GM Takes Its Case to the People

Posted by: David Welch on September 10, 2008

Few companies think they get a bad rap like General Motors. It’s easy to see why. Its role as SUV king has made it a pariah among environmentalists. Heavy media coverage of GM’s poor sales and financial results would give anyone a persecution complex.

So GM is trying to take its case straight to the public with a new website called GM Facts and Fiction, at www.gmfactsandfiction.com. On the site, the company tries to dispel what its public relations apparatchiks think are false notions about the company. Not a bad idea.

But the site itself is mostly unconvincing. Under myths, for example, GM offers the same prosaic retorts to common criticism. In one entry, GM scoffs at the notion that the company “still doesn’t make cars that people want to buy.” As proof, GM cites that sales for cars like the Chevy Cobalt are up 10% this year. Malibu sales are up 32%. Yawn. Most of the company’s new vehicles have won praise from the motoring press. Why not refer to a good review in, say, Car and Driver?

In another entry, GM tries to rubbish the idea that the company didn’t anticipate the shift toward fuel efficient vehicles. As proof, GM points to the Chevy Malibu and Saturn Aura sedans, which have been on sale for about two years. Both cars are quite good. But let’s remember one thing. They came to market after fuel prices jumped. When GM got in trouble in 2005, it spent extra money to rush its large suvs to market not its cars. And the company didn’t make a push to get advanced hybrids to showrooms until it had lost the technology image game to Toyota. That’s reaction, not anticipating.

Elsewhere, the site has links to quotes on blogs that support the company. There are five of them and all come from the company’s PR staff. That’s not exactly third-party testimony. Taking a message straight to consumers can work. It’s also very cost effective. Websites are cheap. But until GM comes up with some stronger content, this one won’t change too many people’s minds.

Reader Comments

detfan

September 11, 2008 7:14 AM

Really? I mean you really believe what you wrote? Really? Tell the readers what the price of gas was in 2003, when the design of the Saturn Aura and Chevy Malibu were in process to come to market in 2007 and 2008. How long has the Chevy Cobalt been in production and what was the gas price then? How long have even the Tahoe and Silverado trucks been industry leading in mileage, in their own right? How many vehicles does GM sell with 30 MPG or over? Eighteen-more than any other manufacturer!! Who looks lke they will be the first automotive company with multiple 40 or over MPG gas vehicles in their lineup? GM

Truth is, GM is further down the road than any of their competition on comprehensive enmgineering and design of fuel efficient vehicles using gas and alternative energy sources. Your writngs ADD to the unfair press that continually goes to the lowest common denominator when writing about GM. The public is getting fed up with it.

George

September 11, 2008 9:06 AM

So I visited the site and looked for the "GM Still doesn't make cars that people want to buy" entry. Contrary to teh authors claims that GM doesn't point up motoring press and indusrty awards, the first two things listed are:

"In 2007, the Saturn Aura and Chevy Silverado won North American Car and Truck of the year."

"In 2008, the Chevy Malibu was named North American Car of the Year, The Cadillac CTS was Motor Trend’s 2008 Car of the Year."

Is this the only "example" of the sites ineffectiveness you could come up with? Pretty poor argument, I say. Besides in answer to the "that people want to buy", don't sales increases indicate this? Or were people forced into buying 10% more Cobalts and 32% more Malibus this year?

PeterG

September 11, 2008 10:10 AM

News reporting? Not when written in this juvenile style. When you insert phrases such as "Yawn", "Not a bad idea", and "That's reaction, not anticipating", that's not news reporting.

That's juvenile & silly.

What will you accomplish by diminishing GM? Few other companies provide the US with jobs and reasonable products.

TomWilkinsonatGM

September 11, 2008 10:35 AM

The site is still new, and we are still learning how to use it effectively. Yes, some of the facts are a bit prosaic -- the truth is often less exciting than the myth, which is probably why myths like these are so persistent. Also note that we are adding more links to sites outside of GM. We hope you will check back from time to time to see how we are doing.

Frank A

September 11, 2008 11:36 AM

Car & Driver have raved about the following GM cars, Corvette, Caddy CTS, Chevy Malibu, Cobalt SS, Enclave/Acadia/Outlook, GM Pick ups, large SUVS.

David Welch

September 11, 2008 11:40 AM

David Welch here. I'm the author of the blog post that has raised a few hackles. Touting Car of the Year awards is fine. But I get that message in GM's traditional advertising all the time. On the web, the company has the opportunity to link to other sites or offer more in-depth proof of its product resurgence--a turnabout, by the way, which this magazine and I have documented. The point is, the company has an opportunity here but could be more convincing with better content. As Mr. Wilkinson points out, that may be on the way.

As for the otehr reader who points out that the Malibu and Aura were underway around 2003, that's true. But those redesigns were simply part of the company's product cycle, which at the time was quite long for passenger cars. Not only that, GM was doing plenty of other things to damage their image in the green and technology contests. Another point has to be made. The domestic compact cars simply do not stack up to foreign competition. Greater emphasis and investment were made years ago by the Japanese to make their small cars and family sedans competitive. That's why they have a stronger brand image for those kinds of automobiles.

joel cohen

September 11, 2008 12:02 PM

To all the GM apologists and fanboys -

Would **YOU** buy one?

GM

September 11, 2008 1:38 PM

I agree with Detfan. I have noticed media's unfair bias against GM. They seem to revel in the notion that GM is performing poorly. These imbeciles do not realize that news means unbiased reporting. It has become fashionable to bash GM.
I own a Aura and a Mailbu and both are excellent cars, better than the style less matchboxes that many japanese firms offer at higher prices.

