Zarrella leaves 'em laughing
Ron Zarrella, the press-shy president of General Motors North America, deftly poked fun at himself on stage last week at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Donning a red smoking jacket and sitting in a make-believe living room straight out of 'Masterpiece Theatre,' Zarrella explained straight-faced to a packed audience of journalists that his first resolution of the new millennium was 'to strengthen my relationships with many of you in the media.' He said he had recently taken the first step by going fishing with veteran Forbes reporter Jerry Flint. Giant video screens flashed a doctored photo showing the two men standing in a pond with fishing gear. Zarrella was in his trademark gray suit and rubber waders. Subsequent photos showed the GM exec, still in his suit, relaxing on a tropical beach and then running with the bulls in Pamploma, Spain.
BIG BOYS' TOYS - When DaimlerChrysler officials unveiled the Chrysler PT Cruiser last week at the Detroit auto show, they knew the press kits would be popular. Each of the 1,700 kits contained replicas of the three PT Cruiser models Chairman Bob Eaton used in unveiling the vehicle. DaimlerChrysler's publicists were so worried some of the kits might disappear before the car was unveiled that they considered hiring extra security guards or pasting biohazard warning labels on the kits, said Jan Zverina, senior manager for car and truck communications. A few kits did disappear during the night before extra security was hired, Zverina said. The rest were snapped up 'in record time' by journalists after the unveiling, he said.
BACK IN THE SADDLE - Harry Pearce, vice chairman of General Motors, was back in the auto show limelight last week for the first time since battling leukemia. Working without a teleprompter - the only GM speaker to do so - Pearce methodically gave a detailed technical introduction of GM's new hybrid electrical concept car, the Precept. 'What you saw there was his summation to the jury,' said one GM spokesman, referring to Pearce's career as a corporate lawyer.