Detroit's bigwigs may make their next trip to Washington by car, after lawmakers lambasted them for crying poverty while traveling by private jet.
Auto industry insiders, whose livelihood depends on the health of Chrysler LLC, Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp., reportedly spent the weekend e-mailing and discussing how to set up a giant car caravan to seek help from Congress.
"The proper people are talking to the proper people, and things are getting put together," said Tim Leuliette, the CEO of Dura Automotive Systems Inc., a Michigan auto parts maker. "This really picked up momentum over the weekend."
During the weekend carpool proponents contacted the automakers, suppliers, dealership groups and the United Auto Workers and the movement began building, Leuliette said.
Not all the CEOs have confirmed they would carpool to future appearances before Congress. GM CEO Rick Wagoner won't be going to Washington by corporate jet, although the company's policy is not to comment on executive travel plans for security reasons, said spokesman Tony Cervone. A Chrysler spokeswoman wouldn't comment on executive travel plans, and a Ford spokesman had not responded to a message seeking comment.
Traveling by car might help appease committee members who were rankled after the CEOs begged for public cash but offered no business plan and no indication they could tone down lavish spending. Some Congressmen were incensed that the three flew in separate private jets.
"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 saying that they’re going to be trimming down and streamlining their businesses," Representative Gary L. Ackerman, Democrat of New York, said according to a report in the New York Times. "It’s almost like seeing a guy show up at the soup kitchen in a high hat and tuxedo."
The automakers contend the proposed $25 billion bailout is necessary to keep their ailing firms afloat.