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Big Three Cut Out Middleman, Just Ask You for Money

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Automakers hit you up via Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.

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Detroit's automakers are taking their pitch for billions of federal dollars online in an effort to reach consumers - you know, those people who live outside the Beltway and earn the money some members of Congress propose to give away.

General Motors (GM), Ford (F) and Chrysler have started campaigns on a range of Web sites, including YouTube (GOOG), Facebook, and Twitter, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The online lobbying is a variation on their digital marketing techniques - and it's cheap. Expensive display ads online or in slick print publications would undercut their pleas of poverty and repeat the initial mistake of the companies' CEOs flying to Washington in private jets to beg for taxpayers' money.

Ford's YouTube offering seeks to stand apart from its rivals with a personal, almost down-home approach, with CEO Alan Mulally folksily discussing Ford's future. For those who don't understand the call to action, The FordStory.com has links that allow users to contact their members of Congress.

In addition to company blogs, Chrysler has set up a new YouTube channel called "Grab Democracy." In what's plugged as a virtual road show, CEO Robert Nardelli and top executives discuss the company's goals.

GM uses a video blog to discuss the auto industry's desperate condition. The automaker increased the search ads it purchases through Google to include terms related to the proposed bailout. Earlier, the company released an apocalyptic video titled "What happens if the domestic auto industry collapses?"

Jobs and national pride aside, we need Detroit because they've given the world some of the all-time worst cars in creation.

In addition, the automakers use blogs in an effort to reach consumers directly. Ford uses employees to respond to individual messages on Twitter.

This is a long way from Henry Ford's comment on customer preferences when the Motel T was new: "Whatever color you want, so long as it's black."

Of course, in those days, US automakers were going concerns - and didn't have to beg.
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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