Since receiving federally underwritten help through bankruptcy, and developing the extended-range electric Chevy Volt, GM has for the most part turned the other cheek to a cottage industry of critics, but that may be changing somewhat.
The company’s head of communications, Selim Bingol has launched a new blog which attempts to correct erroneous critical commentators GM has said are politically motivated.
The blog is called “btw,” and by the way, we learned of this story from Fox News which has famously played good cop/bad cop with GM – alternately covering news with a degree of “fair and balanced” reporting and on other occasions mercilessly roasting it as “Government Motors,” and for its Chevy Volt, among other topics.
“Critics and pundits beware: General Motors is listening to what you say,” FoxNews.com wrote, perhaps speaking to its own employees, “and now it has its own soapbox to talk back.”
Fox’s pretty straight news report about GM’s new “soapbox” gave balance to btw’s raison d’être, and quoted the site saying it “is here to provide our perspectives during those times when the debate creates more heat than light.”
We say “pretty straight news report” because Fox somehow managed to call the site a “soapbox” despite the fact that Bingol had pointedly stated, “It won’t be a soapbox for ranting (no matter how therapeutic a good rant can be). It’s just meant to provide our point of view, when the collective view gets a little clouded.”
Could it be that Bingol is being vindicated even as one of GM’s most outspoken critics attempts to report – and inverts the subject’s stated position apparently in spite of its attempt this time to just tell the story?
At any rate, Fox goes on to report an initial example of a critic needing correction. Under the entry quoting GM CEO Dan Akerson’s response to the Republican-led House subcommittee hearing last month – “We Did Not Engineer the Volt to Be a Political Punching Bag” – btw contemplates Newt Gingrich’s statement that, “You can’t put a gun rack in a Volt.”
To this, btw replied, “That’s like saying ‘You can’t put training wheels on a Harley.’ Actually, you can. But the real question is “Why would you?”
Bingol’s post continues with standard marketing explanations about the extended-range electric vehicle while quipping, “if you are looking for a vehicle for your next hunting trip, it may not be your first choice.”
Despite weaker than expected sales of the limited-production Volt, General Motors is now the world’s largest automaker, financially solvent, and working on a “fortress balance sheet.” It has over 200,000 employees worldwide, indirectly keeps many hundred thousand more in their jobs, but the company has been catching constant heat for being a detriment to the American economy.
And it is true that the federal government is still on the hook for tens of millions in GM stock which is now trading below its IPO price. And in the aftermath of its restructuring, GM prompted a number of people who – if not considered outright enemies – at least could be said to have no love for the company.
GM’s latest multi-tiered communications campaign attempting to re-align its public image with its improving financial reports and product line appears to mix humor with facts, and poses as an off beat, but ready to go toe-to-toe venue.
The company is also running commercials for the Volt, and has said it is having to “relaunch” the gas-electric plug-in car after so much misinformation has been disseminated about it.
Initial development for the Volt was estimated at around $1 billion and the vehicle is now the proud carrier of the name “halo” car for Chevrolet products. Its future is still being questioned by a variety of commentators, and last year every foible along its deliberately slow roll out was closely analyzed.
You can be sure GM is none too pleased at how some people portray it, and it is starting to present its counter views as well as it can with politically correct rebuttals aimed at separating fact from fiction.