October 4th, 2008
07:39 PM GMT
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PARIS, France – The press preview days of the Paris Motor Show are history and the now it's the turn of the public to decide which vehicles catch their eye the most.  For many in the media, it was hard to look beyond the global financial crisis. The day before the show, GM announced sales of light vehicles in North America fell 16 percent while Toyota reported a 32 percent fall and Ford 34 percent.

The talk here was about electric cars.
The talk here was about electric cars.

The CEOs I interviewed were not afraid to talk about had bad things are. Renault-Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn said there was no point discussing an out outlook for 2009 when he has no idea how next month will go. Even some of the super luxury makers, like Bentley, admit their end of the market is bad. So it is right across the board.

But car shows are about the future. And talk here was about electric cars. Nearly every carmaker has a hybrid (though not the super luxury brands of course) so the newest push is electric. General Motors, Nissan, Toyota and Smart all vow to have a mass-market electric vehicle on the market by 2010. Some are for any customer, some just for fleet vehicles, but the point is many people should be able to buy a car that runs only on electricity in less than two years' time.

Not that the Chevy Volt or the Nissan Nuvu will solve the credit crisis.

I was asked by one anchor why Americans should care about a car show in Europe. The answer is two-fold. Ford and GM rely greatly on sales from outside their home market. That can not be overstated. If recession spreads and people in places like Russia, Brazil or China slow their car purchases, then the American carmakers will be in even more trouble.

Secondly, these small European-styled cars stuffed full of features might sell well in the U.S. While Ford and GM aren't going to import the cars themselves, they plan to build these small cars in places like Mexico, they are importing the notion that people will pay more for a smaller car. Instead of designing a whole new car just for American buyers, these cars have great gas mileage and could lure customers back into the showroom. That is, of course, if they can get a loan.

Watch my report on electric cars at the Paris Motor Show

Watch my interview with GM President Fritz Henderson

Watch my report on Mercedes-Benz's first hybrid

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October 4th, 2008
12:36 PM GMT
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NEW YORK – As the media debates who won the vice presidential debate between Democrat Joe Biden and Republican Sarah Palin, some are asking whether the presidential candidates should be forced to name their choice for treasury secretary before the November election.

In this time of crisis, the new economic team will be critical. There are no incumbents in this race. Some feel voters should get a look at who will be at the helm before they are asked to cast their vote.

What kind of experience should the person have given the enormous challenges ahead? Should the next president tap someone from the ranks of industry? Paul O'Neill and John Snow, who both served under George W. Bush, were CEO's of large companies. Or would a seasoned investment banker be better? Robert Rubin, who served under Bill Clinton, and Henry Paulson, the current treasurer, both hailed from the halls of Goldman Sachs.

Congress has finally approved a rescue package. Treasury secretary Paulson will oversee the first phase of the intervention, including the purchase of some of the troubled assets that have rocked the banking system, but this is a process that will evolve and take years to work through; Paulson leaves in January.

Wall Street is a dirty word these days, but it seems essential that the next U.S. treasury secretary has a deep understanding of mortgage backed securities, credit default swaps and the other instruments that are at the center of this crisis. We have already seen what happens when consumers get mortgages they don't understand and company officers invest in securities without fully realizing the risk.

What do you think? Would the choice of treasury secretary sway your vote? Should candidates be forced to name their finance chief as well as vice president?



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