The campaign word-war between the New York Times editorial page and General Motors keeps heating up — and the latest salvo was fired by Times columnist Thomas Friedman in this morning's Times. Just so you can get your bearings, let's recap — Thomas "World Is Flat" Friedman, in a New York Times editorial two weeks ago engaged in what can best be described as a hyperbol-gasm over GM's latest sales promotion, the fuel price protection program. Friedman called the promotion, an offer of $1.99 gas for one year with no limit on mileage, the equivalent of "crack" and quite literally called GM a "crack dealer." In response, Steven Harris, GM's VP of Communications came right back with a scathing post on their corporate FastLane Blog asking for Friedman to be "intellectually honest" in his claims — and basically asked Friedman to take his own head and shove it straight...
...into GM's Warren Tech Center to see the progress GM's made on flex-fuel vehicles. In addition to Harris, GM must have called for all hands on deck — because there was a second salvo fired from the RenCen in the form of Brian Akre from GM Corporate Communications. Brian was hard at work trying to write the perfect letter to the editor to the New York Times — unfortunately, the "perfect letter" included foul language like "rubbish" — words which just wouldn't pass muster with the conserva-nazis at the Times. Akre pointed out on GM's other corporate blog, FYI, the seperate and totally unequal treatment his wording was receiving in comparison to what Friedman was allowed to use. Apparently if you're a columnist you can use such language as "crack dealer" — not to mention "whore of Babylon", "slut-ho-bag", and "scruffy-looking nerf-herder" when describing GM.
So that brings you up to today — a day normally reserved for Maureen Dowd, but she's on vacation. Instead it's the day...Thomas Friedman struck back. Based on Friedman's first piece we expected this to be a second flinging of steaming hot fecal matter thrown across the face of Harris, Akre and any other GM executive in his way — instead, we received a rational, calm and yes — informed commentary on the long-term inefficacy of GM's strategy of "build bigger, not better...and with less fuel-economy."
Friedman's piece today (subs. req.) is everything his column of two weeks ago wasn't — it loses the hyperbole and bullshit — drops on its knees in front of Toyota a little less and takes GM to task on a number of worthy issues including production of more "9 to 11 mpg cars" than any other automaker, the flex-fuel fleet truck loophole, and of course — our favorite — there still is no family-friendly hybrid on the market. He concludes with a more-than-worthy quote from our friends at Automotive News:
"General Motors' promotion that reimburses some buyers for gasoline purchases is ill-advised for an automaker that is trying to burnish its green image. The program should be dropped, not expanded. ... It's simply a subsidy for vehicles that burn a lot of gasoline. And it's one more example of G.M.'s tone deafness on environmental issues. ... Yes, G.M. can make vehicles that are as fuel efficient as anybody else's. But it acts as though its future depends on gas guzzlers."
And isn't that really GM's problem? The talking points for execs require them to trumpet the GMT-900 and other fuel-hungry trucks and SUV's at a time when the average family is trying to scrape together gas money. These same talking points claim the GMT's are "very important to the future" of GM. Really, isn't that a less-compelling message than the message of a fuel-efficient lifestyle coming from the likes of Toyota, Honda and other automakers? Yes, we realize it's just messaging — but they actually do back up those messages — by providing, for the most part, inexpensive vehicles with higher fuel-economy than other automakers. GM can trumpet it's industry-leading number of 30 mpg+ vehicles all it wants — but when their executive ranks and bottom line still require the sale of gas-guzzlers to remain solvent — well, that provides an alltogether different message.
But Friedman on the other hand needs to quit the hyperbole and maybe focus more on what he did today, actually go after GM for the real reasons — because the facts sans bullshit are compelling enough as it is.
TimesSelect G.M. — Again (subs. req.) [New York Times]
NYT Not Exactly Sporting When it Comes to GM [internal]