Transparency Is All There Is // Random Thoughts

Left: New way of thinking,  Right: Old way of thinking What exciting times we're living in! For those of us whose values include transparency, integrity, and natural law, it's pretty amazing to watch the chickens come home to roost (I'm really hoping I know what that phrase means). In case you've been too busy, I want to bring to your attention two unfolding stories that particularly stand out to me:

1. The Big 3 are no longer big enough to be worthy of the title, and have been renamed the Detroit 3. They're begging for cash in Washington. While every news outlet, many consumers, and Congress have been debating whether or not to bail them out, the top execs showed up in D.C. in their private jets - three separate private jets to be exact - causing outcry from all of the above. This action obviously did not support their case that their heads are on straight, they're making sound strategic decisions and they just need some cash to tide them over.

2. went through a round of layoffs. CEO Tony Hsieh, an avid Twitterer and (crowned by us) a Rebel, posted updates about the layoffs on his Twitter feed, and even offered up a copy of the email sent to employees on his blog. The outpouring of support from Twitter followers was pretty incredible. Many applauded his openness and commiserated with the tough times businesses are in. Others promised to actually buy more shoes on Zappos and tell their friends to do the same.

Let's consider these two stories as a juxtaposition of old-school and new-school thinking. Both are stories about companies going through hard times. One handles it with bravado, finger pointing, and an air of desperation, the other with humility and humanity.

What I find most interesting about the Zappos situation is not that Mr. Hsieh went public with traditionally private company matters, but that he had previously created an environment in which it made sense for him to do this now. He allowed himself the freedom to do the right thing in tough times, because he lived right when times were good.

Conversely, the problem with Detroit is not that they showed up in Washington in private planes, it's that they were asleep at the wheel so long that they didn't realize they have no business flying private planes. Ever.

Sidenote: New to our blog? Check out the first post here - consider it a map.

LA Auto Show // On The Run

Yesterday I snuck into the industry-only press day at the LA Auto Show to bring you the really real on what's happening with the auto industry that appears to be in freefall. Considering the grim news coming from the right side of the country, kickoff day was relatively upbeat, with an opening keynote from Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn. He spoke briefly about the economic problems facing the industry, but was perhaps overly upbeat about the potential of the industry to bounce back.

Some highlights (and lowlights) from my 5-hour tour:

Nissan's booth was the most interesting to me personally, having been a 3-time Nissan/Infiniti owner. I finally got to sit in the GT-R, which is pretty damn amazing. I got three speeding tickets just sitting there.

The long awaited 370Z is beautiful, but the big news for me was the very Scion-like Cube. Just about five years too late to be interesting, the Cube is sort of a nicer, less youth-friendly xB. The Nissan rep told us that the target was "bi-modal," which basically means they want kids and boomers to buy the same car. Sounds like a bit of a recipe for disaster to me.

She went on to say that Nissan's marketing will target Gen-Y through the look and feel of their advertising. When I pressed for specifics, I got a semi-cryptic answer that led me to believe their commercials will contain short codes to enable young people to interact with the brand through SMS.

Sounds like the good people at Nissan need to come to grips with the quote I love to throw around from Anne Busquet, former CEO of American Express: It's not the age of the internet, it's the age of customer control.

VW's presentation was a lot more upbeat. It's Jetta TDI diesel was named "Green Car of the Year," and the presenter said "This (Jetta) model doesn't know there's a recession," citing the company's relatively healthy .6% drop in sales and 14% gain in market share.

Honda emphasized the company's eco-friendly cars, from the relaunch of the Insight — the cheapest hybrid on the market — to the hydro-powered FC Sport Concept, which looks like a cross between the Lamborghini Reventon and a Transformer. Interesting, I just wish they didn't have to tell us it was "cool," because then suddenly it wasn't.

BMW introduced the plug-in Mini E. Very hot.

Mazda made some significant upgrades to the 3, adding in some luxury-level amenities that should appeal to folks who may be trading down. They also gave out Sprinkles cupcakes.

The Ford booth was the only domestic I got to visit. GM and Chrysler decided not to hold press conferences this year. The upbeat presentation from EVP Mark Fields and (former Scion head / Rebel client) Jim Farley emphasized the fun of driving the redesigned Mustang and eco-friendliness of the Fusion hybrid, which along with the Milan, Farley said, will make Ford the #1 producer of hybrids in America.