Detroit car cos. as bad at PR as they are at business

autofailThe CEOs of GM and Ford have announced they will drive from Detroit to DC for the next round of begging from Congress. Clearly this was supposed to make us forget that the Detroit Three had flown in separate private jets the last time they tried to explain why their companies were running out of money.

Instead all it has done is reminded us of this. Apparently you can’t answer a cheap shot with a cheap stunt. I particularly like the fact that the two CEOs are coming in separate cars. No car pooling for these two.

Better move would have been to simply taken a commercial flight. Or walked. I hope the press will tail both men all the way during their drive. Otherwise we might get a Rosie Ruiz situation. (Ms. Ruiz was named winner of the 1980 Boston Marathon, until it was discovered she had only run .2 of the 26.2 mile course.)

Will Chrysler CEO Robert Nardelli also indulge in a little stunt driving? Unknown. What is known is that he “will not travel by corporate jet. A spokeswoman says his travel plans will remain secret for security reasons.” I have no doubt this is utter and total bullshit, but it certainly plays better than what the other two are doing.

GM argument against bankruptcy is a car wreck

The astoundingly badly run car maker says it won’t declare chapter 11 because “people won’t buy cars from a bankrupt company.” Given that GM’s sales have dropped 45 percent over the last year, how would this be any different from the current situation?

Not surprisingly the “it’s not our fault” argument is echoed by UAW President Ron Gettelfinger: “We’re here not because of what the auto industry has done. We’re here because of what has happened to the economy.”

This would be more believable if GM had been doing well before the credit markets went to hell. Let’s remember that we’re talking about GM here and what it’s track record is like. This is a company that even when it gets a good idea goes out of its way to kill it.

Quoth this great article from the WSJ:

This situation doesn’t stem from the recent meltdown in banking and the markets. GM, Ford and Chrysler have been losing billions since 2005, when the U.S. economy was still healthy. The financial crisis does, however, greatly exacerbate Detroit’s woes. As car sales plunge — both in the U.S. and in Detroit’s once-booming overseas markets — it’s becoming nearly impossible for the companies to cut costs fast enough to keep pace with the evaporation of their revenue.

In all this lies a tale of hubris, missed opportunities, disastrous decisions and flawed leadership of almost biblical proportions. In fact, for the last 30 years Detroit has gone astray, repented, gone astray and repented again in a cycle not unlike the Israelites in the Book of Exodus.

Remember Saturn? GM started an authentically different company that attained a beloved cult-like status and then all but killed it by not letting it put out new models. Don’t even get me started about the electric car and where the company would be today if they’d kept developing that program they killed after putting $1 billion into it. And then there’s the decades of lobbying against improving mileage standards that — had they been in effect — would have also saved their asses.

GM is also arguing that it’s basically under new management and that the guys who made all those stupid decisions have been replaced. Even if this is true, then let’s hold them accountable for the stupidity just since Rick Waggoner became CEO. For the last seven years their strategy has been, “we’re going to bet it all on the short-term profits to be made from SUVs.” Thus they launched Hummer et al. I’m supposed to trust a bunch of guys who couldn’t figure out that the price of gas fluctuates? Who couldn’t figure out that there was a difference between short-term profits and long-term viability?

Let’s make one thing clear — the term “US automakers” is a misnomer. When someone says they want to “bailout the US automakers” they really mean GM. Ford has said repeatedly that they have enough credit to get through and Chrysler is no more or less a US company than Honda or Toyota. The Big Three is in fact the Incompetent One.

Wait, I will bow to the Journal on this one: they’re going with “The Detroit Three” and that works for me.

Auto industry shoots foot and then reloads

At yesterday’s hearings by House Financial Services Committee on the potential bailout for the GM and other US-based auto companies,  the CEOs were asked which of them had flown by private jet into Washington for the hearing. All three raised their hands.

car-money“There is a delicious irony in seeing private luxury jets flying into Washington, D.C., and people coming off of them with tin cups in their hand, saying that they’re going to be trimming down and streamlining their businesses.” — Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-New York.

While it may have been, as one writer described it, a cheap shot — it was no cheaper a shot than Ford CEO Alan Mulally arriving at Capitol Hill in a Ford Fusion hybrid.



GM merging with Chrysler: Dumb and dumberer

What part of two wrongs don’t make a right do these people not understand?

