Sunday, May 28, 2006

Big Three CEOs flip out in D.C.

Saturday, May 27, 2006
Big Three CEOs flip out in D.C.

Business Insider

When the Big Three CEOs met with Congress last week to talk about pressing issues, a behind-the-scenes drama was playing out worthy of a "Desperate Housewives" Vanity Fair cover shoot.

After some negotiations, it was agreed that GM CEO Rick Wagoner would take the podium first in a media briefing on the lawn outside the Rayburn office building, home to the U.S. House of Representatives, because he had more seniority than Chrysler CEO Tom LaSorda and Ford CEO Bill Ford Jr.

The real wrangling started over how the three alternative-fuel vehicles the automakers brought to show off in Washington should be positioned at the event. Having conceded that Wagoner would be the first speaker, Ford argued its ethanol-powered F-150 should be parked right behind Wagoner for optimum photo-op visibility and the Chrysler and GM vehicles would flank it on either side. Oh no, Chrysler's PR team said. Why shouldn't its bio-diesel Jeep get the middle spot?

With no one giving an inch, the multibillion dollar global automakers opted for the only fair solution -- a coin toss. But no simple coin toss would do.

Ford's Mike Moran and Chrysler's Dennis Fitzgibbons met on a neutral street corner, each with quarter in hand. They both flipped at the same time and Moran called out "even" -- meaning he was banking that both coins would land either on heads or on tails.

But to Fitzgibbons' delight, one quarter turned up heads and the other tails -- "odds" was the result. So Chrysler won the right to park its vehicle in the middle.

Alas, with the crush of media and lawmakers at the news conference, it was difficult to see any of vehicles behind Wagoner. Chrysler, though, chalked it up as another sign that it should not be lumped in with GM and Ford, who can't seem to win for losing these days.

Ford 'pimps' biggest dealership

Galpin Motors Inc., the world's largest Ford Motor Co. dealership, has yet another claim to fame: It is now home to television's most popular car show ever, MTV's "Pimp My Ride."

"I'm loving it," Beau Boeckmann, Galpin's vice president and the son of owner Bert Boeckmann, told Business Insider. "I always felt that we'd have a show -- I just didn't know that we'd have this show."

Of course he's loving it. Not only is Boeckmann's Van Nuys, Calif., dealership getting some incredible publicity out of the deal, he himself is co-starring alongside the show's hip-hopping host, Xzibit.

Fans of the show may be surprised to see Galpin replacing West Coast Customs when the new season debuts on June 15. Hollywood insiders tell Insider that friction between the shop's owner, Ryan Friedlinghaus, and the show's producers led to the change.

West Coast's loss was Galpin's gain, thanks to Ford's secret weapon in Hollywood, Al Uzielli.

"Al made the introduction" "One day, one of the producers came to me and said, 'Could you do the show?' "

The great-grandson of Henry Ford, Uzielli is a Hollywood producer who has hung up his beanie and monocle to help open doors for the automaker in Tinsel Town. Ford will get plenty of product placement opportunities through Galpin's involvement in "Pimp My Ride." In fact, MTV will be giving away a pimped-out Lincoln Mark LT pickup to help launch the new season.

Honda's brainchild

Thomas Edison meets Timothy Leary in Honda Motor Co.'s latest research effort: "brain-machine interface" technology that may someday let people order robots around just by thinking. Developed by the white coats at the Honda Research Institute and Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International in Japan, the technology enables robots to duplicate a person's hand movements by decoding their brain signals.

So robots can now mimic simple hand gestures, such as the children's rock-paper-scissors game, 85 percent of the time with a lag of only seven seconds. Sounds a bit scary but Honda says the technology could increase auto safety, for instance, by allowing drivers to command functions without fumbling with controls. Best of all, the technology does not require "an invasive incision of the head and brain," according to Honda's news release. Phew. But Insider wants assurances that Honda has figured out a way to neutralize back-seat drivers.

Every million counts

You know the economy is bad when a Realtor has to the lower the price of a home by $1.5 million to find a buyer. That's exactly what Joy Morris of Hall & Hunter in Birmingham has done with the most expensive home on the market in Metro Detroit.

The 22,000-square-foot manor on Vaughan Road in Bloomfield Hills was painstakingly built over four years by Sally Russell of Birmingham.

Insider swooned over the features, including hand-hewn wood floors, an exercise room with a bouncy floor and a fireplace, a royal theater and dishwasher just for the china. But only so many people can afford a $3 million down payment and $60,000 monthly note.

Morris reduced the price this week in a concession to "Detroit's economy."

Sad but true; in a recession, even the outrageously rich suffer. Whatever happened to: "If you have to ask, you can't afford it?"

Contributors: Bryce G. Hoffman, Mark Truby and Christine Tierney.


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