The Big Three Take a Hike to Washington

Ah sweet symbolism.

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By Bonnie Erbe, Thomas Jefferson Street blog.

I love it! The Big Three's CEO's were forced to live like the rest of us yesterday as they headed to Washington, D.C. to beg Congress for a total of $34 billion to keep Detroit in business. But this time, instead of flying in on corporate jets, or even (perish the thought) flying first or business class on a commercial airline, the image-tarnished titans drove. And drove hybrids, yet:

Ford's Chief Executive Alan Mulally was on his way to the nation's capital on Tuesday afternoon, in a Ford Escape hybrid. A spokesman declined to say if the 10-hour trip would include an overnight stop. A GM spokesman said CEO Rick Wagoner would also travel to Washington by car: a 2009 Chevrolet Malibu hybrid.

Based on average gas prices of about $1.80 a gallon and fuel efficiency of about 27 miles per gallon, the cost of the round trip would be about $70 in gas. Tolls are extra.

By comparison a round-trip, business-class ticket from Detroit to Washington is roughly $1,400. Coach airfares run about $300. 

Perhaps if they have to drive the vehicles they've been foisting on the American public all these years, they'll improve the quality of American production. What a concept! The PR stunt has apparently already worked—that, or lobbying by the UAW. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday told reporters that Congress will not allow the automakers to fail: 

"I believe that an intervention will happen," Pelosi said at a briefing in Washington. "Everybody is disadvantaged by bankruptcy, including our economy, so that's not an option."

Pelosi said Congress will either approve new loans for the auto industry or the Bush administration will provide funding through the $700 billion financial-markets rescue plan approved by Congress last month. 

Pelosi's counterpart in the U.S. Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid, says he will have a bill on the Senate floor by next week that could bailout the big three if the CEOs and Congress reach agreement on what should be done. What a difference a drive makes!