Company Jets and Shamed CEOs

Last Updated Dec 1, 2008 6:46 PM EST

gulfstream_g4.jpgWe all watched as members of Congress repeatedly berated the chief executives of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler for winging to Washington, D.C. on company jets and asking for a $25 billion handout. Sure, Congress made hay with the finest political grandstanding I've seen in years, but unfortunately, I don't think the CEOs understood what they did wrong.

I don't think they fully understood until they were crucified in the press and eventually spoofed by "Saturday Night Live." Certainly not Ford's Alan Mulally, who spent more than $752,000 last year using the corporate jet for himself and his family to fly back and forth from their family home in Seattle to Detroit.

Sure, there's an argument that using a company jet is a necessary business expense, and maybe it makes sense in some instances when time is more important than money. But BusinessWeek's report on how the CEOs used the corporate jets showed more abuse than use.

But what was the other option? Using GM, Chrysler or Ford cars? As SNL's fake exec said last weekend, "Instead of flying, the three of us decided to drive from Detroit, but we had car trouble."

In any case, no one thought the stick-poking and mudslinging would change much. Then strangely, the public shaming seemed to work .

From the Associated Press:

DETROIT -- After being skewered by Congress and lampooned on NBC's Saturday Night Live, the CEOs of Detroit's three automakers may make their return trip to Washington by car as they seek a federal bailout.

The Detroit area's auto industry, whose livelihood depends on the health of Chrysler, Ford and General Motors spent the weekend e-mailing and discussing how to set up a giant car caravan to seek help from Congress.

Amid the public embarrassment, GM announced plans to drop two of its five leased corporate jets and Ford promised a similar streamlining of its company aircraft. Chrysler announced itself ahead of the game by selling off its aircraft earlier this year. However, no word on how any of the Big Three plans to sell more cars.

Photo courtesy of Gulfstream