Two days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, General Motors executives Roger Adams and Paul Ballew were leaving a meeting when Adams grabbed Ballew's arm.
"We've gotta do this," Adams told Ballew. "We've gotta do this."
Adams, Buick's boss, was pressing Ballew for an aggressive incentives campaign called "Let's Get America Moving." Ballew, a former Federal Reserve economist, crunches the numbers for GM's incentive programs.
GM was under enormous pressure in the wake of the attacks on New York and the Pentagon. Auto sales screeched to a halt as the American public tried to fathom the tragedy.
GM was the world's largest automaker, and actions would set the tone for the industry - and much of the United States' economy.
But could GM - overly cautious and bureaucratic - lead?
In an intense 10-day stretch, GM created an incentive program with a title much like the one Adams suggested: "Keep America Rolling." Its centerpiece, 0 percent auto loans, connected instantly with the public's need for confidence in the future. And it stimulated auto sales to an astonishing degree.
Industry light-vehicle sales shot up. GM estimates that the program added about 1 million total U.S. sales by year end.