MARK RECHTIN

Import brands should chill out over Obama snub

Import-brand automakers should not take the apparent snub by President Barack Obama at the Washington D.C. auto show too seriously.

This is, after all, the leader of the free world. That he even has time to visit an auto show is incredible, given the fragile status of the economy and the tense, rapidly-changing situation in the Middle East.

That import brand executives cooled their heels in a holding pen, never to gain audience, was an unfortunate casualty.

Matthew Hash, Ally senior manager of national accounts, provides some perspective. A few years back, Hash was part of GMAC’s Indianapolis office, which was to host sponsored NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon shortly before the Brickyard 400 race.

Hash recalls that a team of Gordon’s handlers came to the GMAC office three days before Gordon’s visit, and mapped out Gordon’s exact walking route, who he would shake hands with, and how many autographs he would sign before leaving exactly 18 minutes later.

This is Jeff Gordon, A-list NASCAR celebrity but a small fish in the big picture. One can only imagine the fluidity of Obama’s schedule. Smart politics dictate that the president needed to pay homage to the Detroit brands that the government bailed out. Anything beyond that would be gravy.

The import brands need to chill out and look at the big picture.

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