Archive

Posts Tagged ‘BMW’

Chris Weigant: We Need More Parties

December 31st, 2009 admin No comments

While that may seem a rather redundant headline the day before a world-wide party is scheduled, it was actually less provocative than my original concept of selling the theme that America needs more than two viable political parties, which was: “Party! Party! Party! Party!” But then I noticed I had already used one exclamation point in a headline this week; so I realized if I ran my original choice, I would be jeopardizing my standing among the Professional Journalists And Wannabes Who Play One On The Web Guild (the beloved PJAWWPOOTWG, pronounced like… um… well, it’s best not to try to pronounce the acronym until you’ve got at least three stiff drinks under your belt). Where was I? Oh, right, party headlines.

While my generation was the first to use the word “party” as a verb (known technically as “verbalizing” it… no, wait, that can’t be right… “verbizing” it perhaps?), we were not the first to heartily endorse the concept. When I was growing up, friends of my parents had a sign in their den, over the built-in bar: “I support the two-party system. One party a week is not enough!” Showing that, while the language may indeed change, the party instinct is as old as mankind. Or at least as old as my childhood neighbors (who seemed pretty old to me at the time).

Seriously, though (I do seem to be easily distracted today, sorry), since it is the end of the year and we’re all in a bit of a silly mood, I thought I’d posit a scenario that has long been a dream of many voters in America: that we have more than two realistic choices on the ballot when we vote. And while in my own time I’ve seen many nascent “third” parties grow, bloom, and (inevitably) die; it seems to me that we could be on the cusp of our two-party system doubling itself, amoeba-like, within the next year. I don’t make any statement as to the probability of this actually happening, but will instead just throw the idea out there for discussion and debate. Call it “party talk.”

The strength of the American two-party political system is that any attempt to grow it into three results largely in one party becoming weaker by the split, and one party staying together — and getting stronger, since their opposition vote is split. After a disastrous election cycle or two, the third-party hotheads sigh dejectedly, and rejoin the party from whence they came, and the system falls back into two-party equilibrium once again.

But what if both parties split at the same time? What if we ended up with four parties instead of two? This could avoid the zero-sum nature of attempting only a “third” party.

The seeds for the splits are obvious to see, on both sides. Let’s take Republicans first (”take my Republicans… please!” flits through my mind, I have to admit, so here’s a bow to Henny Youngman). The Tea Party movement, while fractious, is a lot stronger than many are willing to admit. A recent poll showed more people self-identifying as Tea Partiers than as Republicans. The problem is, the bigwigs in the Republican Party control the money and the party machine. By “party machine” I speak of all the infrastructure that a national political party enjoys which is so hard for any third-party movement to put together from scratch. These two groups — Tea Partiers and establishment Republicans — are headed on a violent collision course in the primary season next year. Mainstream Republicans know the way the game of politics is played on a national scale, and try to argue for candidates that will have some sort of broad appeal in the electorate, in an effort to retake the independents in the middle. Tea Partiers are concerned with only one thing: purity, above all else. The problem for the Tea Partiers is that they’re largely (at this point) a one-issue movement, with no broader agenda than: “No taxes. Ever.” This leaves them wide open to hijacking by other single-issue Republican subcultures, so it will be interesting to see what sort of stand Tea Partiers take (if they do — the smartest thing they could do is not take a stand at all) on issues like abortion or gay rights, to name just two.

But in the clash in the primaries, either the Tea Partiers will win the day, or the Republican establishment will eke out a victory. If the Republican establishment candidate wins, the Tea Party folks will have a choice to make. Either slink back into the Republican Party with their tails between their legs; or, as Sarah Palin would put it, “go rogue” by entering the general election as a third-party candidate. If this happened in four or five Senate races (Florida, Kentucky, California, etc.), and if the Tea Party candidate started beating the Republican candidate (see: this year’s NY-23 congressional election), I could see a general split in the party at large, with elected Republican officials suddenly proclaiming that they, too, are now Tea Partiers, and not Republicans.

