Lobbing easy pitches at the auto industry

chevy aveo

A story from Yahoo News via Forbes about “the year’s poorest performing cars” is a peculiar piece of journalism. The thesis of the article is that the number of recalls, uncorroborated safety ratings and resale numbers, form some sort of turkey list for vehicles is a little weak. But that’s not the strange part.

More than half the article is a collection of responses from the automakers to the charges. The responses are mainly credited to PR directors who destroy the watery accusations like its a training exercise. An example:

On the Grand Prix’s below-average resale value, GM spokeswoman Debbie Frakes says, “It is not uncommon for vehicles at the end of their lifecycle, like the Grand Prix, to experience lower residual values than when the vehicle was fresh on the market. In addition, GM is taking positive steps to improve residual values on all of our vehicles by reducing daily rental fleet sales and other activities that can negatively affect both wholesale and retail pricing.”

It’s canned messaging, yes, but it’s effective. With no response from the journalist, the car PR folks get to use defence as offense. Companies such as GM tend to use marketing heads and product managers as spokespeople (product guru Bob Lutz is one of the top spokespeople in all of business) and the fact that the communicators were taking the quotes themselves shows they’re don’t consider this serious press.

While corporate communicators may relish an opportunity to steamroll over a story like this, my question to Forbes and Yahoo News is: why are you bothering?


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