Cash-Strapped and ‘Sensitive,' GM to Give Up 2 Jets

By Frank Ahrens
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 22, 2008

Struggling General Motors, which was blasted and mocked for using one of its corporate jets to fly chief executive G. Richard Wagoner Jr. to Washington this week to beg Congress for a bailout, is preparing to give back two of its leased corporate jets, the company said yesterday.

GM started the year with a fleet of seven leased jets. It gave back two in September and is preparing to shed two more. GM said it was already preparing to give back the two additional jets even before this week's hearing, where Wagoner and other auto executives made their case for $25 billion in government loans.

"We are very sensitive to the issues around the use of corporate planes," spokesman Tom Wilkinson said. "This is something we will be looking at closely in the future."

Ford also is considering selling its five corporate jets. "Our top priority is to make progress on our transformation plan," said Ford spokesman Mark Truby. "We don't want anything to distract us."

Why the private jets to begin with?

GM's board -- like many corporate boards -- requires its top executives to fly on company planes for their security. Further, GM said, the smaller jets can fly execs to places not easily accessible by commercial flights.

In another cost-cutting move announced yesterday, the top U.S. automaker said it would reduce production by idling five plants over the next two months. The moves affect 16,000 workers at GM plants in Ohio, Michigan, Kansas, Missouri and Ontario.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company