Ford, GM Chiefs to Drive to D.C., but Should They?

For the big rematch with Congress, two of the Big Three bosses have parked their corporate jets in favor of a more novel form of transportation: driving the cars that they sell.

After embarrassing themselves by disembarking from private planes to beg the American public for a handout the last time they went to Capitol Hill, Ford boss Alan Mulally and General Motors’ top dog Rick Wagoner have decided to dip into the corporate motor pools this time around for the most fuel efficient vehicles in each of their company’s lineups.

According to a Ford spokesperson, Mulally plans on making the 525-mile journey in a Ford Escape Hybrid, while Wagoner will be grabbing the keys to a Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid, the reigning North American Car of the Year.

But is driving really the best choice? The Escape has an EPA fuel economy rating of 32 miles per gallon in combined city and highway driving, while the Malibu gets 29 mpg. Both figures are respectable compared to other vehicles in their class, but maybe not compared to coach class.

According to the Research and Innovative Technology Administration arm of the U.S. Bureau of Transportation, the average fuel efficiency on commercial flights within the United States in 2007, the most recent year data is available, was nearly 45 passenger miles per gallon, 55 if you count empty seats on planes that typically fly at 80 percent capacity.

Of course, there’s no doubt that Mulally and Wagoner will be accompanied by at least one co-worker each, which increases their PMPGs to 64 for the Escape and 59 for the Malibu. If they cram four aboard it’ll be 128 and 116.

Then again, time is money, and it’s going to be a 9-hour drive, instead of 2 hours on a plane. At Wagoner's current salary of $2.2 million, the extra 7 hours will cost GM's shareholders $7,406.

Maybe those corporate jets weren’t a bad idea after all.

Neither car can compare to a Gulfstream on luxury, but the Malibu probably has the upper hand in this cross-country shootout. With a smooth, quiet ride and plenty of legroom front and rear, Chevy’s mid-size sedan soaks up the interstate miles with the best of them, but you can’t get one with leather seats.

On the other hand, the Escape is available with hides and has nearly twice as much cargo space as the Malibu. Even better, you can reach what’s in there from the back seat, so if the honchos are loading up on Doritos and Red Bull for the trip, it’s the way to go.

Check back Thursday for FOX Car Report's full review of the 2009 Chevy Malibu Hybrid.

In either case, both cars should burn less than 20 gallons of gasoline each, so not counting tolls, the trip should only cost about $80 total at today’s pump prices.

That leaves $24,999,999,920 for everything else.