"There's a delicious irony in seeing private luxury jets flying into Washington, D.C., and people coming off of them with tin cups in their hands," Gary L. Ackerman, New York Congressman, said about the “poor lil executives” at their congressional hearing. "It's almost like seeing a guy show up at the soup kitchen in high-hat and tuxedo. . . . I mean, couldn't you all have downgraded to first class or jet-pooled or something to get here?"
Naturally, after a behavior like this everybody jumped up and down about how either IQ-challenged or hypocritical the three automaker representatives are. Actually, that's almost any automotive expert can say about the Detroit Three nowadays. Fact is, the we're-in-it-for-the-money description is more than adequate to portray them, but not in the bad way, as implied by most in the know. Nobody in their right mind would says that either GM, Ford or Chrysler are non-profit organizations in it to help the poor, save the planet or make peace in the world.
They're BUSINESSES. Any successful business creates jobs, maintains or rises standards of living for its employees and is on the whole good for the economy of the country in which it resides and pays taxes. So why shouldn't the men in charge of the success (emphasis on “success”) of these companies downgrade to first class or coach flying, you might ask.
Well, mainly because the feigned ignorance underlined by congressman Ackerman actually exists. The three manufacturers' main priority right now is surviving the crisis, right? How, exactly? First thing on their agenda was cutting costs by fixing money drain holes, laying off workers, closing plants which were building vehicles that aren't sellable anymore and cutting marketing budgets. All these “revisions” looked like good actions and prepared the companies for receiving the bailout money until the three CEOs let the whole world see just how duplicitous they are.
Cutting and slashing through jobs for the sake of the overall well being of the company is one thing, but having the nerve to benefit from the same luxuries and amenities that a “regular” (read: ruler in charge of a SUCCESSFUL company) CEO has is another. The “private-jets thingy” isn't the only PR problem the Big Three are having right now though. After pulling a “silenzio stampa” on the Congress when asked if they were going to sell their Gulfstreams, the three wise monkeys started to brag about how great and 'merican their companies were.
Not that that would be a bad thing, but after the elongated “car commercial” they somehow managed to transform in a I'll-kill-your-puppies-for-fur Cruella De Vil-style loan sharks. Running out of winning cards, the three wise monkeys began to actually threaten the Government with bankruptcy. In other words: “pay us or we'll go bankrupt and thus crippling the already crippled US economy”. Nice, huh?
Of course, in exchange for the Government loans, the CEOs also said that they will accept previously not to be thought of compromises, such as capping executive pay and giving taxpayers stakes in the companies. As an obvious conclusion, I can only say that (apart from the “they brought it on themselves” say), GM, Ford and Chrysler should probably hire some pretty good PR managers to rebuild what the three NOT-SO-wise monkeys have managed to tarnish the most. Their reputation, that is...