On Monday, General Motors took out a full page ad in Automotive News in which the company–currently begging Congress to give it American taxpayers’ money even though American consumers don’t want its cars–acknowledges having disappointed and betrayed American consumers.
Betrayed? That’s mighty strong language. Was GM secretly selling top secret plans for the good cars to Japan?
(Full disclosure: my car is a Chrysler.)
Let’s plow through the text of the allegedly apologetic ad
GM’S COMMITMENT TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE
Oh, now you want a commitment, GM. Sure, you’ve been abusing us with your sub-par cars for years and now that you realize you’re about to get kicked to the curb — well, not the curb but the junkyard –suddenly you want to talk commitment. Well, we’re seeing Honda now. But whatever.
We deeply appreciate the Congress considering General Motors’ request to borrow up to $18 billion from the United States. We want to be sure the American people know why we need it, what we’ll do with it and how it will make GM viable for the long term.
As I think we here at Apology Index have noted before, these corporate apologies sound much more sincere when coming from an actual, identifiable person at the company — such as the CEO — rather than from the anonymous, impersonal, corporate royal we. That alone should set the red light blinking on your Insincereometer.
For a century, we have been serving your personal mobility needs, providing American jobs and serving local communities. We have been the U.S. sales leader for 76 consecutive years. Of the 250 million cars and trucks on U.S. roads today, more than 66 million are GM brands – nearly 44 million more than Toyota brands. Our goal is to continue to fulfill your aspirations and exceed your expectations.
See what I mean? This is totally the abusive, loser boyfriend begging you to take him back:
We had some good times, didn’t we, baby? Remember the Corvair … no, wait, I mean the Vega! No, not the Vega. How about the backseat of that Chevette? Anyway, I sill have 50% more vehicles on the road than Toyota, if you know what I mean.
While we’re still the U.S. sales leader, we acknowledge we have disappointed you. At times we violated your trust by letting our quality fall below industry standards and our designs become lackluster. We have proliferated our brands and dealer network to the point where we lost adequate focus on our core U.S. market. We also biased our product mix toward pick-up trucks and SUVs. And, we made commitments to compensation plans that have proven to be unsustainable in today’s globally competitive industry. We have paid dearly for these decisions, learned from them and are working hard to correct them by restructuring our U.S. business to be viable for the long term.
Look, baby, I know I let you down. I know my quality control wasn’t always what it should have been. Maybe I didn’t pay enough attention to your needs. You needed safe, reliable, affordable, fuel-efficient cars. I get that. I get that. . I know I betrayed you with all those pick-ups and I was very proliferate with a lot of different brands. Maybe I even gave you an SUV you didn’t want. But I’ve learned from my mistakes. I’m sorry, baby. Things are going to be better now, you’ll see!
Today, we have substantially overcome our quality gap; our newest designs like the Chevrolet Malibu and Cadillac CTS are widely heralded for their appeal; our new products are nearly all cars and “crossovers” rather than pick-ups and SUVs; our factories have greatly improved productivity and our labor agreements are much more competitive. We are also driven to lead in fuel economy, with more hybrid models for sale and biofuel-capable vehicles on the road than any other manufacturer, and determined to reinvent the automobile with products like the Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle and breakthrough technology like hydrogen fuel cells.
Check out my sweet new designs, baby. You know you want my Malibu, boo. I’m not doing the pick-ups and the SUVs no more. I have crossed over. I’ve gotten really interested in being green and saving the environment now, baby. I really care about these things. I know that surprises you, but it’s the truth. This is the only planet we got, baby! We got to share it with the rainforest and the baby seals and all that. Yeah, I’ve reinvented myself, baby. And it’s all for you. Including by breakthrough extended range. It’s all electric. Can you feel the tingle?
Until recent events, we felt the actions we’d been taking positioned us for a bright future. Just a year ago, after we reached transformational agreements with our unions, industry analysts were forecasting a positive GM turnaround. We had adequate cash on hand to continue our restructuring even under relatively conservative industry sales volume assumptions.
