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.