By on December 4, 2008

The truth is out: as Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli drove a Chrysler Aspen Hybrid to today’s Senate Banking Committee hearings. Confirmation comes from Jet-Gate Media Inc, formerly known as ABC News, which dedicates no fewer than four pages to the symbolism of CEO transportation choices. Of course Nardelli gets a good hosing for choosing a ride that will be canceled within less than a year of its introduction. ABC contrasts the high cost and marginal returns of hybrid vehicles with the currently low cost of gas, and concludes that (in the words of Kelly Blue Book’s Jack Nerad) “a hybrid alone will not save Detroit.” In short, the parade of Volt/Cruze mules, Chrysler vapoware and assorted hybrid and flex-fuel vehicles are a PR show to gain environmentalist support for a bailout. Shocking stuff, I know, but the disconnect between self-image and reality is key to this entire situation. Slate’s Daniel Gross explores this “Detroit Delusion,” arguing that “the markets are treating the auto companies as if they’re already in bankruptcy,” and “the federal funding they’re requesting is necessary to help manage failure, not to stave it off.” Luckily Senators seem to be focusing on these financial issues rather than taking the eco-future bait.

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14 Comments on “Bailout Watch 241: ChryCo CEO Nardelli Drives Aspen Hybrid to DC...”

  • avatar

    Dammit, I was really rooting for the GEM car:

  • avatar

    He actually drove an Aspen hybrid?

    Dear lord, this man has no clue. None. Zip. Zero. If Home Depot paid him a dollar to bugger off, it was a dollar too much.

  • avatar

    It’s the only hybrid Chrysler makes (other than the Dodge Durango Hybrid, which is basically the same vehicle). He had no choice, really.

  • avatar

    NY Times has a photo of him arriving in a white Jeep Wrangler 4-door. It’s the picture #7 on the homepage.

    WaPo has a video of same. Looks like a test mule for an electric drivetrain?

  • avatar

    Could that possibly be the EV Wrangler?

  • avatar
    jerry weber

    What does it matter how these guys get around. The ugly fact that no one likes their products cannot be swept under the rug. Sales to Hertz, et al. cannot mask the inferiority of this lineup. Next year the same stuff will still be here rusting on dealers lots and the consumer will be long gone. The ponzi game of low interest, deeply discounted cars and trucks, and cheap leases is gone. But remember, when all of the above was going strong say last year, these companies were still losing boatloads of money and marketshare. It took every magic trick to sell the stuff at a loss in a good economy. With no more funny money to throw at the products they simply languish. Not one of these execs could say absolutely that they are not coming back for next year for another bite of the apple. The new argument will be, now that the Govt. has all of these billions invested we can’t lose it by not injecting a little bit more. Presto we have Nationalized the industry as in socialism. (A nasty name Presidential candidates through around a month ago)

  • avatar

    Did anyone pop the hood on the EV Wrangler to see if it was even running a hybrid powertrain? Or was it just sporting the badges?

  • avatar

    It’s the only hybrid Chrysler makes (other than the Dodge Durango Hybrid, which is basically the same vehicle). He had no choice, really.

    He didn’t have to show up in a hybrid. The emphasis, were they really to go through with this charade, should be on proving their viability as a producer of cars that don’t suck. Again, they don’t have to be hybrids or EVs; they could (and should) be the best mass-market car each automaker makes.

    Now, Nardelli’s obviously at a disadvantage here, what with heading a company that, frankly, produces nothing but cars that suck, or are grossly inappropriate (Challenger), but he could have come in a cop-spec Charger.

    Similarly, Mullaly should have shown up in a Fiesta, which would have been smart. He could have shown in a Flex, given that it seats enough people, gets decent mileage and is actually quite nice, though a Fusion hybrid wouldn’t have hurt. Wagoner could have shown in the Malibu or Vue for similar reasons. Instead, what we get is cheap PR ploy that anyone with two brain cells can see through, though if they’d shown up the first time they held out the begging bowl I’d have a little more respect.

    Of course, if they’d shown up the first time with some semblance of a plan, I wouldn’t have cared if they’d arrived in an gold-plated H1 fueled by rendered baby seal fat.

  • avatar

    One of these guys should have shown up in a fully loaded luxury SUV. He then should have pointed out that if it weren’t for CAFE, they would all have been making a profit for the last few years, and could easily have weathered this storm.

    When one of the elected idiots took the bait, he could have pointed out that if gasoline was in such need of conservation then they should tax gasoline rather than squeezing Detroit with labor laws on one side and consumer laws on the other.

    Oh well, I can dream.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    ” … if it weren’t for CAFE, they would all have been making a profit for the last few years …”

    How so? CAFE standards for cars today are exactly the same as they were in 1985, 23 years ago! How can you say that Detroit would have been doing great for these last several years if not for the CAFE fuel economy rules?

  • avatar

    Actually the Detroit Three, who were once the Big 3, have had a lot of financial success from ’85 forward with CAFE in place. GM in particular rocked & rolled from ’94 forward with trucks & SUV’s, they sold well and GM made lot’s of $$$, as did Ford. Chrysler saw the advantage of the mini-van and capitalized on it all within the realm of CAFE so I don’t think it has been an impediment at all. $4 per gallon, gasoline, now there’s an obstacle! And having had the fuel run-up occur as quickly as it did has driven a nail in the D3’S coffin.

    I question the need for CAFE actually, especially if oil returns to stratospheric heights. All it takes is a Honda or a Toyota, et al. that sees (continues to see) the value in fuel efficient cars to negate the value of the Big 3’s gas guzzlers (Suburban, RAM, Expedition, etc.) and discard them to irrelevancy, which is what has happened anyway.

    Point is, that regardless of CAFE, most people are not going to go back to fuel suckers when they have options.

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    Food for thought: if CAFE wasn’t implemented with the truck/SUV/minivan loophole, would we still be seeing a bunch of big (Panther-class) cars around?

  • avatar

    CAFE was the reason (along with union contracts) that gl continued to spit out many money losers over the years rather than drop them.
    We have laws favoring the unions, we have laws forcing them to keep dealers, and we have laws forcing them to build small cars that they lose money on.
    Why does anyone with talent want to work there at all?

  • avatar

    Was just reading the Charlie LeDuff book “Detroit: An American Autopsy.”

    He claims that when Nardelli drove the Aspen to DC, that a car full of engineers and tools trailed a couple of miles behind in case (or when) the Aspen broke down. They distrusted the vehicle that much.

    After the testimony, Nardell hopped the corporate jet home.

    “But they had not even cleared the Lincoln Memorial when Nardelli, according to Carlisle, instructed him to drive to the airport, where the corporate jet was waiting.”

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