fritz Henderson walked into bankruptcy court, who thought GM would be profitable, and still #1 in the U.S. in the middle of 2010? A year ago, who figured the people guiding GM would be a former analyst on Wall Street and the former CFO of Microsoft?
Remember when Ford CEO Alan Mulally took the top job at America's number two automaker in 2006? Four years later, Mulally is delivering better results than many ever expected, and he's transformed Ford into a company that looks (and runs) a lot like Toyota in the late 90's.
CNBC has learned Ford executives are working on a plan to phase out the Mercury brand. There is no time line for how quickly the brand will be eliminated, but the Ford Board of Directors could make a decision by July. A Ford spokesperson says Ford has made no plans to change the Mercury line but the company is always evaluating its brands.
Today in Washington, a group of lawmakers will roll out their plan to get the Department of Energy to spend billions of dollars nurturing the electric vehicle market.
Ask Ford President of the Americas Mark Fields if he expects strong sales in the month of May, and you get an interesting response. Yes, he expects double-digit industry growth and Ford should have a relatively strong month, but his interest has already shifted to June.