DETROIT -- As the smoke clears from President Bush's recent trade scuffle with the Japanese, it appears now that the battle is just beginning.
"We started a meaningful process in Japan, and we plan to follow up on it," General Motors Chairman Robert Stempel said yesterday before giving the keynote speech at the Automotive News World Congress, which began last night in Detroit.
"Thirty years of practice isn't going to change in three days of meetings. We hope to have another meeting in February."
Like his two crosstown compatriots -- Ford CEO Harold Poling and Chrysler Chairman Lee A. Iacocca -- Stempel was disappointed with Japan's trade concessions.
To trim the $41 billion trade surplus with the United States, Japan's five leading automakers said they would try to sell 19,700 more U.S.-made cars each year and double their purchases of U.S. auto parts to $20 billion by 1994.
Friday at the Economic Club of Detroit, Iacocca blasted Japan's moves in a speech that brought a crowd of 3,000 to its feet. "Lee's speech -- if you read the words -- was on target," Stempel said yesterday.
"He really had the facts down in that speech. Lee and I say it differently. I'm upset in my own style."
Stempel said that if the trip "accomplished nothing other than to raise political and public awareness of the importance of a viable auto industry and a correspondingly strong industrial base in this country, then I can tell you it was an outstanding success."
Stempel also spoke of quality and fuel economy, saying U.S.-made cars are more fuel-efficient.
"The difference in quality among cars is not an issue," Stempel said. "We don't have to ask the American public to prove their loyalty by buying American products. . . . We don't have to ask them to out of a sense of patriotism or pity. We want them to buy our product because they have high quality and high value."