"Hands Off" PTFOA Micro-Managing GM's Ad Budget

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

When the Presidential Task Force on Automobiles (PTFOA) fired GM CEO Rick Wagoner, it should have ended any debate whether or not the Obama Administration was in complete control of the soon-to-be-nationalized American automaker. And yet the president and his minions continue to assert that the PTFOA’s ongoing interventions within GM’s administration jibe with their preposterous proclamations about a “hands-off” non-managment, management approach. Although the PTFOA left themselves a supertanker-sized loophole—we’ll only mess with “macro” decisions about GM’s corporate governance—evidence mounts that the 25-member government quango is, as the Brits would say, well in there mate. The latest proof of life arrives via our good friends at Autoline AfterHours. On John McElroy’s vidcast, GM’s VP of sales, service and marketing for North America offered fresh insight into the joys of federal ownership.

Automotive News [AN, sub] provides the summary of Mark LaNeve’s interface with the PTFOA:

He said the government’s auto task force never prescribed an ad budget for GM during the expected 60 to 90 days the company will be in Chapter 11 before the “new GM” exits bankruptcy court. He also said before the task force OK’d GM’s proposed ad budget, it did its “due diligence,” asking the car marketer how much it spent per vehicle on ads. It also sought data on competitive ad spending, such as how much Mercedes-Benz spent vs. GM’s Cadillac brand.

Just in case you’re wondering, the PTFOA authorized Marketing Mark to between $40 and $50 million per month during bankruptcy. A ten million dollar spread? How delegational. Saying that, it’s the same ad spend rate as pre-C11 GM. So how much time and money did the PTFOA spend trying to figure out that the status quo was A-OK?

As for the ads themselves, am I the only one who thinks that the statement “We’re not witnessing the end of the American car” displays the exact same kind of hubris that got GM into this mess in the first place? Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks the ads suck—I mean, lack the appropriate focus.

LaNeve said he doesn’t like to advertise the corporate brand, but with the flurry of negative news about the company in recent months, the current blitz was designed to address the bankruptcy and reassure customers about GM’s future.

Reading between the lines, I bet this campaign wasn’t even LaNeve’s idea. Maybe it was ultimately sanctioned by the PTFOA. Stranger things are already happening.

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

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  • Landcrusher Landcrusher on Jun 21, 2009

    As soon as Uncle Sugar writes the check, every decision at the suckling corporation is being monkeyed with. That's because all the managers know that their decisions MIGHT be reviewed, and their jobs MIGHT be on the line for it. Even if they were being paranoid, it doesn't matter because there is cause and effect, sure as if the President walked in and started ordering everyone around.

  • BDB BDB on Jun 21, 2009
    You have the Presidency managing several of the USA’s largest companies. http://ken_ashford.typepad.com/.a/6a00d834515b2069e201156fca215c970c-500wi
  • Lou_BC Ironic, the Honda Ridgeline, a truck that every truck guy loves to hate is in 6th place.
  • 28-Cars-Later I keep forgetting I own it, but the space look on the ext cab reminds me of my 'Yota pickup of the same model year. I'm pretty sure there is some vintage of Hilux which features the same looking ext cab window (maybe '88?) its a shame these things are mostly gone and when available are $1,000,000,000 [INSERT CURRENT CURRENCY].
  • Sayahh Imagine if Ford had Toyota design and build a Mustang engine. It will last over 300k miles! (Skip turbo and make it naturally aspirated.) Maybe Yamaha will help tune it...
  • Sobhuza Trooper Isuzu's crime was to build some damn good trucks.Shame on them.
  • El scotto Listen, unless you were Lord Headly-Stempmoor or such when you got off the off the boat, boot in Canada, you got the short end of the stick. People got on the boat, these days a plane, to escape famine, becoming cannon fodder in yet another stupid war, or the government thought it was A-OK to let soldiers kill you. Juneteenth is just a way to right one of the more bad ideas in the American experiment. Instead we have commenters who were buying tater chips and diet soda at Wal-Mart and got all butt-hurt because they heard someone who wasn't speaking English. I'm going to go fix a couple of frankfurters with salsa and guacamole and wash them down with a lager or three