Episode 391 – GM Whitacre Ads Working?, GM To Team With Google, NASCAR Car Washes?

May 13th, 2010 at 12:00pm

Runtime 8:57

Did GM’s TV ads with CEO Ed Whitacre claiming the company paid off the government actually work? GM is negotiating with Google about using its Android operating system to link phones to OnStar. NASCAR will open its own theme-based car washes. All that and more, plus a look at who Ford is targeting with the new Fiesta.

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Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

This is Autoline Daily for Thursday, May 13, 2010. And now, the news.

Looks like those TV ads with GM CEO Ed Whitacre claiming the company paid off the government actually worked. Or, did they? Bloomberg quotes a London-based company called You Gov which conducted a survey and found that consumers have a more favorable view of GM, after seeing the ads. But Bloomberg also quotes marketing research firm Strategic Vision which found the ads had mixed results amongst people in the market for a new car. Half the people it surveyed thought GM was making progress, the other half thought the ads were deceptive, or they didn’t identify with Ed Whitacre.

Five years, that’s all it’s got. Though it’s well known in Europe, many people outside the region are unaware that Volkswagen owns a car company based in Spain called Seat. Looks like “seat,” but is pronounced “say-aht.” And it’s been a money loser for years. Now Bloomberg reports that VW says this is the last shot it’s going to take at turning Seat around. One way VW plans to help it out: the Audi Q3 will be built at one of Seat’s plants in Spain to help give it more manufacturing volume. But if it doesn’t work, look for Seat to be phased out as a brand, while its manufacturing facilities are parceled out to the rest of the VW empire.

GM TO TEAM UP WITH GOOGLE (subscription required)
In a move to compete with Ford’s Sync system and attract younger buyers, GM is negotiating with Google about using its Android operating system to link phones to OnStar. According to the Wall Street Journal, it would allow drivers who use Android-based smart phones to use OnStar features while not in their car. For example, you could check maintenance information or a Volt owner could check the charge of the vehicle from their phone. There are not a whole lot of details, but OnStar said it’s going to make a significant announcement next week, so hold the phone.

Earlier in the week we reported that Hyundai was allegedly developing a full-size truck based off the Dodge Ram. Now, PickupTrucks.com reports that the two companies held talks about this, but that plans were shelved because they couldn’t agree on production volumes. The motive behind Hyundai’s interest in entering the pickup market was that it could function as a bridge between its consumer business and a possible future commercial vehicle business in North America.

In related news, Ward’s reports that the company is considering producing the Elantra in the U.S. The American version of the small car is currently built in Ulsan, South Korea.

One of the products tasked with saving Chrysler is the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee. So far the company has been relatively secretive about the redesigned luxury SUV, but according to Ward’s, pricing for the vehicle is out. A four-wheel-drive version powered by Chrysler’s brand-new 290 horsepower Pentastar V-6 will start at $32,995. That’s about eighteen-hundred dollars more than the current version. The 3.6-liter engine is expected to deliver up to 23 miles per gallon – roughly 10.3 L/100 km – an 11 percent improvement.

NASCAR has been on the decline the last several years. There are fewer people watching it on television and the stands at the tracks, which used to be jam-packed, now have big open spaces at the races. So what do you do to get more people interested?  Well, if you’re NASCAR, you create your own theme-based car washes. That’s right, according to Bloomberg, the racing series will partner with Utah-based Car Wash Co. and open 40 locations around the country over the next five years. But wouldn’t it be cooler if they opened a shop where you could get your car serviced like they do in the pits? I’d pay for that.

I’ve driven the new Ford Fiesta and it’s a very good little car. But who cares what I think? Will it truly bring in a new generation of buyers to the brand? We’ll look into that in just a jiffy.

Ford has a lot riding on the Fiesta. But most of all it has to convince enough people in the American market to buy the compact car. Even more importantly, it has to bring in a new generation of buyers. So can it do that? Seamus McElroy filed this report.

San Francisco is a city of close quarters and high energy that’s known for its cutting-edge culture.

So we’re going to give the car sort of a target-market test-run, taking it to different neighborhoods around San Francisco running the errands fit for a Fiesta. We start out at the city’s top cooperative grocery store in the SoMo, or South of Market area, for some organic produce. Next stop – Hayes Valley for a cup of Blue Bottle Coffee…the freshest and most eccentric made in San Francisco. Then it’s up to one of the highest points in the city for some true Italian focaccia from this 100-year family-owned bakery. And then it’s across town to the Mission District for lunch at our favorite taqueria.

