As you likely know, Tesla doesn’t do traditional advertising for its vehicles. Or much in the way of social-media advertising, either. That’s because Tesla is often considered “cool” and partly because of the cult of personality cultivated by boss Elon Musk.
That might be about to change, according to one report.
Nissan-owned Infiniti has opted to merge marketing, public relations, and social media oversight into a single position. Framed as a promotion for Wendy Orthman, the brand’s current global head of communications, the management shift takes place shortly after former General Manager Global Brand and Marketing Phil York decided he had better things to do in Europe. But it really just seems like the company figured out a way to roll three jobs into a single paycheck.
Effective today, Orthman will be assuming the freshly minted title of general manager of Global Integrated Brand, Marketing and Communications. According to the automaker, the position combines the roles of a chief marketing officer and head of communications while also providing oversight for Infiniti’s social media and public relations.
Tesla Inc. has reportedly disbanded its U.S. media relations team in the United States, fitting since the only journalists that seem to have any direct contact with the company suffer from a condition where they unquestionably praise its products and business model. While access journalism appears to be on the rise in all industries, the automotive realm was relatively free of the phenomenon until fairly recently. Now its getting to a point where just finding someone in the PR department to respond to you within 48 hours is a minor miracle — and it makes little difference whether you’re one of the big boys or a smaller outfit, like ours.
While Tesla used to be wildly proactive in reaching out to authors, sometimes just to complain about articles, it’s been enacting radio silence for quite some time. Other automakers will at least provide you with a boilerplate corporate response — assuming they haven’t issued one already. But it has been complete static from Tesla for what feels like years, leaving the firm little reason to continue paying people whose sole responsibility was to totally ignore the media.
Never let a crisis go to waste, goes the saying. In this case, it’s an actress and her husband facing a car shortage and a rival automaker sensing an opportunity for a juicy dig.
Mary McCormack, who appeared on the endlessly referenced political drama The West Wing, tweeted a video of a Model S in flames Friday, claiming the blaze broke out “out of the blue” as her husband’s Tesla cruised through traffic in West Hollywood. She directed her tweet at Tesla.
General Motors has since capitalized on the unsolved blaze, offering McCormack and her husband, identified as director Michael Norris, a new Chevy Bolt.
So far, 2018 hasn’t turned out to be a great year for Tesla Motors. The company has been plighted with production issues, some quality control problems, bad press over the questionable safety of its Autopilot system, and concerns over the financial stability of the company. While all of these matters remain fixable, the compounding pressure seems to have left Tesla CEO Elon Musk a bit unhinged — which has caused some complications of its own and been exacerbated by negative media attention.
The automaker needs a win, even a small one, so it can help rebuild its reputation and alleviate some of that pressure. Fortunately, it seems to have found its opportunity.
Last week, Consumer Reports gave the Tesla Model 3 a very mixed review. While it claimed to enjoy the vehicle’s handling and superior electric range, the outlet said its in-car controls were distracting and noted its average stopping distance of 152 feet was “far worse than any contemporary car we’ve tested and about 7 feet longer than the stopping distance of a Ford F-150 full-sized pickup.”
As a result, it could not recommend the the Model 3 to consumers. Musk immediately flew to Twitter to respond, saying the matter would be fixed without customers needing to have the vehicle serviced.
About three weeks ago, my Question Of The Day focused on public statements about Mazda’s future plans. The statements came from the CEO of Mazda North America, as reported in an article by Tim Cain. Many of you responded and agreed with the assertions and opinions I put forth, while some were brave enough to disagree. By and large, it was a fairly productive conversation, with over 150 replies in the comments.
Now that some time has passed and the comments have largely ceased, I can fulfill a request made by commenter slow_poke: a summation of your top recommendations, in our first Mazda QOTD FU (follow-up). Let’s see what you had to say.
Charge me…pull my finger? (photo courtesy: OP)
TTAC Commentator John R writes:
Hope this finds you well. I wanted to get your opinion on car sponsorships…if they still exist. I see a bunch of websites all over claiming to get a person’s car repaired or modded up on someone else’s dime. I look at these sites and they scream SCAM to me.
