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.
Wow! Who says people don't get fired up over their cars?Friday morning, my blog was about a Detroit News report that GM is pulling back the Pontiac brand and assessing whether to eliminate some its models in hopes of better defining the brand. Since then, the Pontiac fans have made their presence known and are blasting me as being, among other names, "a moron."
When you have a company with eight different brands, as is the case with General Motors, one or more of them are bound to be struggling. That's the case right now with Pontiac. What was once the third bestselling brand in the U.S., is now struggling with sales dropping 20% in the first quarter. So GM is pulling back the reins on Pontiac and assessing how to re-focus the division. Frankly, I think this is smart move.
As I filled up this morning outside Chicago, the price for a gallon of gas was $3.65 -- among the highest prices in the country. You'd think that would send people running to auto dealers to trade in their 8-cylinder car for a fuel-efficient four-banger. Well, that hasn't exactly happened.
Ford has signed Funkmaster Flex -- a popular hip-hop DJ and personality on New York City's Hot 97 radio station -- as a company pitchman for its Ford Flex Expedition, and as host of a new TV show where regular Joes compete in customizing one of the company's SUVs. This is a smart move by Ford for a couple reasons. First, Flex's popularity with younger car buyers can help the company gain some much needed buzz on the new Flex CUV. Second, it's another case of Ford trying to break out with a new approach.
Talk about a sign of the times. Monday, DaimlerChrysler essentially pays money to unload the Chrysler division. Tuesday, Chrysler posts a first quarter loss of $1.98 Billion. Good thing Chrysler CEO Tom LaSorda has such an upbeat outlook on things, otherwise he'd really be depressed at how far his company has fallen.
If you are one of those people who likes to be the "early adaptors" and drive a new model long before your neighbors, Honda's new FCX is right up your alley. Yesterday in Washington, D.C., Honda showed off its next generation FCX to journalists and lawmakers. The hydrogen-fuel cell sedan promises greater range (270 miles) and of course virtually no emissions.
There's plenty of talk today about the possibility of $4 gas this summer. If that happens, this could be one long hot summer for the Big Three. Thursday, when I talked with him, General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner indicated the country's largest automakers are already noticing a repeat of last year, when buyers moved from big rigs (trucks and SUVs) and more towards smaller cars.
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.
Because of a surge in business from Black Friday, the auto industry posted its best monthly sales since February 2007.