Special to all kinds of customers including those demanding millennials.

And there’s plenty to be excited about starting under the hood with a solid 1.6-liter I-4 that gives you around 40 mpgs with either the five-speed manual or the Powershift automatic. And then for a B-car at least, there’s technology galore — everything from a remote start, keyless entry, heated mirrors and of course the hands-free Sync system which is right at home in this computer-savvy city.

What better place to wrap-up our target market test run than in the northern neighborhoods of the city. From the Marina…to North Beach…to Fisherman’s Wharf…these are the same streets, the same urban areas across the country where Ford believes the Fiesta will be a big sales hit.

Don’t forget to tune in to Autoline After Hours tonight when our guest will be Mark Ragsdale, a former car dealer who’s written a book called Car Wreck, all about the auto industry from a car dealer’s point of view. He wonders why no car company has ever put a dealer on its board of directors. It’ll be a good discussion, especially because Jason Vines will be in the house. That’s tonight at 7 p.m. eastern.

And that’s it for today’s top news in the global automotive industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

Thanks to our Partners for embedding Autoline Daily on their websites: Autoblog, The Auto Channel, Car Chat, WardsAuto.com and WWJ Newsradio 950

46 Comments to “Episode 391 – GM Whitacre Ads Working?, GM To Team With Google, NASCAR Car Washes?”

  1. Mark Says:

    Seamus, you need to work on your voice delivery. You sound completely bored in your review of the Fiesta until the very end. It was informative, but not fun to listen too.

  2. Ron Paris Says:

    Re: AAH: you had me until “… Jason Vines will be in the house.” I’ll check back in next Thursday!

  3. John V. Says:

    I agree, John. The idea of a NASCAR carwash does not excite me – I’ll just keep going to the $3 carwashes I already use when I do not have time for a hand wash. Not being a native of the Detroit metro area, I was impressed early with how cheap a quick carwash is here. Never saw anything close when I lived in VA, NC, OH, or IN.
    On the other hand, a 30 second oil change or tire change would be worth paying for!

  4. tj Martin Says:

    Well I for one was not convinced by Whiteacre’s false claims of paying off the money owed the tax payer when he said it and all the evidence since then has supported my cynicism . Sad that so many just see an ad and immediately assume it to be True with out looking into the facts or even bothering to read the news accounts .

    On the Fiesta . Everything I’ve heard from my UK friends thats supposed to be one mighty fine little car . Fact is had Ford brought it here 3 years ago the wife would have considered on instead of the Toyota Matrix she wound up buying .

    So I’ll be looking forward john to see what your take on the car is in your little adventure .

    Hyundai making full size Trucks . A case of definitely trying to punch way above their weight class . The dealing failing with Chrysler to go ahead with the project may be the best thing thats ever happened to Hyundai

  5. Nick Stevens Says:

    The only “big” thing about Whiteacre is his utter phoniness and cluelessness.

    Nothing about NASCAR ever excited me, but I don’t even watch f1 on TV. I don’t care for vehicles that have little in common with the cars we drive.

    I’d be far more interested in participating in an endurance rally, even the lemans but preferably more scenic ones and not just going round and round in circles for 24 hours straight. Give me some road trips and some sightseeing. And above all endurance and fuel economy should be tomorrow’s 0-60 and HP.

  6. Nick Stevens Says:

    Seamus wasted too much time on irrelevant stuff, he seemed more like a San Fran tour guide than a car tester and evaluator. Give us some tech stuff about the car. And was this descent down Lombard street in slow motion? Is there a 5 MPH speed limit there?

  7. Ralph Kercheval Says:

    The reason NASCAR is losing market is that it has become the WWE of racing. As I have mentioned before, when was the last time you saw a 700 HP RWD Camry or Fusion??? They are no more related than my paper airplane to the new offering from Boeing…

    A note on the Feista..The local delaer has as many Fiesta inquiries as 2011 Mustang inquiries. Looks like ford hit the target dead on.

  8. Chuck Grenci Says:

    I don’t have too much problem with Ed Whitacre, but for the life of me, why didn’t that T.V. commercial just add, “……..we have begun paying off the loan (and with the reinstatement of GM stock, the government is poised to recovered all borrowed money and potentially realize a profit from backing up the American worker at GM”).

    I believe the upcoming Grand Cherokee is still going to come up short; still a pretty hefty price tag and 23 mpg is just not going to get it to where it needs to be. It may be a super vehicle but those two things will bring it right back to mediocre as far as a done deal.

