Detroit scores another own goal

If you and your peers needed $25 billion from the government because your misguided business is going belly up, how would you travel from Detroit to Washington? By private jet of course. Separately. After all, you’re too powerful to share. One congressman asked if they couldn’t have downgraded to first class?

Tom Peters rants about it best, but I think a massive PR opportunity has been missed. Imagine one of them had driven the 520 miles across the US with a small team and a camcorder explaining via short films and blog posts the reasons behind the begging bowl. They could’ve done it in a hybrid or some semi-solar powered prototype as a metaphor for the future of Detroit. He could’ve spoken openly in diners along the way with ordinary folks in Fords. That would’ve given him an opportunity to explain his thinking behind ethanol use rather than alternative energy, union pressures, pension commitments, federal restrictions, global forces, (not) going green… the whole nine yards.

They could’ve gone all web 2.0 about it: Gmapping the route and twittering as they went. The blogosphere would’ve exploded with the news and traditional TV would’ve followed – no press releases, just unadulterated, raw PR. More than a sliver of humble pie would’ve been needed and it would’ve been called for the obvious PR stunt it was, but a single point in the plus column would be better than the abundance of own goals this reckless trio are scoring.
[GM have since tried to block corporate jet tracking by the US Federal Aviation Administration.]

When Congress asked if they’d work for $1 a year, Chrysler’s Nardelli agreed (although he took home $210 million for being fired from Home Depo!). “I don’t have a position on that today,” said GM’s Wagoner (2007 earnings: $15.7 million). Ford’s Mulally (2007 earnings: $21.7m) said, “I think I’m okay where I am.” You almost want John Wayne’s ghost to walk over in a cowboy outfit and horsewhip him.

Irresponsible, selfish, unethical egomaniacs.

Stuff ‘em – corporate America needs to realise capitalism means being accountable for one’s own destiny. Mulally et al will believe themselves even more infallible. Yes, the fallout will be enormous and terrible but (semi) nationalising every conglomerate simply isn’t viable. What’s next, Hollywood? The NFL? The market must level itself to a greater extent or it ceases to be a free market.

Bail ‘em – if these three go bust the financial tsunami will be felt for decades (did anyone say depression?). Their supply chain is enormous and the ramifications for the world are literally immeasurable. They are simply too big and too important to fail simultaneously. A nuclear disaster may well have less impact on the West than this fiscal Armageddon.

It’s the very definition of an impossible situation.

UPDATE: excellent piece here by Sir Evelyn de Rothschild


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