In this case, the name “Republican” would stay with the national party organization. The new party already has their own name, and would likely want to distance themselves from Republicanism anyway. What would happen, in this scenario, to the Republicans who were left is an open question. They could become the “social conservative” party, devoted to all the hot button religious issues afoot, or they could become the “pro-war” party which advocated the neo-conservative agenda. Or they could become the “we’re the adults here” party, and portray themselves as serious and worthy of office, as opposed to the lunatics in the Tea Party.

Over on the left side of the aisle, we have the current situation in the Democratic Party. The Progressives are about an inch away from considering a similar exodus from the party at large. They feel betrayed by Barack Obama, and by the corporate-owned “New Democrat” wing of the Democratic Party. Progressives also feel that they are the core of the Democratic Party, being stymied by the corporatist fringe within. The building frustration among Progressives could lead to an eventual split, with a caucus of House and Senate Democrats proclaiming a new Progressive Party. If enough of them jumped ship simultaneously, they could form a bigger caucus than the remaining Democrats. And, like the Tea Partiers, they would likely bar entry to their party to anyone seen as insufficiently pure — no corporate lackeys in Congress need apply. Which would leave the Democratic Party the “corporate-approved,” pro-business, socially-liberal party. It would also leave them, like the Republicans, with the party name and the nationwide party apparatus.

This could lead to elections in which you, as a voter, weighed the Democratic candidate against the Progressive, and the Tea Party candidate against the Republican. Four choices instead of two, in other words. It would free up the true believers on both sides of the political divide to back whomever they wished, without being told by the national party what their only choice is.

Now, as I said at the beginning, the odds of this actually playing out in such a fashion are long, at best. What is much more likely (looking at recent history) is that these groups will make a big point, and, by doing so, pull the national party in their direction as a whole. Republicans seem rather terrified of the Tea Party movement within their ranks, and will likely fall all over themselves signing “pledges of purity” with the Tea Party folks next year. They are scared because such a mob mentality is notoriously fickle, and they’ve already set up some epic battles in Senate primaries next year. “Mob” has a long history politically, since the word is nothing more than a shortening of “mobile” — as in a “mobile party” that votes with its feet. And the Tea Party folks look like they may be mobbing in a new direction next year. The Republicans may face the choice of going with the mob, or splitting off from them and disavowing them.

Democrats face a similar situation, although the Progressives are not as organized or “mobilized” as the Tea Partiers. But some Progressives are just as angry as the Tea Party folks, and for similar reasons — they feel like their own party is selling them out at every opportunity. Democrats’ own mob is not as cohesive — yet — as the Tea Partiers, but that could indeed change, because the feelings are just as raw.

What would this mean, besides more choices on the ballot? It would mean a coalition approach to government, as most parliamentary systems use. On some issues, Progressives would caucus with Democrats to get legislation passed. Both parties could get concessions for their support, with the weight of their voting bloc behind them. On other issues, Democrats and Republicans may caucus together (call it the Big Business Caucus). Progressives and Tea Partiers may find themselves in agreement on, for instance, taking on Wall Street. The sands of alliance would shift, issue by issue.

Of course, this could be a giant prescription for total and utter gridlock in Congress. The possibility certainly exists that absolutely nothing would get done under a four-party system, because no one party would dominate on any particular issue. And even if there were splits among Republicans and Democrats, it may lead to the death of one of the major parties themselves, as Republicans all rush to become Tea Partiers, or Democrats belatedly proclaim themselves Progressives.

But what interests me is that the possibility of such splits exists on both sides at the same time. The trite “America is divided and polarized politically as a nation” line that journalists love to trot out is even more true than they have noticed. Because not only are we divided in two, across the unbridgeable gap yawning wider every year between Republicans and Democrats, but on each side of the chasm, cracks are appearing within, between two major subgroups. We’re really splitting into four in American politics, in other words, not just two. And whether that results in a formal split which creates two new parties, or whether it winds up just being intraparty feuds that eventually get resolved remains to be seen.

