GM CEO taking company car to Washington

DETROIT — General Motors Corp.’s CEO is taking a company car — not a plane — to Washington to help the industry make its case for $25 billion in federal loans. The automaker also says it will close its corporate aircraft operations in Detroit.

GM’s Rick Wagoner and the CEOs from Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC were harshly criticized in Congress last month for flying to Washington on separate corporate jets to lobby for the loans. Ford boss Alan Mulally also is traveling by car from Detroit for his second appearance.

Chrysler wouldn’t say how its CEO Robert Nardelli would get there, citing security reasons, but said it wouldn’t be by corporate plane.

All three executives are returning to Congress for hearings on Thursday and Friday. They are seeking the bailout loans to help them through the recession and the worst sales downturn in 25 years.

Ahead of the return visit, GM said in a statement today that it would cease operating its aircraft services starting Jan. 1.

“Due to significant cutbacks over the past months, GM travel volume no longer justifies a dedicated corporate aircraft operation,” the company said in a statement.

GM, the statement said, is exploring options for transferring its aircraft to another operator and is trying to sell four of the aircraft. Last week company said it was returning two of its five remaining jets to a leasing company, so the number of remaining jets is unclear.

The automaker will close its jet facility at Detroit’s Metro Airport and will try to find another tenant for the balance of the lease, which expires next year, the statement said.

Also today, Ford said in a plan submitted to Congress to justify the loans that it would sell its five remaining corporate aircraft.

Wagoner will drive in a Chevrolet Malibu hybrid sedan when he makes the 520-mile trek from Detroit to Capitol Hill, GM spokesman Tony Cervone said today. Ford’s Mulally will be taking a hybrid Ford Escape.

Both men will drive at least part of the trip, the companies said.

In midday trading today, GM shares rose 24 cents, or 5.2 percent, to $4.83. Ford shares also rose 25 cents, or 9.8 percent, to $2.79 after the company submitted its restructuring plan to Congress. The plan includes canceling all 2009 bonuses for global management and North American workers.

Ford said it hopes to restructure the company without accessing government loans, but promised CEO Mulally would work for $1 per year if the automaker did access funds. The company said it will sell its corporate aircraft, and is requesting access to up to $9 billion worth of bridge financing as part of its transformation plan.

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