Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Triple-Bolting the Barn Door Shut After the Horse(less Carriage) has Left

Lesson for Big Three automakers:
Old way of doing business just won't fly
By JEFF KAROUB and TOM KRISHER AP Business Writers


If the Detroit Three automakers have learned anything since their last trip to Washington, it's that the old way of doing business just won't fly. So the decision by auto executives to travel in hybrid cars rather than corporate jets is just the start to overhauling their image as the industry pleads its case for $25 billion in federal loans. See: Too Little, Too Late Award

Ford CEO Alan Mulally left for the capital Tuesday afternoon in a small Ford Escape sport utility vehicle, which runs on gas and electricity. Rick Wagoner of GM departs Wednesday in a hybrid Chevrolet Malibu. Chrysler LLC said its chief executive, Robert Nardelli, would leave Tuesday night, driving a hybrid Dodge Durango or Chrysler Aspen SUV. Excuse Me? What is the point of being the CEO of Ford if not getting to drive the coolest Shelby Cobra Mustang ever? Or GM-Corvette ZR1?? Chrysler? Well, they're done for.

The move to travel more like regular Americans comes after the CEOs' last visit for hearings in November turned into a public relations disaster. Lawmakers learned that all three had flown in separate corporate jets to ask for the bailout dollars, and critics harangued the CEOs.Democratic Rep. Gary Ackerman of New York, a member of the House Financial Services Committee, said last month that it was "a delicious irony" to see the executives arrive on private jets "with tin cups in their hands." In response, the automakers said top executives needed to fly on corporate planes for security reasons. Like I said, perhaps if they weren't so hated, they wouldn't need security...

In an effort to curb bad publicity, Ford Motor Corp. and General Motors Corp. said their CEOs would take the wheel for at least part of the roughly nine-hour trip. Do any have a valid Driver's Licence?

"Mulally drove part of the way and did business by telephone, but not while behind the wheel, he said.In keeping with the company's new no-frills approach, GM spokesman Greg Martin said Wagoner was expected to make the trip without any extended stops and arrive in Washington on Wednesday night. Wagoner is staying at a "moderately-priced hotel," though Martin would not disclose which one.He's traveling in a three-car caravan and will alternate riding in the Malibu, the Chevrolet Cobalt XFE, the company's highest-mileage vehicle, and a Buick Lucerne sedan, which runs on fuel that's 85 percent ethanol. Whoopee.

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