Speaking on a personal level, as a politics-watcher, nothing would make my job more interesting than some new players on the field. Speaking as an American, I have no idea whether a four-party system would be any better or worse for the country, or whether it could even work. But it certainly would be fascinating to watch.

OK, that’s it. We now return you to your regularly-scheduled party program. Everyone with me?

Party! Party! Party! Party!

 

Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com

 

More on Tax Day Tea Parties


Is Afghanistan Just a New War of Attrition?

December 24th, 2009 admin No comments

Andrew Bacevich, a retired Army colonel and 1969 West Point graduate who served in Vietnam and in the Persian Gulf, is now a professor of international relations at Boston University. A sharp critic of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, where his son, a first lieutenant, was killed by an improvised explosive device two and a half years ago, his most recent book is The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism.

Bacevich is no DFH, or even moderate progressive, but rather a small “c” conservative. He critiques today’s American foreign policy through the prism of empire. That overly militarized, interventionist policy is bipartisan, he says, not merely the fruit of a single administration but one whose seeds were planted by Woodrow Wilson and cultivated by Democrats and Republicans alike throughout most of the 20th Century with no end in sight as we enter the second decade of the 21st.

Tuesday in the New York Daily News, he wrote:

On the march to Baghdad, back when America’s war on terror was young, a rising star in the United States military lobbed this enigmatic bon mot to an accommodating reporter: “Tell me how this ends.” Thus did then-Maj. Gen. David Petraeus in 2003 neatly frame the issue that still today haunts the U.S.-led effort to defeat violent anti-Western jihadism.

To know how something ends implies knowing where it’s going. Yet eight years after it began, the war on terror is headed back to where it started. The prequel is the sequel, Afghanistan replacing Iraq as the once and now once again central front.

So are we making progress? Even as President Obama escalates the war in Afghanistan, that question hangs in the air, ignored by all. Rather than explaining how the struggle will end, the President merely affirms that it must continue, his eye fixed on pacifying a country of which his own secretary of state recently remarked “We have no long-term stake there.” …

The revival of counterinsurgency doctrine, celebrated as evidence of enlightened military practice, commits America to a postmodern version of attrition. Rather than wearing the enemy down, we’ll build contested countries up, while expending hundreds of billions of dollars (borrowed from abroad) and hundreds of soldiers’ lives (sent from home).

How does this end? The verdict is already written: The Long War ends not in victory but in exhaustion and insolvency, when the United States runs out of troops and out of money.

Advocates of the administration’s escalation policy in Afghanistan often ask in a tone of gotcha: What is your alternative? Bacevich is not shy about offering one.

It consists not of increasing a strong state presence backed by a big army and police force – which, as even President Hamid Karzai has pointed out, Afghanistan can’t make payroll for until sometime after 2024. Rather Bacevich recommends reducing the clout of the power-brokers in Kabul and putting more decisions at the provincial and local level. He calls for a new policy that focuses not on demonizing Karzai but rather giving him incentives to cut his ties with the corrupt and murderous warlords that the Cheney-Bush administration helped bring to power. The United States should concentrate on nudging Karzai to make a partnership not with the warlords but with the Afghan people.

Such a policy, Bacevich explains, would persistently seek a dialogue with the parliament, civil society organizations, and the armed opposition. “A lasting peace will require reconciliation among Afghanistan’s warring factions: the government; former jihadi leaders; and the many insurgent groups, particularly the Taliban.”

While the current administration and its predecessor have each declared that no military solution exists in Afghanistan, that is not how they have behaved. In March, for instance, President Obama spoke of a civilian surge to accompany what turned out to be the deployment of 34,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan. That civilian surge has yet to fully deploy. Another civilian surge is supposed to take place as 30,000 troops arrive.  

