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Big Three Automakers Get Send-Off Tongue-Lashing

Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) saved his attack dog for last during today's House Financial Oversight committee hearing, a grilling of the heads of Detroit's Big Three automakers.

Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.) lit into GM's Rick Wagoner, Ford's Alan Mulally and Chrysler's Bob Nardelli, saying the three automakers have spent their time making gas-guzzlers and fighting fuel-efficiency standards.

"All you did was fight me on CAFE standards," said Capuano, referring to the Corporate Average Fuel Economy benchmarks required of automakers. "You say you want fuel-efficient cars. If you had listened to us, you would have had them. Instead, you were giving away vehicles that got three miles to the gallon!"

Capuano continued, seeking assurances that Detroit would spend the $25 billion in loans in a fashion Capuano agrees with.

"I need some assurances you're not just going to blow this again, that you really did get the message," he said. "My fear is that you're going to take the money and continue the same stupid decisions you've made for 25 years. I don't know if it was you," he said, gesturing to the heads of the three automakers, "or your predecessors. I don't care."

Capuano wasn't finished. He began swearing at the executives.

"Damn it, I don't want to give you this money and have it stuffed back in my face," he raged on. "I want to honest-to-God know you got the message this time!"

He paused, and said: "Any one of you can just jump right in," which drew laughter from the chamber.

Ford's Mulally, probably the coolest customer of the three and former head of Boeing, responded: "I couldn't be more aligned with you. I have dedicated my life to fuel efficiency in airplane design for 30 years."

-- Frank Ahrens

The Ticker is Twittering!

By Frank Ahrens  |  November 19, 2008; 3:11 PM ET
Categories:  The Ticker  | Tags: Detroit bailout, automakers  
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What's really annoying is that no one from the Big Three, has said "Sorry, America" or anything close to acknowledging their mistakes in public. A genuine apology can go a long way, especially when you're begging for money.

Posted by: taskforceken | November 19, 2008 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Is there any video of this hearing? I'd like to see Rep. Michael Capuano's questioning.

Posted by: lavoinha | November 19, 2008 4:24 PM | Report abuse

'Our industry needs a bridge,' auto chiefs say - No it needs a Brain. In fact I think they have sold us enough bridges. You sent us the 79 Olds Diesel & blamed 3 engine failures in 55,000 miles on the consumer buying bad fuel, when it was really a poorly designed engine cooling system. This was your answer to the fuel shortage in the 70's yet that shortage was not a wake up call. A car so bad even your own dealers would not take it in trade - my loss $20,000. Since then my wife & I have bought 15 new vehicles none from GM - the latest, 2 Toyota hybrids. American car companies just don't get it. Their ad campaigns show how far off they are in today’s economy. NFL Football repeated ads Sunday by Dodge featuring a beastly gas guzzling pickup driving over terrain like seen on the "Goat" trail in the Baja 1000. Ford's Pickup ad was for the ability to tow a sailboat. Then there was a Honda ad for a car getting 33 mpg. How many people watching the NFL need to tow sailboats in November or will ever drive over anything close to Baja 1000 type terrain? In this economy how many viewers want 33 plus mpg. Since you sell so many pickups, how about a Hybrid Pickup? Remember the electric motor has more torque than the gas motor for those buyers that need to make grunting noises.

Posted by: notsoandso1 | November 19, 2008 4:52 PM | Report abuse

I almost feel sorry for the auto executives. You know you are way down in the dumps when a hack punk like Capuano lights into you. He is a no talent boob. It shows how sad sack these executives are. They and their predecessors along with the UAW wiped out a great industry. However, Capuano nevered worked an honest day in his life. Tsk tsk.

Posted by: hmgcpa52 | November 19, 2008 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Why is it Detroit can build and sell nice big cars and the little pieces of junk sit on the lots? Could be that people - familes with two or three kids - like to feel safe in big cars instead of pieces of junk? I don't think the price of those "tin lizzies" make that much difference. They are people killers. I, for one, do NOT like little cars. I drive all over southern California and do not want to be killed in an accident while driving one of those "tin lizzies" - econo cars? You must be kidding....

