Govern-ator To Detroit: You'll Be Back!
CNBC Auto and Airline Industry Reporter
When I was first asked to moderate a question and answer session with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, I immediately thought, "What a delicious opportunity to talk to a man who has told Detroit to 'get off its butt' and start building the next generation of cars and trucks people want." A year or two ago, those comments made the Governor the object of scorn in Detroit. People in Motown would tell me, "How dare HE tell US what we should do!"
So a year later, when the Governor strolled on stage at the Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress he brought a similar, but changed opinion of Detroit.
Does he still think Detroit needs to get its act together a develop fuel efficient next generation vehicles? Absolutely. When I asked him who is to blame for the current auto crises he told me, the blame falls on Washington for going decades without a clear, consistent energy policy and it also falls on the auto industry in Detroit.
Governor Schwarzenegger says, "Detroit has been slow at the wheel, they have been asleep at the wheel and I think that while other car manufacturers from around the world have been progressive and have developed hydrogen cars and hybrid cars and all this, Detroit has been slow in doing that."
At first glance, you might think nothing's changed with the Govern-ator, but in some very important ways his opinion has changed.
Governor Schwarzenegger believes Detroit can come back from this current crises better and healthier. He told me, "I think that now is the chance to not look back, to look forward. It's a new chapter that begins now and I have great hope for next chapter."
Schwarzenegger believes Detroit can and will build the next generation of cars that Americans will want and that others are already developing. He would love to see California and Michigan partner in helping fledgling and established auto companies make the breakthroughs that will be needed in the years to come.
Think about it, California's Silicon Valley has the tech research labs for the chips and software the next generation engines will need while Detroit has the expertise in building cars and trucks people want. The possibilities are enormous.
In the eyes of the Governor, Detroit WILL be back!
Sure, it will be leaner and certainly greener, but that's fine. If the Big 3 can transform how cars and trucks are powered (electric, hydrogen, fuel cell, etc) and yet still make models that make us excited, then the future for Detroit is bright. As he told auto engineers, "There is one thing that is certain: They're gonna be back."
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