Friday, March 28, 2008

“Model T – Revisited”

c. 2008 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Note to Readers: The following is a two-act play based on our current woes with high fuel costs. It is offered as a glimpse into the world of high finance and corporate competition.

PRELUDE: Secret tests were recently uncovered at selected Wal-Mart locations. In a pilot program, this mega-retailer had begun to sell new versions of a Tata microcar made in India, under the ‘SAMS-CAR: Model T’ designation. Then, customers were surveyed to determine their overall satisfaction. This activity sent shock waves throughout the headquarters of every car manufacturer in America.


SETTING: A boardroom in Detroit. Coffee cups and water bottles litter the table. Half-empty trays of festive snacks are everywhere. Binders filled with research are piled in front of each participant. Yet their mood is raucous. The group engages in foolish squabbling and mischief before their conference begins. No one is really glad to be participating in this discussion.

THE PLAYERS: Auto executives from the ‘big three’ American auto companies. Moderator of the meeting is Lee Iacocca, the former Mopar CEO.

LEE IACOCCA - “Friends, I’m glad we could meet here today. What lies ahead is a challenge like none of us have ever faced before.”

GENERAL MOTORS - “Ten hut! Everybody snap to attention!”

WALLY CHRYSLER - “The General is right! Quiet down!”

HENRY FORD XVI - “Hey, you’ve lost your German accent, Wally! What gives?”

W. CHRYSLER – “Ja und mein name isn’t Hans anymore… I mean, my name isn’t…”

GENERAL M. – “Never mind, pilgrim. We get your drift.”

FORD XVI – “You got sold by Daimler-Benz.”

W. CHRYSLER – “Ach du lieber! Uhmm, I mean, right! We’re one-hundred percent Yankee again!”

L. IACOCCA – “Alright everybody. We are here to discuss an unexpected new plan by Wal-Mart, the giant retailer based in Bentonville, Arkansas.”

A packet of information is given to each participant in the meeting. There are gasps all around. Their mouths hang open with disbelief.

GENERAL M. – (shuffling papers) “Boys, this is insane!”

W. CHRYSLER – “I’m gonna be sick!”

L. IACOCCA – (continuing) “Wal-Mart’s explosive idea is to begin selling automobiles. Their version of the Tata ‘Nano’ is already in a few stores across the nation. The chain-wide rollout is coming soon. At a base price of $2,500 it represents an incredible bargain for their customers. What effect do you think that will have on the industry?”

FORD XVI – “They’re calling it the ‘New Model T?’ This is an outrage!”

GENERAL M. – (laughing) “Doesn’t that just chap your saddle?”

W. CHRYSLER – “Don’t tell me they’ve got a smiley face in the TV commercial.”

FORD XVI – “Yep. He’s bouncing all over the place. Gahhhh!”

W. CHRYSLER – (covering his mouth) “I mean it! I’m gonna be sssssssick!”

GENERAL M. – “Well anyway, I think it’s a bunch of hogwash. Who wants a little tin can on wheels when you can pull a tour of duty in one of my tricked-out tanks? Folks in America want to drive a Hummer, not an Easter Egg on wheels!”

FORD XVI – “Gasoline is nearing four bucks a gallon, Generalissimo. Can you say ‘market collapse by fall?’ The times are changing.”

W. CHRYSLER – “Brave talk, Henry. All you sell are trucks and SUVs. Nobody wants the Focus.”

FORD XVI – “Give it a rest, Wally. If it wasn’t for Jeep, you’d be bankrupt!”

L. IACOCCA - “Gentlemen! Please! This petty infighting won’t solve our dilemma. We need answers here!”

Grumbling fills the air.

GENERAL M. – “Okay, sorry Commander. Keep talking.”

L. IACOCCA – “Wal-Mart isn’t happy with a share of the pie, my friends. They want it all. Every last bite! And they know how to get it.”

W. CHRYSLER – “Okay, sure. They’re great at selling gadgets and toys. But what do they know about cars?”

FORD XVI – “Careful, Wally. That’s the way we used to talk about the Japanese!”

L. IACOCCA – “Don’t underestimate the bunch from Bentonville. They can sell everything from peanuts to pogo sticks. It’s in their blood.”

GENERAL M. – “So what’s our battle plan, sir?”

L. IACOCCA – “The Wal-Mart strategy seems to be based on exploiting consumer unrest over the high price of fuel. Everybody is hurting at the pump right now. It’s a plan that makes sense. So we’ve got to think of something better.”

FORD XVI – “Maybe a car that runs on something other than gasoline?”

W. CHRYSLER – “Hah! We’ve tried that before, and gotten nowhere. Propane? Hydrogen? Bio-diesel? Take your pick. America still depends on petroleum.”

GENERAL M. – “We just need a better idea, soldier. Something that will keep the whole platoon moving for pennies a day!”

FORD XVI – “That’s it - but what’s the magic fuel?

L. IACOCCA – (looking inspired) “Magic fuel… wait… I’ve got it… I’VE GOT IT! hang on, gentlemen!” (He takes out a cell phone and eagerly punches in a familiar number) “Hello, Ronald? Hey, you old clown! I’ve got a proposal for you…”


SETTING: The corporate offices of Wal-Mart Incorporated, Bentonville, Arkansas. The room is furnished in an austere collection of gray furniture. Each V. I. P. wears an oversized name tag like those used in their discount stores. Their mood is decidedly sour.

THE PLAYERS: Those in charge of the late Sam Walton’s empire - Chief Executive Officer H. Lee Scott, Jr.; Board of Directors Chairman S. Robson Walton; Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer William S. Simon.

H. LEE SCOTT – “Welcome everyone. We have gathered here today on a very serious occasion…”

Mr. Scott passes out a series of memorandum envelopes. There are crude exclamations of surprise and dismay.

S. ROBSON WALTON – “Dang it, has that hamburger-hawkin’ clown lost his mind? My daddy will be spinnin’ in his grave!”

WILLIAM S. SIMON – “Lee, is this some kind of joke??”

SCOTT – “Look hard at this information, my friends. It is no joke. The big three are about to introduce a trio of cars that run on a mixture of French fry oil and burger grease… refueling will be handled as a meal add-on at any Mc Donald’s in the Untied States… and eventually, the world!”

WALTON – “Thunderation! Look what you started with the SAMS-CAR, Lee! Nice work, bonehead!”

SIMON - “We are doomed!”

SCOTT – “Gentlemen, please! Calm down!”

WALTON – (reading from the Mc Donald’s literature) “New from your friends under the Golden Arches - The Motor City Mac Attack! Get your fill-up and fries today. It’s a meal deal that will keep you rolling, at the table and on the highway!”

Angry curses fill the air.

SIMON – “I say it again. We’re doomed!”

WALTON – “Lee you better think of somethin’ fast! Ronald is breathin’ down your neck!”

SCOTT – (looking flustered) “Yes. Yes. Yes! I’m on it, Robson!! Gentlemen, THIS MEETING IS ADJOURNED!!!”

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