Isn’t the idea of a merger to combine strengths? What is it that these companies combined would be able to do that they can’t do by themselves? GM already has too many brands. So it wants to add more? The nice thing about having these two merge is that it will bring together a lot of bad management and keep it away from other companies.

Further proof that irrational exuberance walks among us: General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. shares were up more than 24% each on Monday. Ford’s stock is up apparently because it had previously held merger discussions with GM. The only reason this should be a boost for Ford is the realization that it was smart enough not to merge with GM. It is astounding to see what has happened to what was once the largest and best-run company in the world.

Ford uses a suicidal astronaut to sell cars

I forget what the heck Mrs. CD and I were watching last night when this add for the new Lincoln MKS came on. The reason I can’t remember is that the ad was so astoundingly wrong and tone-deaf that it melted those few memory cells I have left. Visually it was just the usual slow-motion showy pictures of a car but it was set to an incredibly down-beat cover of David Bowie’s Major Tom.

In case you don’t remember, here are the lyrics:

Ground Control to Major Tom
Ground Control to Major Tom
Take your protein pills and put your helmet on

Ground Control to Major Tom
Commencing countdown, engines on
Check ignition and may God’s love be with you

This is Ground Control to Major Tom
You’ve really made the grade
And the papers want to know whose shirts you wear
Now it’s time to leave the capsule if you dare

“This is Major Tom to Ground Control
I’m stepping through the door
And I’m floating in a most peculiar way
And the stars look very different today

For here
Am I sitting in a tin can
Far above the world
Planet Earth is blue
And there’s nothing I can do

Though I’m past one hundred thousand miles
I’m feeling very still
And I think my spaceship knows which way to go
Tell my wife I love her very much (she knows!)”

Ground Control to Major Tom
Your circuit’s dead, there’s something wrong
Can you hear me, Major Tom?
Can you hear me, Major Tom?
Can you hear me, Major Tom?
Can you hear….

Other than the fact that Major Tom has a melody that everyone in the 40+ age group will recognize, I cannot fathom what in the world made this seem like a soundtrack to sell cars by. Maybe they really are that depressed in Detroit. This makes the ubiquitous use of Lust for Life, Iggy Pop’s upbeat ode to heroin, look smart. At least Lust for Life was an upbeat cult-hit that everyone didn’t already know the lyrics to. Major Tom is probably known word-for-word by most angsty people who were between 12 and 30 in the 1970s. We all know how the story ends on this one.

Not sure who to be more amazed by, the folks at Berlin Cameron Detroit who proposed it or the folks at Ford who approved it. Although Ford and the agency would like you to believe the message is “reach higher” (the link goes to the official website), in fact the message is far more disturbing: Lincoln … When You Want To Go Out In Style.

Wow. Now that’s collateral damage.

Car dealer allegedly apologizes for ad that insults all non-Christians

Here’s the actual text of the radio spot for Kieffe and Sons Ford of Kern County, California.

Did you know that there are people in this country who want prayer out of schools, “Under God” out of the Pledge, and “In God We Trust” to be taken off our money?

But did you know that 86 percent of Americans say they believe in God? Now, since we all know that 86 out of every 100 of us are Christians who believe in God, we at Kieffe and Sons Ford wonder why we don’t just tell the other 14 percent to sit down and shut up.

I guess maybe I just offended 14 percent of the people who are listening to this message. Well, if that is the case, then I say that’s tough; this is America, folks — it’s called free speech. And none of us at Kieffe and Sons Ford are afraid to speak up. Kieffe and Sons Ford on Sierra Highway in Mojave and Rosamond: if we don’t see you today, by the grace of God, we’ll be here tomorrow.

OK, so now we know he’s bigoted, a bad businessman and can’t do research. Apparently every American who believes in God is a Christian. Good, pardon the phrase, Lord.

The apology is every bit as stupid as the ad.

“It’s just something that went by us,” said Rick Kieffe, who does not attend church but considers himself “a Christian spirit.” “We’re obviously sorry that it offends a given segment who identifies themselves as atheist.”

Oh, Rick, if you’d only insulted the atheists you’d be far better off. I am sure all the churches in Kern County are grateful that Rick doesn’t actually attend any of them — although he might want to start.

However this does give me enough of a thematic link to mention my latest post at The Ministry of Culture which explains why Julie Andrews + John Coltrane = God.