But the reality of the situation is amply displayed in spending. Policy follows budget. The 2010 military budget for Afghanistan is $65 billion. Added to that will be $30 billion, the administration has said. So far, however, the cost of deploying a single soldier to Afghanistan has clocked in at $1.1 million. So the cost of those 30,000 extra troops would actually be $33 billion a year. But even before the President gave his speech on Afghanistan earlier this month, the Pentagon was making noises about needing as much as an extra $50 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan. Thus, at the very least, one can expect the cost of the war there to run $100 billion over the next year.

And civilian spending? Development assistance for Afghanistan in 2010 is set at $2.611 billion. The military to civilian ratio: 38:1. How does that imbalance embrace the concept that there is no military solution in Afghanistan?

Bacevich writes in the Boston Review:

In the wake of 9/11, a with-us-or-against-us mentality once again swept Washington. “Terrorism” assumed the place of communism as the great evil that the United States was called upon to extirpate. This effort triggered a revival of interventionism, pursued heedless of cost and regardless of consequences, whether practical or moral.

In the Pentagon, they call this the Long War. With his decision to escalate the U.S. military commitment to Afghanistan, President Barack Obama—effectively abandoning his promise to “change the way Washington works”—has signaled his administration’s commitment to the Long War.

Yet, as with the Cold War, the Long War rests on a false premise. To divide the world into two camps today makes no more sense than it did in Dulles’s time. Rather than creating clarity, indulging in this sort of oversimplification sows confusion and encourages miscalculation. It allows Americans to avert their eyes from the gathering forces—largely beyond the control of the United States—that are actually reshaping the international order. Sending U.S. troops to fight in Afghanistan sustains the pretense that we ourselves, exercising the prerogatives of global leadership, are somehow shaping that order.

We’re told that the escalation in Afghanistan will start being reversed just 18 months from now, a date already slipping given that the full complement of additional troops won’t be deployed by next July, as originally declared, but rather by next November. It stretches credulity to believe they will start coming home nine months later. The idea that the Long War will be shortened bears no relationship to the reality of what the struggle in Afghanistan – and, increasingly, in neighboring Pakistan – is all about. Nor does it mesh with the reality of more than a century of U.S. foreign policy.


Categories: Politics Tags: , , , , ,

Mysterious Donor Buys 15 Rooms For Homeless In Colorado Springs

December 24th, 2009 admin No comments

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Fifteen homeless people in Colorado Springs will be inside for Christmas, thanks to a mysterious donor who paid for their motel rooms.

Employees at the Express Inn say the woman walked in Tuesday and paid for four rooms for a week. She insisted they be given to homeless men and women camping along Fountain Creek. The total came to $640.

The woman gave her name as “Linda Craft,” though The Gazette newspaper could not find anyone by that name. The woman said God told her to buy the rooms.

One of those benefiting from her help is 52-year-old Steve Sample. He called the gift of a warm bed “a wonderful thing.”

___

Information from: The Gazette, http://www.gazette.com

More on Homelessness


Categories: World Tags: ,

Mysterious Donor Buys 15 Rooms For Homeless In Colorado Springs

December 24th, 2009 admin No comments

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Fifteen homeless people in Colorado Springs will be inside for Christmas, thanks to a mysterious donor who paid for their motel rooms.

Employees at the Express Inn say the woman walked in Tuesday and paid for four rooms for a week. She insisted they be given to homeless men and women camping along Fountain Creek. The total came to $640.

The woman gave her name as “Linda Craft,” though The Gazette newspaper could not find anyone by that name. The woman said God told her to buy the rooms.

One of those benefiting from her help is 52-year-old Steve Sample. He called the gift of a warm bed “a wonderful thing.”

