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  1. Wealth
April 17, 2009

Rage against the machines

By Spear's

The scantily clad models and hip-shaking dancers ordinarily have an easy time of it with an adoring crowd. Not so in 2009.

Usually, it’s a cheery and glamorous affair, the New York Auto Show, which every year fills the Jacob Javits Center on the West Side and is the major U.S. unveiling of all the new models and concept cars of the world’s automakers.

The scantily clad models and hip-shaking dancers ordinarily have an easy time of it with an adoring crowd. Not so in 2009.

The financial crisis and the war in Iraq have left the American public so angry, they are buying tickets in order to heckle the presenters and vent their rage with the automakers, whom they accuse of everything from theft to murder.

As G.M. and Chrysler downgrade their exhibits in keeping with their bailout packages, even making their presenters recycle last year’s outfits, hecklers continue to file in, unimpressed with the timing their unveiling of more fuel-efficient cars.

‘How come you’ve got to nearly go bankrupt before you come out with a car like this?’ shouted one.

The presenters explaining they’re just day hires trying to survive the recession too and actually have no part in corporate decision-making does not help, for these girls are the closest a furious public will get to automaker executives, whom they would lynch if they could.

One woman even claimed G.M. was responsible for the death of American soldiers in Iraq, for if the automaker had made more fuel-efficient cars, America would not be so desperate for oil and would not have invaded Iraq.

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But the major problem for both G.M. and Chrysler is one familiar to bankers: rumour and perception becoming reality. Auto show attendees are steering clear of these brands because of their financial trouble.

Not only do people not want to purchase from a company that may not be around to honour their warranty or supply spare parts, but I suspect potential purchasers are enjoying the punishment they are meting out with more than a sprinkle of Schadenfreude.

‘You’re going out of business,’ and ‘You guys are going bankrupt,’ they shout at the company reps before turning on their heels and heading to the Japanese brands. And that really is a problem for G.M. and Chrysler.

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