The three men who run America’s car giants are among the most powerful in the country, but they are pygmies like the rest of us in this financial crisis, and are fighting for their companies’ lives.
The bosses of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler have been in Washington to talk to the Senate and persuade it theirs is a cause worth fighting for.
But they are asking for an awful lot of money.
“We’re here today because we made mistakes, which we’re learning from, because some forces beyond our control have pushed us to the brink,” says GM’s boss Rick Wagoner.
Not everyone was there to give the men a fair hearing; there was plenty of barracking, even when one executive turned up in his company’s much-vaunted new electric car, rather than the private jet he used the last time.
Many in the Senate have memories of the 70s oil shocks and pleading to make more efficient cars. 30 years on they are still waiting.
Many lack confidence in Detroit’s leadership, and some feel the market should decide on the big three’s survival, even if job cuts would be deep and ill-timed.