The Truth About Cars » lies The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Jul 2014 12:00:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » lies GM’s Alternate Reality: UK Calls Volt/Ampera Ad Misleading, Bans It Thu, 23 Aug 2012 11:03:21 +0000


You can see this ad. Television viewers in the UK can’t.  The Chevrolet Volt  is sold in the UK as the Vauxhall Ampera, and its ad has been banned by the UK Advertising Standards Authority. It says the ad is misleading. The ad claims a 360-mile range. GM is a serial offender when it comes to alternate realities, and this ad is the latest installment.

Says the Daily Mail:

The real range of the electric batteries in the Vauxhall Ampera is a rather more modest 50 miles. And to go beyond that, it relies on help from a somewhat less green source – a petrol engine.”

The ad, created by long-time GM agency McCann Erickson, came complete with the usually hard to read and even harder to comprehend disclaimer:

“Comparison based on electric vehicles and extended range electric vehicles driven electrically at all times, even when an additional power source is generating electricity”.

The advertising standards bureau did not buy into it. Says the ruling:

“We considered that throughout the ad the emphasis was on the fact that the car was being driven electrically, and that most viewers would not understand that the car was in some circumstances being powered by electricity generated with a petrol engine. The ad promoted an innovative product which many viewers would not immediately understand and we therefore considered that it would need to explicitly state that the car had a petrol engine. Because it did not clearly explain how the vehicle worked in extended-range mode, we concluded that the ad was misleading.”

The ASA does not parse an ad through the eyes of a lawyer, or through the eyes of GM apologists and amateur spinmeisters. The ASA sees it through the eyes of the ad’s target, the average consumer. That consumer is being fooled. Using imagery of plugs and cables, and the slogan “Driving electricity further”, the ad pushes electric range, and that range simply isn’t 360 miles on pure electricity.

This isn’t the first time that GM got into hot water with its allegedly clever, but in truth ham-fisted public relations. Last March, the language police embedded in new and old media feigned outrage over a Chevy Volt ad that claims that the car can save “a crapload of money.”  TTAC was less upset about the robust language, but challenged the claim. Even after the $7,500 credit, the Volt is overpriced. When Tony Posawatz was still line director of the Volt, he told Bloomberg in an interview that there is no such thing as a crapload of savings:

“The Volt’s cost of ownership matches the average car when including the $7,500 U.S. tax incentive and gasoline fuel savings.”

That remark clashed with the advertising claims, and possibly ended Tony’s career. In June, Posawatz left GM into early retirement, only to land at Fisker as its new CEO.

In 2010, then CEO Ed Whitacre claimed in an ad that GM paid back its “loan, in full, with interest, years ahead of schedule.” Even the Detroit News, by some regarded as the in-house organ of GM, had issues with the ad and said it “glosses over the reality.” Congressman Darrell Issa said the ad brought GM “dangerously close to committing fraud.” The Competitive Enterprise Institute filed a deceptive advertising complaint with the FTC. GM stopped running the ad.

CEI also filed a Freedom of Information request with the Department of Treasury. The statutory period for a response to an FOI request is 20 days, Treasury took a year. After a review of the documents, the CEI says “that General Motors and the Obama administration coordinated their PR strategy regarding GM’s much criticized 2010 ad campaign, in which the car maker misleadingly claimed to have repaid all its government loans.”

In all three cases, the claims were technically true, but they created an untrue perception. The Vauxhall Ampera, a rebadged Chevrolet Volt that is sold in the rest of Europe as the Opel Ampera, technically has a 360 mile range on electricity, but only when the gasoline motor is running. The Volt technically saves a shitload of money, but only if you disregard the price of the car, and only if you don’t take it farther than the grocery store. GM technically repaid the $7 billion loan part of the government’s $50 billion investment, but forgets the $43 billion balance, and ignores that the equity part today translates into “an unrealized loss of $16.4 billion,” if Forbes is correct.

Perception is reality. These allegedly “clever” ads bank on the stupidity of the viewer. While technically true under a high powered magnifying glass, they attempt to create an alternate reality that is far from the truth. People don’t like it when they find out that they have been had.

