|November 26, 2008|
|Without Humility, Detroit's PR is Heading for a Cliff|
|By Greg Hazley|
|It's difficult to imagine how Detroit could further botch its pitch for a federal bailout. The latest PR disaster for the automakers came before the three CEOs of Chrysler, Ford and GM even set foot in the Capitol yesterday.|
In a play reminiscent of AIGís Ritz-Carlton training seminars, the clueless chiefs hopped aboard their private company jets and cruised into D.C. in style to beg for billions in taxpayer dollars in order to buoy the businesses failing on their (eight-figure-salary) watch.
As the Washington Postís Dana Milbank pointed out this morning, there are 24 daily nonstop flights from Detroit to the Washington area and the three execs should have taken one of them.
ďItís almost like seeing a guy show up at the soup kitchen in high-hat and tuxedo,Ē quipped Rep. Gary Ackerman, a New York Democrat taking part in the hearings.
Lawmakers picked up that outrage and ran with it from there.
The automakers have a strong case for a bailout but have made little progress on the PR front presenting such a move as both necessary and vital to the U.S. economy. Part of the problem is a complete lack of ownership (or remorse) for its current state that borders on denial.
Earlier this week, GMís VP of global communications, Steve Harris, took on the New York Timesí revered foreign affairs op-ed columnist Tom Friedman with an open letter on the GM Fastlane blog arguing that poor management, marketing or vehicle production choices arenít the reason Detroit is on its knees, as Friedman contends.
Harris makes the case that GM has adapted in recent years and solely blames the global financial crisis for the doldrums. Former Rep. Dick Gephardt, whoís been cashing checks from Detroit, made a similar case in a letter to the Times about Friedmanís column, although he also took a whack at federal energy policy as another culprit.
Protecting management and mounting a defensive PR push for a $25 billion check is not the way to win hearts and minds of taxpayers and lawmakers, but itís the only message from Detroit thatís getting through.
A little humility in admitting they were late to the hybrid market and pushed a truck-heavy slate of vehicles when the consumer tide was on the verge of change would do wonders toward chipping away at the perception of an out-of-touch industry traveling on a private jet to nowhere.
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