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Messrs. Wagoner and Mulally drive to Washington

Posted by: David Welch on December 1, 2008

Malibu hybrid.jpg

After being pilloried for flying corporate jets to Washington to beg for public funds to keep their companies afloat, Detroit executives are making the second trip to the capitol a big do-over. No more corporate jets for Detroit executives on a hat-in-hand trips. GM Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner will drive a Chevrolet Malibu hybrid to Washington for Thursday’s Congressional hearings on bridge loans for the auto industry. Some of Wagoner’s staff may fly down, but the embattled chairman plans to take the wheel.

Likewise for Ford CEO Alan Mulally. He will drive a Ford Escape hybrid with a few staffers. They will take turns behind the wheel just like any other family on a road trip. Chrysler says that its CEO Robert Nardelli hasn’t finalized his plans, but he’s not flying a corporate jet. That’s for sure.

Last month, the three Detroit bosses went before Congress seeking $25 billion in loans to tide them over through the recession and credit crunch. But when they got there, the reception was colder than Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in January. Members of Congress lambasted them for flying their company planes, as well as having been unprepared for a recession and for ostensibly selling gas guzzling suvs to a generation of Americans.

That not only explains their more Spartan transportation choices this time around. Plus, they will be able to show that they actually do make hybrid-electric vehicles. Wagoner’s Malibu hybrid is rated at 29 mpg and Mulally’s Escape—assuming he drives the all-wheel drive version—gets 28 mpg. They’ll need more than that to convince Washington that they’re on the right track. But we’ll see what they say at the hearings.

Reader Comments

Luis B. Aramburu

December 1, 2008 11:28 PM

There is no point in helping the Detroit car makers. Why prolong the agony? They have no interesting or relevant high volume product in their pipelines to make a difference. If they receive the bailout money, it will only let them continue operating in a "business as usual" manner until the day of reckoning arrives again. Next time the government will be so tired of them that they will not receive help and will just go bankrupt. Why should we put more money into a lost cause? Let them die with dignity. It was good while it lasted but we won't even miss them.

John Smith

December 2, 2008 2:28 AM

WHATEVER!!! Mullally still makes $22 million per year in salary alone... and Toyota's CEO only makes $900K. Ford gave out HUGE bonuses and raises (across the board) in 2008!!!! Now Ford is asking for a taxpayer funded bailout?!?!?!


December 2, 2008 6:00 AM

I dont mind helping another in a time of need. Thats American. I do mind heloping that other if they wont help themselves. The United Autowoprkers union has reached its time to fold and go home. The American MFGs cannot compete at the rates they are having to pay the UAW not to mention the garanteed retirement and health plans. They need to get real and help their employers save the company. If they dont come to the line and help Ill never buy another american made car. Ever. As it is i own 4 porsches and audis. Guess what. They never break. Go figure.


December 2, 2008 8:07 AM

Seems like a good idea for a movie. Either and Indiana Jones type or a comedy.


December 2, 2008 8:53 AM

At this point it's not the car that they drive that's the problem, but the drivers in the cars. They missed a huge opportunity. Now this misfit convoy will be the nation's pinata on all late night.


December 2, 2008 10:37 AM

"They have no interesting or relevant high volume product in their pipelines to make a difference."
Ha! You want a company with no interesting products? Look at Honda. Those are the dullest-looking, dullest-to-drive cars I've ever been in or seen.

What's dragging them down are "sins of the past". Very high-cost contracts from 20-30+ years ago, and figuring racking up debt is no problem (especially GM, buying 49% in all these companies when that debt is there waiting to be paid down? Pfeh. It helped temporarily now that they could sell the shares back off for quick cash.. but it would have helped more to have the debt paid down). If they can renegotiate the debt (which they are doing as well) it will help a lot. Getting like 50 billion debt down to 20 billion doesn't sound great, but it's just like any other loan -- since the lump sum is lower it'll lower the interest and "minimum payments" on it so they can get out of that hole. Maybe they still won't be able to, but I don't think it's because of products.

Jan R. Smith

December 2, 2008 10:39 AM

$70/hr factory floor cost vs $2/hr factory floor cost in China. You can't compete with that. The only answer is in creating something the world wants. Large pick ups and large SUV's are not what the world wants. Unfortunately, we have many more dealers than we require, and also, many more car brands, than we need, or can support (without Federal Buyouts).


December 2, 2008 10:58 AM

They could all carpool...

Steven Place

December 2, 2008 2:14 PM

Looks like they took my advice. I plan to be compensated for my consulting:

Paul (Vw)

December 2, 2008 4:55 PM

>>> They’ll need more than that to convince Washington that they’re on the right track. But we’ll see what they say at the hearings.

I think how they actually get to congress to beg for money is irrelevant.

Though for kicks, I'd be curious to know how they plan on returning (by carpool again, or will corporate jets be dispatched for them).

D.B. Valentine

December 3, 2008 2:58 AM

Whatever is required to help or save the US economy etc these CLOWNS cant be trusted AT ALL. Their true colors was seen last time they flew in on private jets costing about $20,000 each with cups in hand to ask taxpayers to bail them out after their greed-is-good approach to business for so many years, oblivious to the realities of the world. If money is handed to their companies they should be sacked. Disgusting executive scum like this makes my stomach turn.


December 3, 2008 9:58 AM

John Smith - there haven't been raises in domestic automakers for years. Get a clue.

Dwight - maybe they don't break because you're driving 5 different cars instead of the same car day in and day out? :) American automakers are the head of the pack in J.D. Power reliability, and Ford is on top of the initial quality survey.

Luis - you're clueless. Enjoy your import with your head in the sand.


December 3, 2008 6:26 PM

Please note the fact that they drove instead of taking commercial flights (quick, cheap, no support system - you do it on your own) is a clear indicator of how ego, selfishness, inefficiency and myopia have always guided the managers of US auto companies. And now they want us to pay for their massive mistakes. They should not be rescued with a penny of taxpayer money. Notice that the Japanese are not bidding for ownership. Let them sink! I have no answer for the workers, but I suspect they will find employment. If not, I'd rather give my taxes to them than to the companies.

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