When I was a little boy, there were three newspapers in Detroit including The Detroit Times, which had a pink front page. But what I remember best were the swell Sunday comics which we called “the funnies:” Maggie and Jiggs, Dagwood and Blondie, The Little King, Flash Gordon, Prince Valiant, all the good ones. On the top of the first comics page there was a drawing of this Cupid-like kid (it was someone named Puck) wrapped in a towel and he was saying, “What Fools These Mortals Be.”

I didn't know what that meant until I began writing about the auto industry. Now I understand.

Let me give you an example. I'm reading the automotive press and note the headline: “Cadillac dumps ampersand from ads.” The story says that Cadillac has dropped the line “The power of &” from its print advertising. On TV this was pronounced as “the power of and.” It turns out that nobody understood what it meant. We all knew that from Day 1, but it took Cadillac a year to figure this out! They spent millions of dollars on ads with a slogan nobody understood.

Mind you, this is from the same advertising agency that gave Cadillac “the Caddy that zigs” and those dumb ducks.

But they didn't fire the ad agency. I'm not sure why. Why would anyone want to keep an agency that comes up with “the power of &” and those ducks. Look, I don't like to see people lose their jobs, but this stuff is awful. What's next? “Not your father's ampersand?”

What fools these mortals be.

The article also said Cadillac was going to stop some advertising in magazines targeted to older people (who buy Cadillacs) and advertise in magazines like Wired, which is read by young techies who never buy Cadillacs. Listen, no one who reads Wired is buying a DeVille. No one. So why waste the money?

All this convinces me that the people at Cadillac just aren't serious about their business. Serious people would not act this way.

But my favorite story of the week was headlined “GM handing off interiors.”

The point here is that General Motors was going to give suppliers full responsibility for designing and building complete interiors for its vehicles. A single supplier would be named responsible for the overall interior for each vehicle program.

A GM man said this would mean higher quality vehicles brought out faster and at lower costs.

Now I know, and GM people know, that their interiors are generally mediocre and the fit and finish is considered the poorest in the industry, including the Koreans.

And they are giving it over to suppliers? You and I know that the GM purchasing guy will squeeze those poor suppliers until their pips squeak, 5% price cuts every year. And the poor suppliers will chop by making the interiors even cheaper.

Mercedes and BMW, Honda and Toyota, the vehicle makers with great reputations, don't let suppliers design, engineer and take responsibility for complete interiors. But then GM doesn't seem to care about reputation; it cares about getting the low-cost bid.

What fools these mortals be.

Then there is the new strategy at DaimlerChrysler: I call it “slash and burn.’ All they talk about is how bad things are, the money they are losing, the thousands of workers they will lay off, the plant improvements they will stop, the programs (never vital, of course) that they will kill. People start wondering if the company's going to survive, and somehow I don't think that's good for business.

All this while Chrysler has very successful vehicles, the world's best selling minivan, the hottest volume product (the PT Cruiser), one of the world's best selling convertibles, a hot small pickup, the QuadCab, and a strong sedan, the Dodge Intrepid.

Wouldn't it be a good idea to come up with programs that would build confidence?

For example — not to beat a dead horse — but where is the news that the all-wheel-drive PT and the Turbo PT are going on sale, or that the PT Panel Job 1 will roll in six months? They could tell us how they will expand PT production to the Neon plant in Illinois.

Instead they moan that the roof of the paint room isn't high enough for the PT. Lordamercy, Scarlett, if we could rebuild Atlanta, we can paint the PT. Lower the paint shop floor or pull the wheels when it's painted. Figure out something. And tell us when you're pushing out the new Power Ram pickup that looks just like that beautiful show truck we saw a year ago. And tell us that a full line of rear-wheel-drive cars is being tooled.

One day, maybe you'll even tell us that the Germans are going to the bench and the first team All-Americans are coming back on the field. But until that happy day, wouldn't some news of good things coming be better than the panic of slash and burn?

What fools these mortals be.

Jerry Flint is a columnist for, and former senior editor of, Forbes magazine.