The runners that continue to compete in the domestic American three-horse race have started appearing in the show ring after a hard winter which almost claimed the lives of two of them.

Chrysler has been lame. Government inspectors have been in and emptied wads of notes from raincoat pockets which seemed to help. The Italian physio is now in. He has got everyone running around at his own frenetic work rate and the lameness is said to be working off.  Simultaneously, Sergio has got a breeding programme going on which will cross Lancias with Voyagers and Puntos with Sebrings and Vipers with Spiders for all we know. Think Wacky Races.

New GM has only just waved off the government cash delivery truck and looked around for a trainer and jockey to get them back on track.

To the delight of competitors, GM has chosen an old feller whose knowledge of horse racing is not recorded but who does have a ranch in Texas which inevitably is stocked with fleet four-footed creatures. Though there are horses, there is some confusion as to whether he is training up horses, his deer or his zebra for the big contest. Go on thinking Wacky Races.

Ed Whitacre’s experience in the motor industry takes little time to record. He is 67 and was initially recruited for the job of wise old chairman for the new revitalised GM.

But Big Ed (because he is 6ft 4ins; this nickname is not a cranial measurement) is now suddenly in charge of the lot: owner, trainer, breeder, jockey, physio and chief executive. His credential is that he made all the bells ring during the growth of AT&T which he ran for many years, and is a national champion at getting wires uncrossed. He was briefly in the show ring at the start of the week with a conference call on the sale of Saab to Spyker.

Yesterday Alan Mulally got his turn. This was a proper quarterly investor conference with investment analysts asking questions about margins and debt and all that reassuring old-world stuff that goes along with being a solvent, big-board, traded company.

The ex-Boeing man has done well at Ford. As is detailed elsewhere, he has made a fourth quarter profit of nearly a billion dollars compared with a five billion loss last year.

His other big achievement is that he is able to use the same presentation slide as last year and the year before in his presentation which saves cost and potentially has dramatic emphasis. But it is getting boring now.

It says Our Plan: “One Ford”, has just five bullet points, and emphasises the entirely reasonable idea that if the whole global Ford team works together to make the same cars that all motorists want to buy all round the world all of the time that would amount to leveraging global assets.

Three things can go wrong. One: whatever you tell suburban American man in a pickup about global warming and the doubling of gas prices you may never get him out of his truck and into the lovely little new Fiesta or the sophisticated new Focus.

Two: these cars are inherently lower margin than the heavy metal and Ford runs the risk of taking high margin offers out of the market and replacing them with low margin small cars.

Three: Ford has so much debt ($34bn) after three years of heavy losses and mortgaging all the factories to pay the bills that it starts with a $700 interest bill for every car sold before they have even been built. That’s equivalent to a full margin for a Fiesta.

Is there no area of bright blue sky for Ford? Well, yes there is. It’s ready to race and the others are not. Chrysler has a plan but no product. GM has a man but no plan. Seems safe to race the zebra…

Rob Golding 

See also: US: Ford makes $2.7bn net profit in 2009