___

Information from: The Gazette, http://www.gazette.com

More on Homelessness


Categories: World Tags: ,

Jon Gosselin — Failed Used Car Salesman

December 22nd, 2009 admin No comments

Filed under:

The same day Jon Gosselin’s divorce was finalized — and he was hit with huge child support payments — we’ve learned he tried (and failed) to pad his wallet by trading in his beloved BMW for a profit.TMZ spoke to an employee at Auto Exchange USA in …

Permalink

Categories: Gossip Tags: , ,

MindTouch Upgrades Collaborative Platform With Video And Developer-Friendly Tools

July 22nd, 2009 admin No comments

Opensource wiki developer Mindtouch today has launched several new features in its opensource, wiki-like collaboration platform for enterprises. This includes the ability to add video to MindTouch wikis, package applications built in MindTouch for distribution, and stage content on wikis.

MindTouch’s platform connects teams, enterprise systems, web services and Web 2.0 applications with IT governance enabling users to access, publish and organize data and systems. Customers include Mozilla, Microsoft, Intel, Intuit, The Washington Post, US Army, EMC, Harvard, Timberland, and The United Nations.

MindTouch has partnered with open source video platform Kaltura, to let MindTouch users collaborate, edit, publish and syndicate video within a MindTouch wiki. End users can record video and have multiple parties edit within a MindTouch page.

The company’s new application packaging feature allows developers to create a compressed file for import into other MindTouch instances, letting enterprise users install add-on applications easily. This addition represents MindTouch’s ambitions to become an application platform where installing applications are as easy as adding Firefox addon.

MindTouch is clearly trying to make it as simple as possible for developers to build applications on top of the MindTouch platform. MindTouch has steadily been adding features to its platform aimed towards developers, including the ability to build rich applications off of Mindtouch’s platform. MindTouch’s wiki-like platform is appealing to businesses both big and small, and the open source ideation seems to provide for an innovative product that simplifies complex interactions, especially for developers. Competitors to MindTouch include Socialtext and pbworks.

Crunch Network: CrunchGear drool over the sexiest new gadgets and hardware.


Categories: Technology Tags: , , , ,

Katya Wachtel: HuffPost Review: Prom Night in Mississippi

July 20th, 2009 admin No comments

In 1954, Charleston High School was ordered, like every other school in the country, to desegregate. Integration was instantaneous at some schools, happened a year or two later at others, and then, of course, there were determined stragglers; schools that used the Supreme Court’s 1955 declaration of desegregation at “all deliberate speed” to delay and sometimes avoid integration altogether.

Sixteen years after it was supposed to happen, Charleston High School in Mississippi, finally allowed black students inside its walls.

Of course, Charleston’s dwindling white population, who had fought so hard to stave off integration, managed to hold onto one small piece of Jim Crow: At this southern high school, white students attend one prom; black students attend another.

Lucky for Charleston, superstar Morgan Freeman calls the town of 2,100 home. And this segregated prom thing — it really didn’t sit well with him.

2009-07-20-PromNight_keyart_highres.jpgSo in 1997 Freeman volunteered to pay for the prom, as long as both black and white students could be in attendance. The offer was declined; the separate proms continued.

In a new documentary, filmmaker Paul Saltzman follows Freeman as he attempts, once more, to coax a revolution. And so Prom Night In Mississippi begins, and we’re seat-side with Freeman as he steers his dust-covered BMW through the asphalted backwaters of the Mississippi Delta, determined to foot the tab for Charleston High’s first integrated senior prom.

“Tradition is one thing,” he tells the superintendent of the East Tallahatchie School District. “Idiocy is another.” This time around, Charleston High accepts Freeman’s offer and Saltzman hurls us into the lives of the senior class as they prepare for what is not just a history-making event in their small town, but another step in the nation’s never-ending quest to achieve racial and civil equality. One made more difficult by the fact that the all-white prom isn’t canceled.

Tallahatchie County is one of the poorest in the United States; more than 34 per cent of Charleston’s inhabitants live below the poverty line. It’s a town steeped in the blood of confederacy slave policy, where the hanging of blacks in the town square was an unexceptional occurrence in the early 1900s. A Mississippi State flag, emblazoned with the symbolism-soaked confederate flag, flanks the stars and stripes on a flagpole in the center of a town where 60 per cent of the inhabitants are black. That percentage is higher at the local high school.

