Bailout Watch 220: GM Fastlane Blog Vs. The New York Times

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

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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  • Landcrusher Landcrusher on Nov 19, 2008

    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.

  • Landcrusher Landcrusher on Nov 19, 2008

    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.

  • Zerocred So many great drives:Dalton Hwy from Fairbanks to the Arctic Circle.Alaska Marine Highway from Bellingham WA to Skagway AK. it was a multi-day ferry ride so I didn’t actually drive it, but I did take my truck.Icefields Parkway from Jasper AB to Lake Louise AB, CA.I-70 and Hwy 50 from Denver to Sacramento.Hwy 395 on the east side of the Sierras.
  • Aidian Holder I'm not interested in buying anything from a company that deliberately targets all their production in crappy union-busting states. Ford decided to build their EV manufaturing in Tennessee. The company built it there because of an anti-union legal environment. I won't buy another Ford because of that. I've owned four Fords to date -- three of them pickups. I'm shopping for a new one. It won't be a Ford Lightning. If you care about your fellow workers, you won't buy one either.
  • Denis Jeep have other cars?!?
  • Darren Mertz In 2000, after reading the glowing reviews from c/d in 1998, I decided that was the car for me (yep, it took me 2 years to make up my mind). I found a 1999 with 24k on the clock at a local Volvo dealership. I think the salesman was more impressed with it than I was. It was everything I had hoped for. Comfortable, stylish, roomy, refined, efficient, flexible, ... I can't think of more superlatives right now but there are likely more. I had that car until just last year at this time. A red light runner t-boned me and my partner who was in the passenger seat. The cops estimate the other driver hit us at about 50 mph - on a city street. My partner wasn't visibly injured (when the seat air bag went off it shoved him out of the way of the intruding car) but his hip was rather tweaked. My car, though, was gone. I cried like a baby when they towed it away. I ruminated for months trying to decide how to replace it. Luckily, we had my 1998 SAAB 9000 as a spare car to use. I decided early on that there would be no new car considered. I loathe touch screens. I'm also not a fan of climate control. Months went by. I decided to keep looking for another B5 Passat. As the author wrote, the B5.5 just looked 'over done'. October this past year I found my Cinderella slipper - an early 2001. Same silver color. Same black leather interior. Same 1.8T engine. Same 5 speed manual transmission. I was happier than a pig in sh!t. But a little sad also. I had replaced my baby. But life goes on. I drive it every day to work which takes me over some rather twisty freeway ramps. I love the light snarel as I charge up some steep hills on my way home. So, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Passat guy.
  • Paul Mezhir As awful as the styling was on these cars, they were beautifully assembled and extremely well finished for the day. The doors closed solidly, the ride was extremely quiet and the absence of squeaks and rattles was commendable. As for styling? Everything's beautiful in it's own way.....except for the VI's proportions were just odd: the passenger compartment and wheelbase seemed to be way too short, especially compared to the VI sedan. Even the short-lived Town Coupe had much better proportions. None of the fox-body Lincolns could compare to the beautiful proportions of the Mark was the epitome of long, low, sleek and elegant. The proportions were just about perfect from every angle.