Detroit If the Detroit Three automakers have learned anything since their last trip to Washington, it’s that the old way of doing business just won’t fly.
So the decision by auto executives to travel in hybrid cars rather than corporate jets is just the start to overhauling their image as the industry pleads its case for $25 billion in federal loans.
Automakers “should not be afraid to acknowledge their mistakes,” said Adam Mendelsohn, a partner in Mercury Public Affairs and former communications director for California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. “It’s not necessarily a weakness. It’s actually a positive. It will send a very clear message that they intend to make changes.”
The CEOs of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler are making the roughly 525-mile trek from Detroit to Washington in hopes of securing loans to help them through the recession and the worst sales downturn in 25 years. Hearings are scheduled for Thursday and Friday.
Ford CEO Alan Mulally, an alumnus of Lawrence High School and Kansas University, left for the capital Tuesday afternoon in a small Ford Escape sport utility vehicle, which runs on gas and electricity. Rick Wagoner of GM departs Wednesday in a hybrid Chevrolet Malibu. Chrysler LLC said its chief executive, Robert Nardelli, would leave Tuesday night, driving a hybrid Dodge Durango or Chrysler Aspen SUV.