The last time the Auto Chiefs Went to DC they flew in separate private jets, couldn’t explain with any specificity what they were going to do with billions in bailout money (“just fork over the dough and keep quiet and nobody gets hurt”), and while two out of three agreed that taking a salary cut might be reasonable penance for presiding over the meltdown of one of America’s core industries, the third (Ford’s Alan Mulally) told Congress—politely of course—“no, I’m good where I am.” (Where he was being a $2 million annual “base salary,” although CNN reports that when you factor in a variety of bonuses, he was paid $28 million for his first four months at Ford.)
So. . . for “The Auto Chiefs Do DC II,” slated to premiere this week: Chrysler’s Nardelli is walking from Detroit to DC in a brown Franciscan robe with a hemp rope belt, barefoot, of course, with UAW members scattering broken windshield glass in his path; GM’s Rick Wagoner is coming to town having ridden the 500+ miles on a donkey, in farmers overalls with patches on the knees and Depression-era shoes (holes in the soles; no socks); Mulally has chosen to drive (or, rather, be driven) in a Ford Escape hybrid SUV (for which Ford pays technology licensing fees to Toyota, BTW).
I may have some of the details slightly wrong. . . (although not in Mulally’s case). But you get the point. They are REALLY SORRY they gave the impression that they were too big for their britches. And they are strongly committed to giving whatever impression their PR people tell them will get them money.
Oh, and the $25 billion GM needed a few days back? That’s now $34 billion.
And they have a plan too: they’re going to fire lots of people, close lots of factories, cut benefits both for retirees and for people who continue working in the industry, and maybe even build more efficient cars that people want to buy (or import them from their European subsidiaries, sorta like the way Lee Iacocca saved Chrysler from Japanese competition, by importing Mitsubishis and re-badging them as Dodges and Chryslers).
So glad sanity has returned to the American automobile industry.
We can all relax now.