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  • 02.18.09

Car Companies “Rearranging the Deck Chairs on the Titanic?”

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The award for the most awkward presentation yesterday went to Bryan Nesbitt of GM, that asked the government for an additional $16.6 billion, in a plan summarized by Andrew Leonard of Salon as “Give us a lot more money, right now, so we can shrink even more rapidly.”

The gee-whiz innovations Nesbitt talked about seemed drawn from an alternate universe where kids still make clay models of shark-finned Chevys: Aerodynamic improvements for efficiency (the company has exactly one windtunnel, located in–you guessed it–Detroit!) and electronic controls that work like an iPhone.

After a panel discussion, Nesbitt, along with representatives of Toyota and hybrid startup Bright Automotive, were asked a very rude question.

“Are you guys rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic?”

Bill Reinert of Toyota Motors bristled at the charge. “I don’t think that any of the three of us up here see business as usual. We might see things going in different directions than you do, but we don’t see business as usual. The fact that we talk about how difficult it is to bring this stuff to market and to educate the consumer doesn’t mean we think it shouldn’t be done.”AK