Posted by: PalmSpringsGirl | November 19, 2008 6:12 PM | Report abuse

What in idiot Capuano is. They were making cars that consumers were buying -- cars the auto companies made a fortune selling. Not one mention of the idiotic labor contracts that are at the heart of the inability of Detroit to compete. American car companies are making it work -- they are just owned by Toyota, etc and don't operate in Michigan. The current management can be faulted for not getting enough cars that the world markets want to buy and for agreeing to labor contracts that are not competitive. But Democrats ignore the reality in favor of @ss kissing to their UAW campaign contributors.

Posted by: RBCrook | November 19, 2008 6:17 PM | Report abuse

Can’t see that the heads of the auto companies are doing themselves any good through direct testimony before Congress.

They all hit town on private jets and didn’t exactly look contrite in the excerpted clips I have seen. Who is advising these whahoos?

Imagine for a second that you were going to show up before the Senate and the House to ask for gratis capital and that you just happen to run a car company that advertizes itself as some king-hell wizz bang high tech forward thinking outfit. Would you not have shown up in advance with some Damn Good Business Plan to illustrate exactly how you will use the requested money to emerge better and stronger?

Or maybe DRIVE a prototype GREEN CAR from Detroit to DC and do a little basic PR along the way. Visit some plants and bring some WORKERS WITH YOU. Or do some stunt like drive a really efficient car all the way to DC on one tank of gas. SOMETHING ANYTHING to show you get it. That maybe we can anticipate some innovation, some sweat, ANYTHING. They could at least show us a pic of a prototype concept car with BIG FINS or something. A little sizzle and show and tell?

I guess these guys are just fixin’ to go down with their ships. Good Riddance! They brought nothing but a bunch of financial double-talk and no plan. No sizzle. Why in the world are these suits in CHARGE OF ANYTHING more complicated than a tire store??? They look like they are the guys running some old Soviet car collective. I can imagine the Chinese buying our auto companies and just kicking the current CEO’s asses from here to Shanghai.

Posted by: roboturkey | November 19, 2008 7:33 PM | Report abuse

CAFE encourages more driving, since it makes the cost of driving cheaper. We need a gas tax to drive demand to more fuel efficient vehicles and keep the money in our country.

Posted by: apeirond | November 19, 2008 7:46 PM | Report abuse

There is nothing new to this...some one should reprise the industry's request for import relief before the U. S. International Trade Commission about 30 years ago...which was denied curiously enough because two Democrats and an "Independent" voted against the petition. Two Republicans were in favor of relief. Then as now it was the same story...the industry was building poor quality cars and the domestic product was out of touch with consumer preferences, and no hint of any sacrifice by management to manage expenses and public image. All of these management and marketing issues were identified then...and the domestic industry in the 30 years since that investigation has been either unable, or more likely, unwilling to acknowledge, much less address them. But, the industry did survive in some fashion, and I cannot help but think that it will survive this crisis as well. At that time, I think the most persuasive pro argument for import restraints was national security...this country did and perhaps still does need a viable auto manufacturing base. this?

Posted by: justme4 | November 19, 2008 8:09 PM | Report abuse

It's about friggin time someone put these auto clowns on the stand. If they put that $25 billion to anything but fuel efficiency, we should shut them down out of pure stupidity.

Posted by: hyperbanana | November 19, 2008 8:26 PM | Report abuse

The auto companies don't get it. If they are to lead the future in transportation, they should be looking to create a new infrastructure that satisfied our current issues regarding 1)environmental impact 2)social-political conflict.
With the current business model, they might has well go ask Exxon-Mobil or the other super rich oil companies for a temporary bailout and to join the ranks of the future dinosaurs.

Instead they should be inquiring the Federal government for investments in creating a whole new infrastructure that provides for electric, hydrogen or other technologies based transports that are based on domestic, local, sustainable energy.

At this point, I rather let them eat the bullet, let them die, so that it paves the way for new minds to take over their old ways

Posted by: minkaxxx1 | November 20, 2008 6:01 AM | Report abuse

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