Monday, April 9, 2007

Ford CEO saves bush ...

Mark Wilson / Getty Images
Ford President Alan Mulally, right, had to be quick on his feet to make sure President Bush plugged a power cord into the right socket on a Ford hydrogen-electric plug-in hybrid.

Plug it in, fire it up, Mr. President
The Detroit News April 07, 2007

Credit Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally with saving the leader of the free world from self-immolation.

Mulally told journalists at the New York auto show that he intervened to prevent President Bush from plugging an electrical cord into the hydrogen tank of Ford's hydrogen-electric plug-in hybrid at the White House last week. Ford wanted to give the Commander-in-Chief an actual demonstration of the innovative vehicle, so the automaker arranged for an electrical outlet to be installed on the South Lawn and ran a charging cord to the hybrid. However, as Mulally followed Bush out to the car, he noticed someone had left the cord lying at the rear of the vehicle, near the fuel tank.

"I just thought, 'Oh my goodness!' So, I started walking faster, and the President walked faster and he got to the cord before I did. I violated all the protocols. I touched the President. I grabbed his arm and I moved him up to the front," Mulally said. "I wanted the president to make sure he plugged into the electricity, not into the hydrogen This is all off the record, right?"

New arena, or new elevators?

Detroit Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch can be sphinx-like when asked whether Joe Louis Arena will be renovated or a new arena built near the Fox Theatre in downtown Detroit or another location.

This week, the Ilitches gave their standard "continuing to evaluate all options" response after news broke that they plan to raze a dilapidated empty building they own at 138 W. Columbia. The building is smack dab in the Foxtown area long-rumored to be a site for a new venue.

But with the lease for The Joe expiring in 2009, the Ilitches' noncommittal answers tend to fuel more speculation. Just ask Greg Gauthier, a longtime Wings season ticket holder, who shared an elevator ride with Mike Ilitch during a Wings home game Tuesday.

Gauthier said he had this brief exchange with Ilitch: "I asked Mike if there was any progress on the decision about a new arena," Gauthier said. "He replied 'I sure will miss the rides up in this elevator.' "

Gauthier is sure it means the Wings will have a new home. Then again, does it mean The Joe's makeover includes new elevators?

Chrysler image: bad marriage

What is with Germans and matrimonial imagery? At DaimlerChrysler's annual shareholder meeting this week in Berlin, investors discussed Chrysler like a cheating ex.

"This marriage made in heaven turned out to be a complete failure," said Hans-Richard Schmitz, one of a long line of investors who condemned the 1998 merger and called for a quick sale of Chrysler.

"Were Chrysler finally to be led before a divorce court judge, we would be very thankful," chimed in Henning Gebhardt, head of German equities at DWS, which manages funds for Deutsche Bank. "But what will happen if you do not find a new bridegroom for Chrysler, or if he demands too high a dowry?"

If that wasn't bad enough, some shareholders went on a refuse tangent, saying Chrysler was "garbage" that belonged on a "scrap heap."

There's a limit to nursery care

At DaimlerChrysler AG's Worth truck plant, managers are reducing absenteeism by offering workers emergency child care. A nursery on the site can take up to 30 children in a pinch, and the plant is thinking of expanding the service to accommodate 50 of the noisy creatures

"It's always full," said Martin Daum, vice president of production at the plant.

Workers can bring children if the person who takes care of the child gets sick, or is suddenly unable to help, and they can use the service for up to two weeks. Occasionally, plant managers will allow a child to stay longer, but there's no question of changing the two-week rule. The company wants to help in an emergency, not become a problem-solver for its employees.

Says Daum: "There's no emergency in life that takes longer than two weeks."

Contributors: Bryce G. Hoffman and Louis Aguilar