  9. dcars Says:

    I used to love NASCAR and the original concept was great; racing street cars! The current set of cars barely resembles their street counterparts. The COT maybe safer but it took the sole out of NASCAR. Australia’s V8 super cars seam a lot cooler, put those things on a big oval like Daytona, now that’s exciting.

  10. pedro fernandez Says:

    I wonder if Ford will have enough Fiestas on hand to satisfy everyone who comes in to buy one or are they gonna be in short supply with dealers asking 2 or 3 grand over MSRP and try to shaft every customer who comes in looking to buy one. I’m still waiting for someone to do a real test drive on the Fiesta, not a jaunt around town. By the way, Whitacre was as believable as Obama during the campaign.

  11. dcars Says:

    Hey John, what’s plan “B” if the Germans say no to Opel’s request for loan guarantte’s.

  12. pedro fernandez Says:

    Ps does anyone here enjoy watching those rally races, they are so much more exciting than the boring round and round we go type of racing. I’d rather watch a demolition derby, to be honest.

  13. Nick Stevens Says:

    I would prefer that Whiteacre added:

    “I am the CEO of GOVERNMENT Motors, and yet I earn $9 million a year, instead of working for $1 until GM turns around, as LEE IACOCCA did in Chrysler in 1980. I know that even Prez Obama makes less than HALF of ONE million a year, which is barely 6% of what I make. But I have no shame.

    I came to GM from ATT. I know far less about Manufacturing and autos in particular than my Awesome colleague ALAN MULLALY, who saved FOrd’s ass!

    I am so clueless, that after firing Henderson, the previous CEO, I re-hired him at the ridiculous (for a GOVERNMENT company!) rate of $3,000 an HOUR to tell me what the hell I should do.”

    Now THAT would be a TRUTHFUL ad!

  14. Chuck Grenci Says:

    While I do watch NASCAR, my most favorable races to watch include turning left (and right).

  15. Nick Stevens Says:

    Pedro, I’d not worry about Ford running out of Fiestas. Few will buy the loaded $23k versions, so any shortage will be artificial and only near the base price of $14k, as in other car maker models, it will be hard to find base versions at the dealers.

    The segment will be quite competitive after Chevy sells the 40 MPG CRUZE, FOcus sized rather than fiesta sized, but at prices cmoser to the fiesta than the focus!

    It should be fun to watch the sales in the Fall and beyond.

  16. Nick Stevens Says:

    “I’d rather watch a demolition derby, to be honest.”

    There is a lot of that in NASCAR and f1, and it’s not just the cars that frequently get demolished, it’s also their drivers!

  17. pedro fernandez Says:

    something wrong with a sport where the highlights are: the crashes, the checkered flag, the pouring champagne and how bad the hot chick did this time out.

  18. Willi B Says:

    “I agree, John. The idea of a NASCAR carwash does not excite me – ”

    ok, i was really curious about response from this board on this topic …

    job creation, improved service techs, 6 pack to go … there is a serious lack of qualified technicians, this couldn’t hurt – at the carwash

    when is the last time you watched a boxing match not wanting to see damage?

    “By the way, Whitacre was as believable as Obama during the campaign” … amen brother!

  19. Art DesJardins Says:

    Hyundai had already provided chassis and drive train for Behring trucks that were built in Virginia from about 1995 to 2000. So they had already dabbled in the US truck market as a component supplier. Behring was the first new truck manufactiurer in the US in about 50 years and they were out of business in about 5 years because they just did not catch on in the marketplace. With Hyundai’s current good reputation they should be able to bring in their own product instead of badge engineering a Ram (good as they might be). It will take a little longer to do but should be worth the wait if they apply their current good engineering to the product.

  20. Frank Nelson Says:

    Whiteacre is a snake-oil salesman. His misleading of the public in GM’s ad should solicit an apology on the same media. He is the complete opposite of the type of CEO that GM needs at a time like this. NASCAR, don’t you think they’re the professional wrestling of motorsports? At one time, they were exciting, with bigger-than-life personalities. Now they are nothing more than a marketing entity. Hard to get folks to want to watch novacaine-numb racing.

  21. Nick Stevens Says:

    “when is the last time you watched a boxing match not wanting to see damage?”

    I have not watched any boxing match, ever. I do not watch any sports any more, and even when i did, they bored the living hell out of me (NBA, watched only bits and pieces, usually close to the end, when the local team was really good).

    I sure never watched Golf or Fishing on tv or any other slow-motion boring BS fit for reptiles.

