- The Washington Times - Friday, October 20, 2000

You may not realize it, but one of the most powerful predictors of success in business is not in your resume. It's in your driveway.

That's right. The car you drive says a lot about who you are and where you are going. If you doubt me, consider how quickly you would hire a risk-management consultant who shows up in a Ford Explorer equipped with Firestone Wilderness AT tires.

Large corporations always have understood that if a company expects a manager to command respect, he, she or it must be provided with a set of expensive wheels. Think about your own supervisors. Based on their boneheaded decisions and that "Is anyone home?" look that appears when anyone challenges their authority, do you doubt that the only thing that separates your managers from your dental floss is that your dental floss doesn't drive a leased Jaguar?

Is the growth of your career dependent on the contents of your garage? If so, should you go ahead and plunk down a deposit on that two-tone turbo-Yugo?

Here's some advice from the automotive psycho-economists at the Work Daze motor pool.

• If you're thinking of a BMW 540i, consider a Chevrolet Cavalier.

BMW drivers want to be perceived as pedal-to-the-metal peak performers. In truth, owning a BMW says you have low self-esteem and believe you can improve your image by overpaying wildly for an automobile.

BMWs especially are to be avoided by information technology (IT) professionals because most automotive experts agree there is inadequate room in the back seat for taco wrappers, half-empty pizza boxes and crushed cans of Dr Pepper. Choosing a Chevrolet Cavalier shows that you have self-confidence, love America and are not afraid to buy a car simply because it's made out of cardboard and thumbtacks. (Note to IT people: The Cavalier actually looks better with pizza boxes and comes fully equipped with eight-track tape player and built-in spice rack.)

• If you're thinking of a Mercedes-Benz, consider a Gulfstream Jet.

Many fast-trackers enjoy the self-validation of a Mercedes. Unfortunately, the once ruinously expensive manufacturer of snob-mobiles has come down-market and actually offers a variety of stripped-down vehicles that cost as little as $70,000 or $80,000.

Instead of being another wannabe in a Mercedes, consider the impression you'll make by touching down every morning in a shiny new Gulfstream V. Priced at only $30 million, including cup holders, the Gulfstream has a 41,300-gallon gas tank that may make it a little pricey at the pump, but it's sure to say, "Hey, I'm OK" when you land on the parking lot and taxi to the elevator door.

• If you're thinking of a minivan, consider a luxury motor coach.

Driving a minivan suggests you consider it more important to drive your children to their Little League games than to drive the boss to his hair-weaving appointments. That is why companies sensitive to family issues offer minivan drivers a special section of the company parking lot. Just follow the signs that read "Losers park here."

A luxury motor coach, built on the frame of a city bus, will take about six parking spaces, showing you haven't lost your competitive edge. These Goliaths also are wonderfully expensive, totally luxurious and, for a small added charge, come equipped with a burned-out country singer sleeping off a bender in the back bunk.

(Note to the thrifty: Amortize your monthly payments by leasing your bus to the human resources department for team-building off-sites at the Velvet Pussycat.)

• If you're thinking of a sport utility vehicle, drive an Army tank. When first introduced, sport utility vehicles said, "I am a macho executive, equally at home riding the range or raging in the boardroom."

Today, with every Tom, Dick and Mary driving a big sport utility vehicle, workers need to ratchet up the testosterone level to prove their fighting spirit.

Your local Army surplus depot has the answer.

The M-1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank weighs 69.54 tons, goes 0 to 20 mph in 7.2 seconds and comes equipped with a 120 mm, M-256 smoothbore cannon, helpful in clearing a spot at the office parking lot.

Though it's not the sexiest vehicle in the company motor pool, the M-1A2 can make your arrival at the Monday morning staff meeting truly impressive by allowing you to roar through the front door, travel over the reception desk and burst through the walls of Conference Room A before your department head starts fingering the doughnut tray.

Happy motoring.

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