Automaker CEOs Grilled on Capitol Hill
ABC News' Lisa Chinn Reports
At Wednesday's Capitol Hill hearing with the Big Three automakers, the mood was best captured by Democratic Rep. Mike Capuano of Massachusetts when he told the automaker CEOs that Americans, "don't trust me all that much, but they really don't trust you."
Rick Wagoner of General Motors, Robert Nardelli of Chrysler and Alan Mulally of Ford Motor Company appeared on Capitol Hill for the second day in a row to discuss a potential bailout for the auto industry. The hearing before the House Financial Service committee Wednesday lasted a marathon seven and a half hours.
Capuano argued that Congress' problem with handing the Big Three automakers a $25 billion "bridge loan" is that America has lost faith in both Congress and the auto industry.
"I'm not interested in a race to the bottom," said Capuano. "I am very interested in my constituents, who basically do not trust you. They really don't trust me all that much, but they really don't trust you, and they don't trust you for lots of different reasons."
Alluding to the $700 billion dollar economic rescue package earlier this year, the House Democrat added, "I don't want to help again and get it stuffed back in our ear at home that you took the money and you blew it."
In reference to the hot button issue of executive compensation and perks, the CEOs were careful with their language. Two of the three CEOs once again refused to take the symbolic one dollar that American businessman Lee Lacocca took back in the 1980s when Chrysler received loan guarantees from the government.
Robert Nardelli, the current CEO of Chrysler, agreed to take that one dollar salary, if it can guarantee a bridge loan of approximately $7 billion for his company. However, when questioned directly by Rep. Peter Roskam, R- Ill., Wagoner and Mulally demurred on the point.
Here is the full exchange:
WAGONER: Yes. I am willing to continue to do what I've been doing. I've had no cash bonuses three of the last four years. Basically, I have a significant amount of General Motors stock, including a lot which I've bought myself, which basically is valueless. A voluntarily reduced by own salary a few years ago 50 percent. And so in this spirit of sacrifice, I will be glad to participate in that as well.
Roskam: OK. Are you willing to go the other 50 down to a dollar?
WAGONER: I don't have a position on that today.
Roskam: OK. Mr. Mulally?
MULALLY: We have eliminated all of our bonuses, also, and also any salary increases. We think that's absolutely appropriate. But, on the other assets -- on all of our assets, we have reduced and consolidated all of our assets on travel, too.
Roskam: OK. Are you willing to go down to the dollar?
MULALLY: I think it's -- I understand your point about the symbol and, clearly, the intent of what you are asking. But I think, not just for me, but we were trying to field a skilled and motivated team, also. And it's just so important that, as we do this plan, that we have the team that we need.
So I understand the intent, but I think where we are is OK.
Roskam: OK. And just so I'm clear. I'm in the asking about the team. I'm just asking about you.
MULALLY: I understand.
Roskam: And the answer is no?
MULALLY: I think I'm OK where I am.