    I used to like watching track and field and the Olympics, but then they really effed them up with the steroids and the East German female swimmers that looked like the twin brothers of Soviet male swimmers..

    They have managed to screw most sports. My sports stats these days is to read stats about car sales, inventory, new car specs and MPG, energy supply and demand, and the like.

  22. Willi B Says:

    Nick, alot of good points, but it does confirm we watch nascar for the crashes … i’m with you on all the other stuff, can’t stand the $ paid to arrogant atheletes, that’s why i come back to nascar, our track in Texas holds over 200,000 people and it’s not just about the race

  23. tj Martin Says:

    Ralph Kechavel ;

    The WWE of Auto Racing . How absolutely apposite !

    pedro fernandez ;

    I did follow WRC for years both in person , in the press and when it was on TV . But in all honesty over the last say 6 years once the format , length and time of day for stages was severely modified for the God Almighty Television Audience ( anyone have a clue who these people are ? ) I’ve lost interest . Oh if I’ve got nothing else to do and don’t feel like reading etc. I’ll flip on the coverage on cable ( Discovery HD Theater ) but overall its become a little too contrived .

    Ah but guess what I found a couple of weeks ago on Bloomberg TV on Saturday morning . Live coverage of the FIA GT3 races . Check it out . real cars . Great tracks and not a bad way to spend 90 minutes of your morning . Next race is May 22/23

  24. Al Sowash Says:

    Gee whiz Nick, you sure do lead a real exciting life with all you are interested in. Do I see an alful lot of negativity in most everything about you and your life?
    Lighten up and try to take time to check out the roses and appreciate the beauty that abounds in this country.

  25. pedro fernandez Says:

    Re: tonight’s guest’ I’ve always believed that manufacturers should sell their own vehicles and get rid of all this dealer system which is like going to a ritzy hotel, everyone extracts money from you, from the valet to the maitre-d’ to the pool boy, you could save so much aggravation and money if you were just were given the price and tax and tags and none of the other BS that comes along including $300 wax jobs and needless undercoating, the manufacturer is already paying the dealer upfront for services.

  26. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    I think bringing SEAT to America would be the shot in the arm it needs.

    The Hyundai RAM truck thing was a distractionary story I think, as Hyundai is busy: developing next gen Accent hatch-China and US Spec (Shots are out, and Hyundai is not towing the line with the Cutesy B-Segment Fiesta or Mini Minivan Fit look), US Spec Accent sedan, Tooling for Elantra build at Montgomery, Developing that Accent GTI like car (Veloster), working on that new Elantra Engine Plant.

  27. pedro fernandez Says:

    Hey smoke, my people know how to make good sangria and eat very well plus the women are beautiful, but our cars SUCK.

  28. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Its a learning game too Pedro. Eventually Mexcian car labor will become some of the World’s best. They just need to nurture their production talent.

  29. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Ooops, I put my foot in my Mouth. I thought you were referencing my past Chagrin about Hyundai looking at Mexican Plants.

    Well bringing SEAT over to America would save VW America from going on a disastrous lets be the New Toyota ride.

  30. pedro fernandez Says:

    Smoke, I wouldn’t be surprised if you actually drive a Camry or even the new Avalon, you know the one with the “comfort is back” ad campaign.

  31. pedro fernandez Says:

    ps not Mexican, ancestors from Spain, where cars are a pain, sorry couldn’t help it!

  32. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    LMAO Pedro, eww Avalon eww no.

    That car is going to be the Gen W (Baby Boomer) Grand Marquis.

    Its going to be kind of hard for VW who has a car like the CC priced competitively with the C-Class to have a car that can truly compete with a Camry under the VW Badge, as VWs are like Audis from 10 years ago now.

    Only Gen W and older remembers the days when you can buy a Beetle for $1100. My entire life VW has been pretty much an upmarket brand, they might as well stay the course.

    They need to Bring SEAT, and price those cars under or at Toyota Pricing.

  33. pedro fernandez Says:

    Smoke, don’t you understand that Americans have no tolerance for unreliable cars, why do you suppose your company spend all those millions in improving their quality and desirability, just for the heck of it?

  34. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    VW making a Camry Competitor is about as ludicrous as if BMW in the late 70s decided to make a Ford Taurus, becuase people harken back to the old days where you could get an Isetta for dirt cheap.

  35. Puremoose Says:

    Seamus should not talk in a monotone voice when talking about cars.
    I believe the SEAT is a good Rally car. To bad it’s not imported in to the USA

  36. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    You have a good point Pedro. I do see a few Americans as takers, but that’s only and ONLY if they can sell them at dirt cheap pricing.