Additionally, reviews of GM cars in the press carry things like "cheap plastics" - really? What crap is this subjective opinion?

BobC

September 12, 2008 1:50 AM

I have a restored'57 Chev pickup that's been in our family since '59. My dad bought one of the first GTOs when they came out in 1964. Build quality from the factory on those vehicles was pretty bad. I gave up buying GM vehicles in the 1980's because the crappy quality that continued to persist. I'm never going to buy another GM vehicle, but wish them luck in turning perceptions around that evolved from reality. Maybe their somewhat disingenuous website do the trick, who knows?

Snoz

September 12, 2008 3:33 AM

GM executives, the king of marketing, have decided to devote its precious energy toward changing public opinion. Unfortunately for GM, the American consumers have already issued its verdict in this case: GM is in need of new leadership. In the 1960's, GM commanded 75% of the domestic car market, share prices reflected its blue-chip status. Today, GM is fighting to hang on to its meager 22% market, share prices dropped from $70 to $10/share. Across the street, Ford is faring worse. Chrysler is in life-or-death condition, under ICU care after resuscitated by Cerberus's IV infusion of money. As for GM, its resort to changing the mindset of the American consumer is an early admission that its car design and production is not going sufficiently well to change consumer's perception that GM can't make a decent car. Instead of changing its cadre of out-dated, out-foxed, and out-to-lunch executives, GM decided that it is the American consumers who are out of touch with reality and whose mindset must be re-educated. Readers and shareholders are beginning to see glimpses of the fatal disease that's eating away GM from within. Failed corporate management often lash out at the customers for not understanding its products. When all is lost, and the end is near, the incompetent corporate executives will take out the shot-gun and blast away indiscriminately. And so it has come to this. The final gasp of the dying executives of GM is about blaming the American consumers. Today, GM can't blame its demise on the Japanese imports as was the case in the '60s, and 70's because the Japanese are building more cars than GM in GM's backyard and selling them with a $1000 premium. Unless GM makes sweeping changes at the top management, its obituary will be describing a sad finish to a glorious run. Durant and Sloan would never have imagine such an end after 100 years.

are u kidding me

September 15, 2008 4:36 PM

"You can put lipstick on a pig, but you still have a pig".
When management allows competition to BLOW YOUR DOORS OFF, there must be a problem with managements ability to visualize the reality of market conditions. Quality, reliability, style, image and price are factors that the consumer follows. Today, MPG is more relative, but don't tell that to Honda or Toyota, Kia, or any of the hundreds of "other" imports headed our way.
How much $$$ are you paying these guys to make these decissions?????? Bet a couple of them have Beamers in their fleet.

A Line Has Been Crossed

September 16, 2008 1:26 PM

All the GM bashers need to keep one very important point in mind and that is this. Foreign companies are not as American as apple pie. Should the Big 3 go under all auto manufacturing in this country will be controlled by foreign companies in foreign nations with foreign interests. We love to say they are so patriotic because they build plants here, but lets keep in mind that if the Big 3 go under completely, there is nothing to stop them from price gouging or pulling those plants back to their home countries. And in my opinion the US government could not stop them, since we are so indebted to these various countries, any action taken would result in a financial retaliation that would cripple us. The above is the reason why I think we don't increase the tariffs on foreign cars now. It's not because our government loves the spirit of competition, it's because our society does not know how to save so we must turn to foreign lands to keep our economic mirage going. Yes GM had it's problems, and no I'm not afraid of foreign competition, despite the doomsday scenario I just gave. I think American auto will always have a presence based on the loyalty of the buy American crowed alone. The point I am making is that as a nation we are so obsessed with what is new and shiny we care not about where it comes from, and we are paying a heavy price for it. Why do millions in our nation glorify those that are outpacing us? Be it cars or any other product, the tone of many of these articles implies that the US failing at its own industries is somehow a good thing.

Tony

November 14, 2008 5:11 PM

It's funny that an American company like GM, that understand the capitalistm world we live in, will go to the government for help. The Big three automakers current situation are just the result of their own fault. I am tired of seeing them trick the american public with bad products and expect us to rescue them. Is this the right way? NO..let them go down and learn the hard way. It's part of business, sell a bad product and don't care of what the competition is doing, you go down! Business 101!!

Ron

November 19, 2008 11:23 AM

Being an employee of a GM Dealership that we are now closing from like of sales and over loaded inventory. GM as all dealerships are only interested in thereself. To hell with the dealers that are going broke. I haven't heard them mention that FACT. A reporter interviewed Fords CEO and asked about his $23 million signing bonus and additional such bonuses to be paid to exec's. He was in favor of the bonus since they do so much for the company. I liked that, sounded like they could break the company without the unions help. Line workers are making $40 an hour. wonder how many americans would like that same job at $20 and 1/2 the benefits. I am sure congress will give them the money, since the union donated $1.8 million, 99% which went to Democrats, which are in charge of all 3 executive branches of our government. I own a 08 Tahoe and a 09 Nissan. Domestic vehicles must mean Toyota, Nissan, Honda and others that manufacture automobiles in the U.S.
While GM, Ford & Chrysler are going bankrupt, the interviewer of Fords CEO was asked why are they closing plants, when Honda in (Ohio or Indiana) and Toyota in Tupelo, Ms are build plants and making good jobs for Americans without the help of Unions. Maybe this is a good time for Congress to say NO!

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Want the straight scoop on the auto industry? Our man in Detroit David Welch, brings keen observations and provocative perspective on the auto business.

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