Just over 10 years ago the CEOs of the big three US car companies — Chrysler, Ford and General Motors — headed to Washington to seek financial assistance from the US government. As private-sector titans that had dominated an industry as employers, innovators and taxpayers, their aim was to sell the idea that letting them fail would have long-term effects on the US economy that would take a generation to fix. Unfortunately, the CEOs opted to fly in to Washington using their company jets which, given that they were there to plead poverty, infuriated politicians and the public. The journey to Washington was a result of a combination of bad business decisions, increased global competition and outdated operational structures. But luckily for the big three their 2008 trip coincided with the height of the financial crisis and the transition from the Bush to the Obama administration. As a consequence, the carmakers could argue that not all of their problems were their own doing as they were...

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