    Remember Americans can tollerate dirt cheap POS stuff to a degree, but if it gets pricey then of course we cant tollerate it.

    That’s why if Chyrsler was really serious they would have FIATs priced as the cheapest cars for each respective class in America. Who’s going to buy a Sonata Priced MiTo when you can get a Quality Accent for cheaper?

    The Arrogance of Euro companies is astounding.

  37. naif Says:

    Whitacre ads, have only succeeded in getting more people mad at GM. Not that most of the mad really know what it is they are mad about.

  38. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Think about what would happen if Americans were able to get $11K MiTos. They would snap those things up like Versas and Accents, and say when any quality problems come along, “Well what do you expect for a car that starts out at $11k?” and “For an 11K Car this is sweet.” If they price them at $16K to start people will by those cars, and if any quality problems come along they will trade it in and tell everybody they about how they got ripped off by FIAT/CHRYSLER and not to buy and to tell their frineds dont buy either.

    Yes, this is bad for Chyrsler too, as people will start to associate CHRYSLER with FIAT. If a Problem is in the MiTo or the Punto, then they will associate Mito and Punto with Nassau and Grand Cherokee. That will hold back a few potential buyers.

  39. Tony Gray Says:

    The Whitacre ads absolutely lost at least one sale. My politically savvy spouse won’t go near a GM store now, and the LaCrosse was a slam dunk to end up in our garage.

  40. C-tech Says:


  41. Rick Wakefield Says:

    You need to teach your son to have a little enthusiasm in his voice.
    Sounds like he is reading from a cue card and not understanding what he’s reading.
    Love the show, All of them.
    Just my $0.02 about educating the boy, if he wants to stay in the business.
    Maybe the previous post was in regards to Shamus,

  42. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Shamus sounded more documenatarial. He didnt sound too excited about Fiesta, but that’s ok. I say its a good try for a noob at it.

    Fiesta will need a refresh by 2013 as promoting it is making the car stale already. There is such a thing as promotion overkill. If I was an open B-Segment buyer and had chose from the list of choices, I would get turned off by the Fiesta due to Ford’s overkilling of the Fiesta Movement Message. I would also get a little suspect about the message. The Savvy Gen Y Car buyer (There are quite a few of us) would also know that the whole crop of B-Segments are about to be replaced in the next 3-18 Months, and Ford’s Claims of Class leading Fuel Economy in a sea of replacements is just Ludicrous. That would also make me suspect, and turn me off.

    Ford is starting to understand Gen-Y, but if you overkill a message you lose us. If you Strech the Truth about Fuel Economy you really lose us. LYING TO GEN Y IS WORSE THAN PUTTING OUT A BAD QUALITY PRODUCT!!! WE REALLY DONT LIKE BEING LIED TO, ESPECIALLY IF YOUR A CORPORATION LIKE FORD OR THE GOVERNMENT!! Its time to release the product, NO EXCUSES!!!

    Its been 2 years already, If I was a Fiesta Fanatic (As they are calling themselves) Id be very pissed in waiting for the car.

    Gen Y Really hates waiting for things, especially if its been out in other markets for 2 years.

  43. Nick Stevens Says:

    “Al Sowash Says:
    May 13th, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    Gee whiz Nick, you sure do lead a real exciting life with all you are interested in.”

    I am so touched by your concern. But you obviously misunderstood what I wrote. I only focused on SPORTS, which are but a TINY part of my interests, and sports stats, that I could care less about. I only said that my sports stats are the auto industry stats, model specs etc.

    Do you always draw general conclusions from two lines of text that you don’t even understand? Ridiculous.

  44. Chuck Says:

    I think the Ed thing goes to show, no matter what you do, the haters are still going to be haters. It’s a simple fact, GM owed the government x dollars on a loan, and they paid it back ahead of time and with interest. Whats the big deal? Nobody has ever claimed that the new GM stock the government bought was anything but stock. It’s not a loan, it’s called an investment. Should the government have made the investment? I don’t think so, but this outfit did. Where’s the deception on GM’s part? For instance as tj says “Well I for one was not convinced by Whiteacre’s false claims of paying off the money owed the tax payer when he said it and all the evidence since then has supported my cynicism . Sad that so many just see an ad and immediately assume it to be True with out looking into the facts or even bothering to read the news accounts.” What false claims?? What facts?? What news accounts??

  45. Brett Cammack Says:


    I think it’s your humility that we all find most endearing.

  46. dale Says:

    Who cares about San Francisco, we want to know about the cars.