Editor’s Note: Peter thought it would be fun to take you inside a high-level meeting at a certain auto company. The subject? A crucial product launch and the hand-wringing that goes along with it. -WG
By Peter M. DeLorenzo
Detroit. If you’ve often wondered what goes on in high-level meetings at an auto company, today is your lucky day. Let me introduce The Players in attendance: The Chief Financial Officer (CFO). The Chief of Manufacturing (COM). The PR Chief (PRC). The Divisional President (TDP). The Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). The Chief Technical Officer (CTO). And, of course, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO). On today’s agenda is a crucial product launch, which is sort of redundant, since they’re all crucial, but nonetheless, it’s the subject at hand. And as is his wont, the CEO opens the meeting…
CEO: As you know, I am taking this company into the next century. I have the support of the Board and the various stakeholders, and my mandate is to reinvent this company so we’re not left by the wayside. If that means stepping on some toes and leaving the stragglers in the dust, then so be it. I’m here to beat Tesla, and we’re just the company that can do it. I’m not worried about any other car company, especially those hacks across town. Now, where are we with the launch of the Belchfire SuperSucker EV?
COM: We’ve finished all of the captured fleet evaluations, and the reports are the highest we’ve ever received. All indications are that we’re fully prepared for start of production in January. We can’t wait to get started.
CTO: We’ve gone through everything, and all loose ends with the center stack interface have been addressed. We’re expecting flawless performance and thus a flawless launch on our end.
CMO: The launch advertising is in place, and our spots will debut at the end of the college football season and run right through to the college football playoff game. The dealers are very pleased with where we’re at and the early test results of the creative are off the charts. The best we’ve ever had. And the digital component is strong, the most far-reaching we’ve ever delivered. We’re ready to go.
PRC: We’re in sync with the marketing and our massaging of the media is ongoing. The feedback has been strong and the expectations are high. The positive “buzz” for us is ramping up by the day.
TDP: I’m pumped. We’re on it. Everything is in place and we’re fully prepared. We can’t wait to get the cars to the dealers. This is going to be a grand slam home run.
CEO: That all sounds good. Where are we with the budget?
CFO: Not counting the product development number, of course, the launch itself is $150 million, all-in. 
CEO: No loose ends and no surprises, right? We can’t afford any fuck-ups this time. 
A silence overtakes the room as everyone awaits the CFO’s response. She waits just a few beats too many before answering… 
CFO: Well, we’re going to need an additional 25 million.
CEO: What the fuck? For what?
CFO: Exactly. I’m calling it the What The Fuck Recall Fund, or WTFRF.
CEO: The what?
CFO: I suppose I could have called it something, else, something a little more politically correct, let’s say. But who’s kidding whom? In the five years I’ve been here, every single launch has been an unmitigated disaster. The average cost to “fix” our fuck-ups is 20 million. I baked in another five million just to cover the unforeseen screwups that are inevitable.
At this point, the COM gets up out of her chair and angrily spits, “There will be no fuck-ups on this launch. I will stake my reputation on it…”
CFO: Do you really want to do that? Didn’t you say the exact same thing last time? We’re still paying for that last fuck-up to the tune of five million a quarter. I’m just being realistic, as opposed to everyone else in this room.
CEO: Now wait just a goddamn minute.
PRC: Let’s cool things down here.
CFO: I guess I should walk back that last comment, but why bother? You hang your ass out in the breeze on a regular basis making promises that this company just can’t keep. 
PRC: I think you’re going down the wrong road here.
CFO: Oh really? Before you can be a visionary leader of a visionary car company you have to get the blocking and tackling right. Elon never did, he just waited for his fan boys to flame anyone who deigned to question The Dear Leader, even though they was cranking out basement-level, low-quality shit that would be embarrassing to any other car company, if not put them out of business. What’s our excuse?
At this point, the COM gets up and walks out of the room, muttering.
COM: I don’t have to listen to this bullshit.
CFO: Well, somebody better listen to it. I will guarantee you that if this company botches another launch, there won’t be enough PR excuses to invent.
PRC: Fuck you.
CFO: Fuck me?  So, let me guess, you and your PR minions have the media and the Twitter-verse so in hand that the “bad” stories won’t get out, or they will be so orchestrated and “soft” that it won’t matter? Now that’s some bullshit right there. Here’s the deal. I am baking in another 25 million for this launch to cover our collective asses. Tell me I’m wrong or tell me I’m placing the wrong bet, but I don’t think I am. It’s just the way we do “the do” around here.
The CEO is now beet red, letting his imperious “I’m a genius just ask me” guard down.
CEO: You’re wrong. And you’re placing the wrong bet. 
CFO: You sure about that? 
CEO: I am dead sure. And you’re fired. 
The others in the room break into applause as the CFO leaves, shaking her head but smiling broadly. But before exiting, she stops and leaves the room with her parting shot.
CFO: You know, I have known and worked with some brilliant people during my career. I have also known and worked with some incompetent, delusional fools who insist that they’re special but who prove otherwise every damn day. Where all of you fall on that spectrum is fairly obvious.
Oh, and one more thing: Self-aggrandizement is a fatal disease, boys. 
And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.
Editor’s Note: You can access previous issues of AE by clicking on “Next 1 Entries” below. – WG

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