Thursday, November 20, 2008

GM, Ford & Chrysler: A Faux PR Faux Pas

[There’s a headline that gets the google love, eh?]

The twittering class is all abuzz about the heads of the Big Three – you remember them, right? the 2nd, 4th and 12th largest automotive manufacturers in the world? – taking private jets to Washington to beg Congress for guaranteed loans.

This is a really smart play by opponents of the automakers: it plays into the Dominant Narrative of profligate executives squandering shareholder money on unnecessary luxury.

As the kids say, FTW!

But let’s unpack this shall we? Are the "Big Three" sending the wrong message?

Many celebrities and other rich guys (high net-worth individuals if you like) take advantage of private aviation for fun, sport, privacy &c. Let’s face it: if you’re, say, Derek Jeter do you really want to hear about two-strike-hitting strategy from some bank auditor who’s racked up enough Skymiles to sit next to you in First Class?

I didn't think so.

So we stipulate that a private jet is a luxury.

Now, imagine you’re a stockholder of one of the big 2nd, 4th or 12th. Theoretically at least, the CEO elected by your board of directors is there because he or she is best suited to look out for your financial interests. As the leader of a great big industrial company, these folks – directly or indirectly – control the fates of hundreds of thousands of people … employees, shareholders again, suppliers, suppliers-to-suppliers …

As a shareholder in one of the big #2, 4 & 12, do you really want the most valuable individual in the organization hanging out with the likes of, say, ME or even YOU in Terminal B?

Do you want him or her cooling heels in the Crown Room sucking on free coffee and wifi when he (or she) could be working analysts and I-bankers?

Do you want your financial future in the hands of somebody vulnerable to whichever disgruntled employee, former employee, former vendor and so on happens to wander into the Cinnabon at the same time?

If your best argument is that gas-guzzling luxury jets “send the wrong message,” I suggest that you have run out of arguments.

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Scott Monty said...

Thank you.

Scott Monty
Global Digital Communications
Ford Motor Company

Karen Wolfe said...

Lally, you’re way off here. Coming on the heels of 24/7 coverage of Sarah Palin ditching the corporate jet as a symbol of efficiency and breaking with the old boys network, that's an argument they're sure to lose. The image of it is just too powerful. Everything these guys do while asking for this bailout will be symbolic. They need to replace the powerful image of the jet with something that says innovation and humility to give the pols the political cover they need to support a bailout, like Lee Iacocca taking a $1 annual salary for the help Chrysler needed: symbolic and sound business practice.

Lally said...


So you're saying they're sending the wrong message? There's only 536 people who's opinion on this
means a hillof beans in the short
term and as Kevin points out here: the Big 3 needs a politicval strategy right now. Carpooling (planepooling) or riding the Trailways to DC may have made good copy, but wouldn't actually changes anybody's mind.

Karen Wolfe said...

Since when did proper messaging not serve politics? Those 536 people need the political cover that trips in private jets undermine.

Lally said...


I think I stipulated that it made an easy target. Knowing that, however, doesn't amount to a hill of beans if that's the way it is.