Worse Than 'Global Warming is a Crock'By Bill Visnic February 8, 2011
Someone had to take over from former General Motors Vice Chairman Bob Lutz as the guy who might just say anything, and Sergio Marchionne is making his case.
The Chrysler CEO, like Lutz, is a favorite with the media because he says things of substance. Sometimes the things he says also are inflammatory, confrontational, stimulating, obnoxious and borderline hateful. That makes it all the more entertaining - and potentially newsworthy.
Marchionne also is an estimable intellect. His typical abruptness and bluntness - he thrives on challenging insipid pack-media questions - usually is backed up by sharp knowledge and grasp of the subject at hand.
But Marchionne can be quick to set his tongue to flaying and it caught up with him when he fired off at the National Auto Dealers Association convention over the weekend, saying the monies lent to Chrysler by the U.S. and Canadian governments to keep the company afloat during its restructuring and Chapter 11 bankruptcy were "shyster loans" because of what he now derides as usurious interest rates.
Even the ever-confident Marchionne knew he'd gone too far with that lash-out, though, and he quickly attempted to redact, saying in a statement, "I regret the remark, which I consider inappropriate."
Sergio, most of us like you. Many more want to like you. And not just because you're infinitely more compelling than the typical industry suit (which you so famously eschew) - it's because we respect your reach and aptitude. But when it comes to the bailout - and it seems you and GM actively avoid that term - even you can't go there.
The bailout, as you seemingly came to understand (or maybe you took counsel, shudder, of other opinions?) still is a touchy matter for most Americans. Regardless of the real motives or objectives driving the bailout, to question the integrity of those who extended your company such largesse during trying times is, well, not just bad manners - the remark demonstrated implicit lack of judgment.
Disappointing, Sergio, from the guy who is supposed to be the smartest in the room.