Their mistake: Flying in on private jets. Congress seized on the irony, which became the central topic of the executives' testimony.
"I'm going to ask the three executives here to raise their hand if they flew here commercial," said Rep. Brad Sherman of California. "Let the record show no hands went up. Second, [I'm] going to ask you to raise your hand if you're planning to sell your jet ... now and fly back commercial. Let the record show no hands went up."
The Big Three finally got it right after several visits to Congress. They promised to sell their jets. They drove hybrid vehicles all the way from the Midwest. Wagoner and Nardelli promised to work for $1 a year.
Congress rejected a specific bailout for the automakers, but Presidents Bush and Obama used TARP to give GM and Chrysler more funding than they initially asked for.
In the end, Ford was the only U.S. automaker that didn't need a government bailout.
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