General Motors ( GM) and Ford ( F) say they are getting out of the corporate aircraft business. Furthermore, both CEO Rick Wagoner of GM and Alan Mullaly, the chief at Ford, will drive to Washington in hybrid vehicles for Congressional hearings on Thursday and Friday, when they will make their cases for securing shares of a proposed $25 billion industry bailout. The auto companies appear to be reacting to intense criticism of their CEOs' use of corporate jets to call on Congress two weeks ago. "Due to significant cutbacks over the past months, GM travel volume no longer justifies a dedicated corporate aircraft operation," the company said Tuesday, in a prepared statement. "GM is currently exploring options for transferring its aircraft to another operator." GM said it will cease operations at General Motors Air Transportation Services at Detroit Metro Airport, where it will close its facility effective Jan. 1. Ford also said Tuesday that it will sell its five corporate jets, after saying last month that it would consider a sale. Ford said it will ask for access for up to $9 billion in bridge financing from the bailout, but reiterated that "it hopes to complete its transformation without accessing the loan should Congress agree to make the funds available." The companies' planned departures from the aircraft business may come as welcome news to Delta ( DAL), which acquired Northwest last month. Northwest operates a Detroit hub. At an investor conference Tuesday, Delta President Ed Bastian noted the airline is seeing weakness in fourth-quarter corporate bookings.
The newly acquired automotive customer base "is driving some of that customer weakness," he said.