Delphi Climbing Mount Everest

Blunt words about the automotive world pepper the comments of Delphi Corp.'s first and only Japanese board of directors member, a veteran who comfortably straddles two cultures and is uncharacteristically outspoken for a Japanese executive. He is point man of a plan to win more business from Japanese OEMs and says bluntly, We call it Project Mount Everest because it's going to be so difficult. And

Blunt words about the automotive world pepper the comments of Delphi Corp.'s first and only Japanese board of directors member, a veteran who comfortably straddles two cultures and is uncharacteristically outspoken for a Japanese executive.

He is point man of a plan to win more business from Japanese OEMs and says bluntly, “We call it Project Mount Everest because it's going to be so difficult. And we're still at Base Camp.”

In an exclusive interview in Tokyo with Ward's, Shoichiro Irimajiri — former president of Honda of America Mfg. Inc. and later president of Honda R&D Co. in Japan — ranks the world's auto makers and identifies Delphi shortcomings.

The 62-year-old consultant identifies the strongest auto makers as Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. Ltd., Volkswagen AG and BMW AG. He is pessimistic about American producers.

“U.S. cars are becoming ‘white goods,’ standard transportation boxes. I am sad to say that Lincoln and Cadillac are losing their footprint in the luxury car market.” And as the quality of vehicles built in Korea and China improves, Irimajiri says U.S. auto makers will struggle to compete at the bottom end as well.

Irimajiri says General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. are not pushing hard enough for new technologies from their former parts making subsidiaries, Delphi and Visteon Corp. Although he says Delphi has a treasure trove of new technologies, he says his adopted company has plenty of room for improvement.

Inspiring Mount Everest was the disturbing realization that Delphi, spun off from GM in 1999, was slipping with Japanese OEMS. In 2001, worldwide sales to Japan-based auto makers declined by $20 million to $857 million.

For more of the Irimajiri interview, Website subscribers can visit WardsAuto.com.

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