As a former GM owner, I say: Don’t get smart with me, GM. Get real.

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The Booth Babe Chronicles: Things we won’t tell you Sun, 29 Aug 2010 12:20:18 +0000

The job of most auto show booth babes is all about talking. We’re there to talk for hours to hundreds, sometimes thousands of people about the brand we rep. As much as we may  talk, there are some things we won’t ever tell you. Here are just a few.

An official “yes” that a redesign will be released within the next year.

So, it turns out that dealer staff at the shows get kinda pissed when you mention a vehicle will be completely redesigned the following model year. Why? Because it costs them immediate business. Someone who is in the market for this new car may very well wait until the latest, greatest model comes out six months from now if they know it is coming. If they don’t know, they’ll walk into the dealer today. It’s like saying “This Viagra is OK, but next year’s Viagra actually will give you that four-hour erection.” Yes, you could investigate redesigns on the interwebs, but until it comes straight from the manufacturer it is pure speculation. Time is money, and to corporate the sooner you buy the better.

Plus, delivery dates on redesigns and new additions to a lineup can change frequently and by as much as a year or two. Even if we told you something would be out in six months, it could easily get pushed back. Then you’ll complain to your internet forum buddies that the girl at the car show didn’t know what she was talking about, despite the fact that it was true at the time we told you.

Why yes, sir – now that you bring it up, this car actually IS a death trap.

The brand I rep has a great safety record, just so you know. But obviously not all do. We are hired to be the 100 percent sun shiney positive face of the company and address all of your needs and concerns according to the company line. This does not include being all “Dude, did you see that YouTube video where CarX425 completely disintegrated upon hitting a speed bump, killing a group of orphans and LOLCats in an exceptionally gruesome manner?” You’d have to be a complete failure of a product specialist to talk about your own brand like this, but it’s key not to talk about any other that way either. The psychology of brand marketing is a very delicate thing. You’ll remember that you talked about crashes – and that word “crash” is what will stick out in your mind, regardless of the fact that it was about a competitor. Not the impression we want to give.

You’re f-ing stupid for buying this car for your kid.

Seriously. I know you have the cash. Good for you. I know you taught your kid to drive all by yourself. That’s actually part of the problem. Just because you spent a weekend at Skip Barber doesn’t mean your 16-year-old has any clue what to do with this obscenely powerful car you bought him in an extremely ill-advised attempt to prove to your hedge fund office mates that you’re a better provider than them. You know what your kid should be driving? A golf cart. Driver education in the US is piss-poor, and with rare exceptions they should not be in the weapons of vehicles they are driving.

I don’t actually drive the car I said I drive.

If you ask a booth babe what kind of car she drives (and I get that question at least twice a day), if she’s smart she will always answer with a model made by the manufacturer she reps. If we say anything else we are drawn into an awkward conversation about why not. The reasons might be perfectly reasonable and have nothing to do with the value of the car we’re standing in front of: It was all we could afford, it was purchased before we repped this brand, we got a better deal, we inherited it from a rich “uncle”, etc. When I tell people at the show what car I drive they are always suitably impressed. Too bad it’s a lie.

I don’t give two craps about your political agenda. In fact, I don’t even give one crap.

Look dude, I get it that you are passionate about buying only American despite the fact that most “American” cars are assembled elsewhere, or that as a card carrying member of the Aryan Nation you only buy cheese made in Germany, or that you protest everything Japanese especially sushi because you think geishas are sexist. I get it. I just don’t care. I mean, I think you’re an idiot. But I don’t care. My job isn’t to have a 45-minute conversation about the New World Order. My job is to tell you about horsepower, seat belts and cool stereo systems. I do have to smile and nod at your ramblings, but seriously – save the conspiracy theories for your secret underground bunker.

Obviously I can’t tell you not to ask me this stuff – it’s still a free country as far as I know and you can ask me whatever you want. Just don’t expect me to answer.

The Booth Babe is an anonymous auto show model who dishes about what really goes on behind the scenes. Read her blog at And if you treat her nicely, read her each Sunday at

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