I have an awkward memory forever singed in my mind.
The year was 2008, and comedian and talk show host Stephen Colbert asked then General Motors Vice Chairman Bob Lutz whether the Chevrolet Volt will "get me laid."
I cringed watching it.
But Lutz didn't flinch. He matter-of-factly affirmed for Colbert that it would. Then the two joked that the type of woman it might attract might not shave her legs.
That's the kind of off-color fodder to expect on late-night TV.
Last night, Ford CEO Alan Mulally appeared on CBS' Late Show with David Letterman. He came onstage fairly late in the show, just after midnight.
Earlier yesterday, I talked to Mulally's spokeswoman, who recalled the Lutz-Colbert exchange with me. She laughed, then admitted you never know what will happen.
But I know Mulally pretty well from many off-the-record conversations. Like Lutz, Mulally is a big personality. He is quick-witted, has a sense of humor and speaks his mind. He's the perfect executive to pitch Ford to a youthful, nonautomotive audience.
Ford has been working for two years with CBS to get Mulally on Letterman. The time was finally right.
"They said they want to talk about the Ford story," said Karen Hampton, Mulally's spokeswoman. "And apparently, David is a big electric vehicle fan. So he wants to talk to us about electric vehicles."
Ford will launch the Focus Electric compact car at the end of this year. Ford will introduce the C-Max Hybrid and C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid next year.
The Focus Electric and C-Max Energi joined Mulally on the show. Mulally and Letterman took a very short drive in the Focus Electric across the stage.
But what else could have happened beyond the wacky banter about electric vehicles?
The Letterman staff had not prepped Ford for anything else. Hampton was confident Mulally and Letterman would have other things in common to chat about. Both men, for example, had jobs bagging groceries as teenagers, Hampton says.
But in the end, there were no stupid pet tricks.