The BMW time bomb

Dubi Ben-Gedalyahu

Ministers face a tough choice over their official car - to go with their hearts, or their political heads.

When the tender for the cabinet ministers' new car was published a few weeks ago, several importers, surprised by the tender's threshold conditions, queried them with the Accountant General. They were especially annoyed by the explicit condition that the cars must have company car use value classification 6 or 7. The tender set a minimum list price threshold of NIS 220,000.

People in the car industry told Accountant General Michal Abadi-Boiangiu that, for less than NIS 200,000, it was possible to buy large, roomy, and well-equipped executive cars, which in theory would meet all the tender's specifications. They were told in response that the government wanted "presentable" cars for its ministers, in other words, luxury cars.

What about another aspect of "presentable": the one known as "public appearances?" Ministry of Finance officials couldn’t be bothered. The previous tender had already overstepped the mark, when the winner was the German-made Audi 6, a competitor of the BMW 5 series.

On the basis of past experience, the Ministry of Finance prepared a back-up plan, which worked well in the previous tender: second place in the earlier tender went to a car with a much less flashy image than the first choice - the Skoda Superb. The second-placed car in the present tender is the Citroen C5. Not the regular Citroen C5 that Israelis buy, but the executive version (which is not sold much in Israel), equipped with all the bells and whistles, including leather seats and a multimedia system, but still a Citroen C5 - a large vehicle with an image of a grey-collar car, and without the pretentiousness of a luxury brand.

The purpose of the back-up plan is to pass on the responsibility for any future public image damage to the ministers themselves, who can choose between the first and second place finishers in the tender. A minister who wants a BMW 528i - and they all want it - will have to bear the public image burden accompanying his or her decision. A minister who wants to appear righteous, because of a well-developed social consciousness or on the advice of media handlers, will choose the Citroen.

Without us noticing, the choice of the ministers' cars has become a ticking political time bomb.

What will the ministers pick? If we were at the start of the government's term or even midway through it, most ministers would almost certainly thumb their noses even more than usual at the voters and pick the luxury German sedan. It is a fact that many ministers, including righteous ones, use the Audi 6 and ignored the Skoda.

But elections are in the offing, and social justice is valuable political currency. Therefore, if the results of the tender remain as they are, many ministers will have to like the Citroen or lump it.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on July 12, 2012

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2012

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