There is something so jarring about a segregated prom in 2008, when the documentary was filmed. It’s not as if we’re unaware that racism still runs rampant in this country — between Sotomayor’s Supreme Court hearings and newly published photos of a still healthy Ku Klux Klan, you can’t avoid it. But there’s something about this bastion of segregation at Charleston High that is so loathsome to watch, and perhaps it has something to do with the innocence-of-youth factor; that basically at the end of the day, these young, hopeful black students are told by a white coterie, “Okay, thanks for coming; it was great going to school with you all these years, but as for celebrating this milestone, we don’t want to share it with you.”

Of course there are some white students who refuse to attend the event, but in one night, the all-white prom diminishes all those Supreme Court decisions; all the sit-ins and demonstrations; the thirty-years of integrated classes at Charleston High. And that makes the pro-integration students not just endearing, but inspirational. They are candid and funny and many risk their family lives and jobs in their march to end segregation here.

But Prom Night misses the voice of the staunchly pro-segregation whites, and it’s those voices we are dying to hear. We hear about their bigotry from their children, and their children’s friends, but Saltzman’s team was forbidden from going anywhere near them or their all-white gatherings at the outset of filming. So, the few white parents we meet in Prom Night are not George Wallace incarnates. Not even close. The racism here is far more simplistic than that. As one mother of a white student explains, “My grandmother always told us we were all put on this earth different, and when we all start integrating there’s not going to be anymore individuality… And if that’s the way god wanted us he would have made us all the same to start with.”

Saltzman equipped all of Prom Night’s protagonists — mainly students — with personal video devices in the lead-up to prom, which provide some of the most touching moments in the film, as we share unfiltered, intimate and spontaneous confessions with members of the senior class: they are excited about making history, but nervous about what may transpire on the night.

There is a change in tone when the prom finally arrives. Sitting beside me at the screening, a friend described it best when she said, “at some point it stopped being a documentary and started being a feature film.” It doesn’t take away from the message, but I would have liked to see the candid, unidealized texture that characterized the first three quarters of the film, extend until the final frame.

Certainly Prom Night is uplifting, illuminating and enjoyable, enhanced by a thumping R & B/hip hop soundtrack and the unselfconscious musings of the senior class. But how uplifted can you truly be, knowing that the following year, Charleston High School had another all-white prom. Or that Saltzman’s film, far from capturing a dying tradition, taps into a new era of educational segregation in this country, with reports that show the nation’s schools are now more racially segregated than at any other time since 1954. Which makes Prom Night in Mississippi that much more important to watch.

Prom Night in Mississippi premiers on HBO tonight at 9 pm.

More on Poverty


Categories: World Tags: , , , ,

Steve Parker: Tell Bob Lutz what GM must do now

July 16th, 2009 admin No comments

With the Core Four divisions of Cadillac, Chevrolet, Buick and GMC, and with Bob Lutz back on-board, General Motors is now very much on its own.

They don’t have the kind of partnership and help which Chrysler will be getting from Fiat and Washington is on-hand only to protect the public’s huge investment in the company.

The new smaller, leaner GM corporation, with much less debt than before, now 60%-owned by the American people and newly-emerged from bankruptcy while cutting-back on white collar employees by the scores, begs the question: What now?
2009-07-16-boblutzreporters.jpg Bob Lutz as he most likes to be … the center of attention

Industry newspaper Automotive News ran a multiple-choice poll in Wednesday’s edition, asking readers: How can Bob Lutz best help GM improve its marketing?

The answers supplied included these four:

- He should mimic Lee Iacocca and pitch GM cars in ads (16% answered yes to this choice as of 6pm Eastern time Wednesday);

- He should make sure that GM’s marketing of its vehicles is consistent with their design (40%);

- He should be the public face of GM at auto shows (5%);

- He should carry out his new role in the background and yield the spotlight to younger executives (39%).