Maybe it’s because they look like throw backs to GeoCities…
The big news this past week from Nissan: lots of old iron at Pebble Beach, concept car test drives for sympathetic journalists and a pledge to have autonomous cars ready (but not on sale) for 2020. More interesting than that is news of Nissan’s booming exports from America. Some say that this is the “new normal” – Japanese OEMs expanding their manufacturing base in America as they leave Japan en masse to both insulate themselves from a volatile yen, take advantage of America’s welcoming manufacturing climate and shed a reliance on Japan’s aging and declining population. And even more interesting than that is how it was presented.
A Reuters article on Hyundai’s recent quality problems raises an interesting question. Has the company grown too fast following an unprecedented image makeover?
It's a tough job. Our author, working his tail off evaluating product on a press junket to South Africa
If you’ve ever had a friend or relative who was both eager and nervous to show off a painting, piece of music or other creative work (“Tell me what you really think. Don’t sugarcoat it.” Who hasn’t heard that one before), then you’ll understand how PR people must feel when they’re tasked with introducing a new vehicle.
A year ago nearly to the day, I was investigating the connection between Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi and Fiat. With an American-led intervention in Libya underway, Reuters had reported that a Wikileaked State Department document revealed that the Libyan Government owned a two-percent stake in the automaker Fiat as recently as 2006. When I contacted Fiat’s international media relations department for comment, I received this response:
Dear Mr Niedermeyer,
Further to your email, I would mention that the Reuters report you refer to is incorrect. As too are other similar mentions that have appeared recently in the media concerning the LIA’s holdings in Fiat.
The LIA sold all of its 14% shareholding in Fiat SpA in 1986 – ten years after its initial stake was bought. It no longer has a stake in Fiat SpA.
I trust that this clarifies the matter.
It didn’t, actually. In fact the matter remained as clear as mud to me until just now, when I saw Reuters’ report that Italian police have seized $1.46 billion worth of Gaddafi assets, including “stakes in… carmaker Fiat,” under orders from the International Criminal Court.
“Do you want to accompany? or go on ahead? or go off alone? … One must know what one wants and that one wants”
Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight Of The Idols
This week’s news that GM would stop production of the Chevrolet Volt for the third time in its brief lifespan came roaring out of the proverbial blind spot. Having watched the Volt’s progress closely from gestation through each month’s sales results, it was no secret to me that the Volt was seriously underperforming to expectations. But in the current media environment, anything that happens three times is a trend, and the latest shutdown (and, even more ominously, the accompanying layoffs) was unmistakeable. Not since succumbing to government-organized bankruptcy and bailout has GM so publicly cried “uncle” to the forces of the market, and I genuinely expected The General to continue to signal optimism for the Volt’s long-term prospects. After all, sales in February were up dramatically, finally breaking the 1,000 unit per month barrier. With gasoline prices on the march, this latest shutdown was far from inevitable.
And yet, here we are. Now that GM is undeniably signaling that the Volt is a Corvette-style halo car, with similar production and sales levels, my long-standing skepticism about the Volt’s chances seems to be validated. But in the years since GM announced its intention to build the Volt, this singular car has become woven into the history and yes, the mythology of the bailout era. Now, at the apparent end of its mass-market ambitions, I am struck not with a sense of schadenfreude, but of bewilderment. If the five year voyage of Volt hype is over, we have a lot of baggage to unpack.
At the beginning of this year, the United Auto Workers pledged that it would launch a campaign to organize the foreign-owned, non-union “transplant” factories in the US, threatening to tar uncooperative automakers as “human right abusers.” The campaign initially lost steam, but the UAW stuck to its pledge, re-iterating on several occasions that it would organize “at least one” transplant factory by the end of 2011. With one month left to accomplish that goal and no signs of progress in sight, the UAW has officially called off that goal. In fact, the UAW now hopes to simply pick an automaker to target by the end of 2011. Spokeswoman Michelle Martin tells Bloomberg
At this point, our hope is to make a decision about who we’re going to target by the end of the year. But obviously, we won’t have the organizing campaign completed by the end of the year.
This is not too surprising, considering the UAW announced last week that it would be focusing on dealership pickets initially rather than factory organizing. And sure enough, the first dealership picket has begun, targeting Hyundai dealerships. And yet, says Martin
This has nothing to do with the domestic organizing campaign. Hyundai is not the target.
Huh? If the UAW is not committing to organizing Hyundai’s assembly workers, why picket Hyundai dealerships?