GM stepped in another big pile of "uh oh" last week, when they trotted out Ed Whitacre to tell the world they'd repaid their government loan, "in full, with interest, five years ahead of schedule."
Yes, you repaid the $6.7 billion loan, but not out of operating profits because there weren't any. Instead the loan was paid out of the $52 billion in funds received from the government that were not considered a loan. In essence you paid us back with the money we gave you and then spent a couple of million bucks to produce and air a television spot to try to make us feel good about your magical powers of accounting.
But that's not what I'm here to talk about today.
Why is "Big" Ed being featured in GM commercials at all? How does trotting out a 70 year old multi-millionaire help GM connect with the millions of Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Lexus, BMW and Audi drivers in a way that might make them want to consider a Chevrolet, Buick or Cadillac for their next car?
Ask people to personify the GM brand and they'll say it's an older white male who loves to golf and drinks martinis. Even though I'm starting to resemble that description, I'm not sure that's the personality the "New" GM wants to project.
My guess is GM would like to be seen as a younger man or woman who's innovative, energetic, ecologically focused, multi cultural, and enjoys active outdoor sports like kayaking or mountain biking.
Using Mr. Whitacre as a spokesperson is not going to change peoples' perception of GM. In fact, it only reinforces that notion that it's an insular company run by guys who couldn't spell clue if you spotted them the c, l, and e. That may not be true, but that's the perception and until GM decides to communicate differently, people will continue to discount GM as a viable option to replace their import brand.