Posted by: David Kiley on November 6, 2008
General Motors is fighting for its financial life. It had the worst month of sales when adjusted for cars sold per capita since they started tracking such things after World War Two. The automaker has suspended several vehicle programs, including its pickup truck and Chevy Cruze sub-compact said to get 40 mpg on the highway, while it desperately lobbies Washington to loan it money to stay afloat until the economy turns North. And it is kicking off an aggressive round of sales incentives to try and move the vehicles off dealer lots before the end of the year.
And yet, it continues to advertise the Chevy Volt, a extended range, plug-in electric car that will not likely see its first real customer until 2011. One of the places you hear the Volt advertised is in morning National Public Radio broadcasts. But the car is also in current issues of some magazines. And I’ve even seen recent TV spots.
Advertising the Volt right now, an image play, wouldn’t seem to be the most pressing issue. How about channeling that scarce money and ad inventory into moving more Saturn Vue Hybrids and Chevy Malibus? “One of the reasons is that we have to keep reminding the people in Washington that we are on the way to bringing the country and extraordinary car of the future while they are deciding whether to provide us the loan money we need,” said one executive working with GM on its advertising.
A looming nightmare for the Detroit automakers is news that Rep. Henry Waxman, representing the 30th District of California, is expected to mount a challenge to Rep. John Dingell, who represents Southeast Michigan for the chairmanship of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, the committee that, among other things, leads on fuel economy legislation.
Dingell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are known not to be very friendly. When it came to redistricting a few years ago, and one of Michigan House seats was eliminated, Pelosi endorsed Dingell’s rival for the remaining seat he eventually retained. Pelosi, after the 2006 elections that gave her the speakership, also sought to establish a new committee on global warming or climate change that would have taken fuel economy away from Dingell’s committee.
Waxman, a Californian, is known to be far less friendly toward Detroit than Dingell, and gives short time to excuses for not achieving better fuel economy.