12 October 2011

General Motors Strikes Back

Addendum: Later in the day this post was written. After a bit of a Twitter storm, The Los Angeles Times reports that General Motors is withdrawing the bicycle portion of their campaign. Which is great news, although it's kind of like the rebels taking a minor city when Gaddafi stills controls Tripoli.

Thanks to the eagle eyes at the League of American Bicyclists, this General Motors campaign was spotted - and spanked accordingly. "Reality Sucks" is their campaign title. It offers discounts to college students who want to buy a car. This is another example of Copenhagenize's "Car Industry Strikes Back" series. Most instances of the car industry, or automobile insurance companies, are subtle and use imagery to underline their point that cycling is geeky, only for poor souls and can't compete with the sexed up car ownership world. This GM campaign spells it out, revealing the inner desires of the car industry faced with stiff and growing competition from bicycle traffic.

Stop Pedalling, Start Driving.

Yes. They're worried. Yes. They're desperately trying to cling on to a fast-changing market. No. They don't seem very capable of doing so.

It would be amusing if it wasn't so pathetic.

GM has a list of Environmental Principles on their website. This is prime material for The Daily Show.

As a responsible corporate citizen, General Motors is dedicated to protecting human health, natural resources and the global environment. This dedication reaches further than compliance with the law to encompass the integration of sound environmental practices into our business decisions.

We are committed to actions to restore and preserve the environment. (Meaning: We'll put tiny bandaids on the mass destruction we have caused over the past century in your cities and countryside. Oh, and the Great American Streetcar Scandal? No comment.)
We are committed to reducing waste and pollutants, conserving resources, and recycling materials at every stage of the product lifecycle. (Meaning: Because this will increase our profit margin)
We will continue to participate actively in educating the public regarding environmental conservation (Meaning: we'll do everything we can to manipulate people into staying in our cars and ridicule all other forms of transport).
We will continue to pursue vigorously the development and implementation of technologies for minimizing pollutant emissions. (Meaning: As long as it stills involves oil and we can still keep selling cars)
We will continue to work with all governmental entities for the development of technically sound and financially responsible environmental laws and regulations. (Meaning: We will spend outrageous amounts of money lobbying politicians to keep them on our side)

Be sure to read Bike League's piece on the GM campaign here.

Addendum: The next day after General Motors got caught in The Perfect Twitter Storm.
Giant bicycles produced this bicycle-friendly version of the ad.


Titch said...

That ad is "patheticness" at its best! Sad and desperate. Urggh, makes me cringe! It gets a good old slap from me!

Anonymous said...

Even if I bought the cynical premise of this campaign (driving is for WINNERS!), it's just a weak campaign. The slogan, the graphics, everything about it is lame and out of date. Why would the attractive, fit guy on the bike even care what the smirking harpy in the car thinks? It smacks of desperation and almost makes me feel sorry for GM. They're going to need to do better than that to counter the perception of all the younger people I know, that cycling is hot and driving is at best a necessary evil.

Anonymous said...

The Car industry in America and the EU is getting worried.

The European Automobile Manufacturer’s Association stated that cycling is a luxury activity: "European cities only a few can afford walking and cycling to work or for leisure, the cost of living close to the place or work or leisure being too high” (http://www.ecf.com/4600_1)

This is a sign they're getting worried.... good work copenhagenize

Miguel Barroso said...

I think tha GM has already found out the hard way, that this ad was a big FAIL. Judging by the FB comments (www.facebook.com/gmcollegeprogram), and their response, I guess that sonnner than latter, they will try to come up with some "damage control" to this campaign: "We are very sorry that we have offended you and the bicycling community by our recent campaign. We are listening to everyone's feedback, and making changes to the campaign. Thank you for voicing your concerns and again we apologize."

SteveL said...

According to Wikipedia, the US, Canada and Ontario State governments own 43% of the GM stock here. This is not just a company, it is a company half owned by the North American governments.

Ryan said...

Geeze, as an Ontario resident who owns a part of GM, I'm furious about this...but at the same time I'm amused.

If car manufactures are targeting bikes in their ads, it must mean cycling is on the right track over here!

Also, college students can hardly pay for tuition so what makes GM think they'll ever afford the upkeep of a pickup truck, let alone a compact car?

Doug said...

Mikael, I've suggested that cyclists embrace this GM campaign, but reverse its slogan:

"Stop driving...start pedaling."

Jason Tinkey said...

Terrific, let's saddle college students with even more debt that they won't be able to repay once they graduate and can't find a job. What's good for GM is good for America, amirite?

Rhode Long said...

I think you are right with turning the campaign against them. Let's face it, "Reality sucks" to be a motorists with the congestion, lack of parking, stress, health impacts, costs etc. etc.

A reverse campaign would be easy but I guess we would come across as petty. I prefer quiet smugness.

ZA_SF said...

The ad-jam is so easy. Corpulent overdebted dude in a pickup truck, or a heaving svelt cyclist (with the best butts) with a smile a bottle of beer to share?

Embrace selling the sexy, because the car loses every time.

Anonymous said...

if this is GM "striking back" then I don't think we have much to fear. Everything about the ad is dated - other than the car model years there is nothing to indicate that this wasn't produced in 1992. There's a lot of survey evidence indicating that cars are losing their status-symbol cachet among younger people, and this totally out-of-touch campaign will do nothing to counter that trend.

SteveL said...

To be fair to GM, the EU-only Corsa model comes with the option of a built in 2 bike carrier built in to the rear bumper: pull it out and you've got room for two bikes. This is a complete contrast to the "you need an SUV for outdoor adventures" marketing that is normally presented. If car club vehicles were so equipped, and rental cars, it'd be easier to rent a car for the odd car+bike journey.

That built in bike carrier is a way of embracing bicycles and recognising that people who own small urban cars may want to carry bikes, and don't need a second vehicle to do it (unlike the electric-for-commute, SUV-for-weekends story)

Rhode Long said...


Nah, GM cannot be defended, even with the neat Corsa integrated rack. You must have seen the adverts in the UK whereby the lycra clad, helmeted model on the bike is tempted into the Corsa for a lift rather than carry on up the slight incline she was on.

I agree with your sentiments for getting this onto car club vehicles (and the crazy SUV requirement for outdoor adventures that they market) but this is all marginalising cycles to weekend leisure rides and not as a form of transport.

Rhode Long said...

The advert is here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5erA6DqDwI

It was a good design I agree (although a £500 option and you lost the spare wheel). Unfortunately it no longer appears as an option for the latest Corsa. Looks like they have discontinued it.

JRoberts said...

I'd love to know the market research the GM folks had access to that had them so concerned that they created this sort of campaign. It's not about the love of driving, new features or a passage into adulthood but rather a comparison to a product from a related but distinctly different industry.

Thanks for posting!

Erik G. said...

To be fair, GM may have given street rail transit the coup de grace in some cities, streetcars were dying in many U.S. cities long before "National City Lines" thanks to non-public ownership, over-regulation by the Utilities regulators (fares couldn't be raised wooden cars had to be retired early), and improvement of parallel roadways, sometimes involving the acquisition of the rail right-of-way for road use instead.

Try to find a copy of a documentary called "This was the Pacific Electric" for a good synopsis:


I can very much remember riding a "Line Number 5" in a certain city before it was converted to bus, so this phenomenon happened in a lot of places.

Adam said...

Forever driving alone...