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The boss as a driving force

Chief executives' cars send signals to workers, be it an Audi A8 alert or a Bentley bombshell.

October 19, 2005|Jim Mateja | Chicago Tribune

What car should the boss drive?

That's the question Chief Executive magazine answers with its list of recommended vehicles for CEOs -- a selection heavy with American and European models and absent anything from Japan.

"People watch CEOs and are critical if they are arrogant and insensitive to others around them," said Bill Holstein, editor in chief of Chief Executive, in explaining the choices in the October issue.

Holstein teamed with the folks from, an automotive website, to determine vehicles that are neither signs of arrogance nor insensitivity.

The cars are divided into two categories: everyday business commuter and weekend toy.

The commuter choices: under $75,000, the Audi A8 ($72,000); under $60,000, the Cadillac CTS-V ($53,000); and under $50,000, the BMW 3-Series ($42,800).

As for playthings, the choices are: sedans, a Bentley Flying Spur ($165,000) or Mercedes CLS 55 ($85,000); sports cars, a Ford GT ($153,000) or Ferrari F430 Spider ($180,800); convertibles, a Porsche 911 Carrera S ($81,400) or Cadillac XLR ($77,295); and coupes, an Aston Martin DB9 ($155,000).

In justifying its selections, the magazine conservatively noted that the Audi A8 is a "seductive sedan with great creature comforts," described the CTS-V as "appropriate with business customers or guests," and called the BMW 3-Series "a solid value with more room for practical business."

It was a little more colorful with the toys, calling the Bentley "a combination of lordly might and opulent luxury," the Ferrari "almost otherworldly" and "intoxicating," the Ford GT "two seats strapped to an engine" and the Aston Martin "a four-wheeled work of art."

Absent were any SUVs.

"We decided to concentrate on cars alone because not too many CEOs commute to work in a SUV," Holstein said.

And the price of gas and mileage ratings played no role.

"No consideration was given to gas prices or mileage because we assumed people in this [salary] bracket could afford gas at whatever price," he said.

But noticeable by their absence were any Japanese cars.

"They have excellent fit and finish and few defects or problems, but they don't capture the soul, the personality or the excitement that American and European designers have with their cars. Japanese cars are plain vanilla transportation that should be driven by dentists," Holstein said.

The vehicle a CEO drives is important, Holstein said, because it tends to influence others. Just like kids who try to emulate sports stars, employees will pattern their buying habits after what the boss drives. And it's not just an attempt to affect the color of the employee's nose.

"What the CEO drives affects employee behavior. Employees mimic the CEO. They look in the executive lot and what he drives sets the standard. If he drives a BMW 7-Series, it encourages others to buy more-expensive cars. But if he drives a Toyota Tercel, it encourages them to buy less-expensive cars," he said.

"A lot of CEOs are tightfisted and believe in getting value out of every nickel they spend and driving a Tercel sends a message to the organization that he wants them to be tightfisted too." If the boss drives a Tercel, perhaps you should opt for a bus.

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