Bailout Watch 220: GM Fastlane Blog Vs. The New York Times
GM Fastlane blog was launched with the usual blather about two-way communications between the suits and the “little people” (a.k.a customers), complete with assurances that executives really will (we swear to God) read your comments and respond. Aside from one remark by Rick Wagoner about one commentator’s girlfriend’s car (as I remember it), this has most decidedly not been the case. Now, GM PR Supremo Steve Harris has decided to use the blog to rant against the New York Times’ columnist Thomas “Don’t Call Me Kinky” Friedman. Yeah, that’s the spirit!
An Open Letter to Thomas L. Friedman
Dear Mr. Friedman:
On Meet the Press you said, “So, show me a plan…” on why GM should receive government aid to bridge the current global financial crisis. We’ve invited you repeatedly to visit General Motors and see firsthand all we are doing to transform our business and develop new, energy-saving technologies.
We’re disappointed you still haven’t taken us up on our offer. You would be surprised at what you’re missing:
– A leaner company that has reduced its annual structural costs in North American by 23 percent, or $9 billion, since 2005, and are on track to reduce them by about 35 percent, or $14-$15 billion, by 2010. We also negotiated a landmark labor agreement with the UAW last year that will enable us to virtually erase the competitive gap we’ve had with foreign automakers.
– Award-winning products in the Chevy Malibu and Cadillac CTS, (Motor Trend magazine’s 2008 Car of the Year). The Chevy Malibu beats the Toyota Camry in highway mileage, and was recently ranked the highest in initial quality in the midsize car segment by J.D. Power & Associates.
– In fact, 13 of our last 15 new product launches in the U.S. were cars or crossovers, and 18 of our next 19 new products will be, as well. Mr. Friedman, we also think you’ll be particularly interested in the huge progress we are making to develop a broad range of advanced propulsion technologies.
For 2009, GM will offer 20 models in the U.S. that get 30 miles per gallon or better on the highway –twice our nearest competitor.
– We now sell six hybrid vehicles, with three more on the way by the middle of next year.
We have more than three million flex-fuel vehicles on the road in the U.S., which are capable of running on bio-fuels like ethanol and we are committed to making 50 percent of our annual production flex-fuel capable by 2012.
– We’ve established the world’s largest fuel-cell test fleet by placing more than 100 Chevy Equinox Fuel Cell vehicles in the hands of U.S. drivers.
– And perhaps most important, we’re running all-out to get the Chevy Volt extended range electric vehicle to market as soon as possible. When running off its battery, the Volt will be able to drive up to 40 miles–more than the average daily commute for over three-quarters of Americans–without using a drop of gas.
Mr. Friedman, what exposes us to failure now is not our product lineup, or our business plan, or our long-term strategy. What exposes us to failure now is the global financial crisis. Please know that you have an open invitation to come and visit GM. We’ll be happy to brief you and we’ll even show you the cool stuff. Please give us a call. We’re looking forward to your visit.
Steven J. Harris
GM Vice President, Global Communications
Editor’s Note: New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman has written frequently about the US auto industry and appears regularly on NBC’s Meet the Press.
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When you are losing an argument to a guy as weak as Friedman, you really are in trouble. For once he has a point, show us the plan.
When you are losing an argument to a guy as weak as Friedman, you really are in trouble. For once he has a point, show is the plan.