Special Coverage

NADA Convention & Exposition

NEW ORLEANS – The impression is etched in a lot of Americans’ minds: CEOs of the three domestic auto makers go to Congress seeking financial aid but are mercilessly scorned by lawmakers who ask sucker-punch questions, such as, “Will you work for free?” and “Did you fly in by corporate plane?”

To many people, especially within the auto industry, the questions were unfair and irrelevant.

But defense of those late 2008 Congressional hearings comes from an unlikely source: Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally.

Speaking at the National Automobile Dealers Assn. convention here, Mulally says that for the most part, the interaction with members of Congress went well, despite some infamous stand-out moments that people tend to remember the most.

“There were a lot of penetrating questions and a lot of thoughtful questions,” he says. “But really, it was a conversation to have,” considering the multi-billion-dollar magnitude of the auto makers’ assistance request and the fact that other sectors also sought federal aid.

For Mulally, a highlight of the hearings was when each CEO was granted five uninterrupted minutes to explain his company’s future plans.

He says that gave him a chance to outline Ford’s intent to build a “family” of fuel-efficient vehicles that are not only competitive but best-in-class products that will sell around the world.

“To tell that story, uninterrupted, was a great opportunity,” Mulally says.