But I’ve got to tell you, baby. These problems we’re having lately. I never saw it coming. I thought things were going fine.
Unfortunately, along with all Americans, we were hit by a “perfect storm.” Over the past year we have all faced volatile energy prices, the collapse of the U.S. housing market, failing financial institutions, a stock market crash and the complete freezing of credit. We are in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Just like you, we have been severely impacted by events outside our control. U.S. auto industry sales have fallen to their lowest per capita rate in half a century. Despite moving quickly to reduce our planned spending by over $20 billion, GM finds itself precariously and frighteningly close to running out of cash.
Anyway, I lost my job and I’m about to get kicked out of my apartment so I thought, you know, could I stay with you for a while?
This is why we need to borrow money from U.S. taxpayers. If we run
out of cash, we will be unable to pay our bills, sustain our operations
and invest in advanced technology. A collapse of GM and the domestic
auto industry will accelerate the downward spiral of an already anemic
U.S. economy. This will be devastating to all Americans, not just GM
stakeholders, because it would put millions of jobs at risk and deepen
our recession. By lending GM money, you will provide us with a
financial bridge until the U.S. economy and auto sales return to
modestly healthy levels. This will allow us to keep operating and
complete our restructuring.
And could you loan me a few billion bucks? I’ll pay you back. It’s just until things pick up, I promise!
Wait, I didn’t mean to say “pick-up.”
Baby, you can’t just leave me on the street. That would be devastating, to you and to me. I know you couldn’t sleep at night, thinking about me all hungry and cold and lonely out there. Loan me the money and you’ll feel much better, I promise.
We submitted a plan to Congress Dec. 2, 2008, detailing our commitments to ensure our viability, strengthen our competitiveness, and deliver energy-efficient products. Specifically, we are committed to:
• produce automobiles you want to buy and are excited to own
• lead the reinvention of the automobile based on promising new technology
• focus on our core brands to consistently deliver on their promises
• streamline our dealer network to ensure the best sales and service
• ensure sacrifices are shared by all GM stakeholders
• meet appropriate standards for executive pay and corporate governance
• work with our unions to quickly realize competitive wages and benefits
• reduce U.S. dependence on imported oil
• protect our environment
• pay you back the entire loan with appropriate oversight and returns
See, baby, I wrote it all down for you in a poem. Because this is how I really feel.
These actions, combined with a modest rebound of the U.S. economy, should allow us to begin repaying you in 2011.
Honest, I’ll pay you back! Starting three years from now. Maybe.
In summary, our plan is designed to provide a secure return on your investment in GM’s future. We accept the conditions of your loan, the commitments of our plan, and the results needed to transform our business for long-term success. We will contribute to strengthening U.S. energy and environmental security. We will contribute to America’s technical and manufacturing know-how and create high quality jobs for the “new economy.” And, we will continue to deliver personal mobility freedom to Americans using the most advanced transportation solutions. We are proud of our century of contribution to U.S. prosperity and look forward to making an equally meaningful contribution during our next 100 years.
Come on, baby, don’t be that way! We were meant to be together, just you and me. Forget those foreign guys, with their smooth styling, plush comfort, high gas mileage and maintenance-free reliability. We’ve been together for a long, long time. We’ve got history. You and GM, we were meant to be. Are you just going to let that end? Do you want me to go bankrupt? Is that it? Is that it? Is that what you want? Will that make you happy! I bet it would! You skanky little two-timing, import model chasing, good for nothing —
No, wait, baby! I’m sorry I lost my temper! I didn’t mean it! Please open the door. Please don’t leave me standing out here in the rain knocking on the door. No, don’t call the cops, baby! Look, just slip the money under the door and I’ll leave, okay?
Well, that’s my take. This isn’t so much an apology from GM as it is a ploy to emotionally manipulate America into bailing out the auto industry. One way you can tell it is not an apology: the complete absence of the words “apology” “apologize” “sorry” or even “regret” in the actual text of the GM letter. It is a psuedo-apology. They want us to think they’re sorry just long enough to sign the check.
Next time, we’ll see what others may think.