It’s beyond me why GM is using Ed Whiteacre, their new board of directors chief, in new TV ads. He famously said, at his first press conference, that he doesn’t know much about cars, but one of the new Cadillac commercials is right-on.

It’s for their SRX crossover, and it is dark and moody, uses a popular tune from the “alternative” category, but what got me was the final line: “SRX — The Cadillac of crossovers.”

 When I grew up, in the ‘60s, if some product was considered the best in its field, it was called the “Cadillac” of those products. And that saying had been around for many years before I ever heard it. In fact for decades Cadillac’s tagline in their advertising was, “The standard of the world.” And in that time and place, Caddy was.

Today, the name “Lexus” is often invoked to denote a great product; best-in-class.

Maybe the line hit my nostalgia button just right, but I liked the fact that GM, having suffered from a terrible inferiority complex for the past 20 years (often based, in truth, on some pretty bad product) seems, at least for this commercial, to have gotten some guts back and is not afraid to say Cadillac is something special.

On using the board chairman to do the “And let the best car win” spot: Whiteacre needs a fast charisma transplant if people are going to respond. This is not Lee Iacocca. He looks interchangeable with every bland top car exec Detroit has produced in the last 100 years. This guy used to run AT&T. How does that make him right for GM?

And where’s Bob Lutz?

Lutz, the popular and probably best-known GM exec, who is overseeing the corporation’s advertising (as just one of his jobs), did Whiteacre (and GM) no favors by not fighting the decision for Whiteacre to do the ads. Maybe Whiteacre insisted on it, maybe Lutz was kissing his new boss’ butt and telling him how great he’d be on TV; maybe he’s hoping Whiteacre’s spot will fail and step into the TV ad himself.

If GM indeed has guts again, someone there should remember that “Guts” is the name of Lutz’ book and without doubt he’d be best to represent the corporation to the TV audience. Lutz is today’s Iacocca; he’s a natural on-camera and compelling to watch.

A lot of people I talk with, and I mean people who do not live and breathe cars, don’t know Whiteacre’s name or his history, but they do know he made that “I don’t know much about cars” statement. Apparently, Letterman and Leno and the rest, who still mention this line on occasion, do have a lot of people watching. And it hasn’t done GM any good.

GM offers a good five-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, but instead of the money-back guarantee, why not increase the warranty to 10 years, as Hyundai offers? One reason is that the warranty will cost GM more money in the long run than the money-back guarantee, but matching many of the import warranties would say a lot about what GM thinks of their new product. Whether GM thinks they have the money (or can get permission from the White House to plan for those big expenditures) is another thing.

Is GM whistling through the graveyard or do the Whiteacre and other new TV spots, plus the 60-day guarantee and selling cars (only here in California) on eBay make sense and have GM headed in the right direction? Would a 10-year warranty make you more comfortable shopping GM products?

Most important, would all of this get you into a GM store?

 

  Steve Parker is a two-time Emmy Award-winner who has covered the world’s auto industry and motor racing for over 35 years. He created, writes and moderates the only all-automotive blog on The Huffington Post at www.huffingtonpost.com/steve-parker. Parker hosts live one-hour automotive and motor racing call-in radio shows each Saturday and Sunday at 5 p.m. on www.TalkRadioOne.com. Contact Steve through his own automotive issues Web site at www.SteveParker.com.

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