Lutz is no stranger to automotive marketing. In his many years in the industry, during executive stints at Ford, BMW, Chrysler and GM, he’s often had a hand in marketing, promotion, advertising and sales.

He was there and had a voice when Ford’s Explorer SUV and Merkur imports were first suggested, when the successful Chrysler “cab-forward” LH cars, Dodge Viper and Plymouth Prowler were put in-production and at GM he brought the “new” Pontiac GTO and Pontiac G8 from Australia to the US market, for better or worse, along with the Buick Lacrosse crossover and the sporty Saturn Sky and Pontiac Solstice coupes and Chevy Malibu sedan.
2009-07-16-1993PlymouthProwlerConcepttakeout.jpg 1993 Plymouth Prowler concept

While at BMW, where he worked on the original 3-Series, he dealt with the ad agency which developed the fabulous slogan, “The ultimate driving machine,” a winner which Bimmer uses worldwide to this day.

After last week’s Detroit press conference where he “unretired” and was named in-charge of GM marketing and advertising, Lutz told reporters that he has, to paraphrase, “(O)ften been a critic of our (GM) advertising, and maybe that’s why I got this job. They figure if I don’t like it, let’s see if I can come up with something better.”

Can he come up with something better than the “sale of the week” ads which many local dealer groups run, amidst a hodge-podge of regional and national TV, radio, Web and print ads which seem to have no cohesive message?

Lutz has been talking-up focusing on GM’s styling and design, and the company has a strong history in that arena.

GM was the first car company in the world with a dedicated styling department, and the first car-maker to produce a “concept car,” the 1938 Buick “Y-job,” overseen and built (and then driven almost daily) by the industry’s first legendary designer, Harley Earl.
2009-07-16-buickyjobharleyearl1938.jpg Regarded as the world’s first “concept car,” the 1938 Buick Y-job

There have also been many slogans throughout the years, from the memorable corporation-wide “GM – Mark of Excellence” to Cadillac’s “Standard of the World.” Should these be resurrected?

GM advertising has used both photography and artwork through the years, like the fantastical, exaggerated automotive renderings of Art Fitzpatrick and Van Kaufman, particularly of Pontiac’s “Wide-Track” models of the ’60s and ’70s (later mocked by artist Bruce McCall).

But with still so many different kinds of cars and trucks, can GM find one theme which runs through their entire line-up, something which will wake-up the public?

Also, while Lutz says styling must be part of GM’s new ad theme, are average buyers so concerned with their vehicle’s appearance?
2009-07-16-fitzandvan1967pontiacbonneville.jpeg Artwork of a 1967 Pontiac Bonneville by GM’s Fitz and Van from a GM print advertisement

Maybe style is a major factor for luxury car-buyers, but for most of us, aren’t reliability and quality factors at least as important as looks? Don’t bottom-line price and the overall “buying and service experience” trump snappy style? JD Power and Associates doesn’t query consumers about “style,” but about quality, dependability and value.

Certainly the somewhat bland, appliance-like styling of so many under-$30,000 cars tells us that a product’s perceived worth is often more important than design.

So we put it to you: If you were Bob Lutz, how would you begin promoting, advertising and marketing (three quite separate disciplines) the new General Motors to the American public?

More on Cars


Categories: World Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Steve Parker: Tell Bob Lutz what GM must do now

July 16th, 2009 admin No comments

With the Core Four divisions of Cadillac, Chevrolet, Buick and GMC, and with Bob Lutz back on-board, General Motors is now very much on its own.

They don’t have the kind of partnership and help which Chrysler will be getting from Fiat and Washington is on-hand only to protect the public’s huge investment in the company.

The new smaller, leaner GM corporation, with much less debt than before, now 60%-owned by the American people and newly-emerged from bankruptcy while cutting-back on white collar employees by the scores, begs the question: What now?
2009-07-16-boblutzreporters.jpg Bob Lutz as he most likes to be … the center of attention

Industry newspaper Automotive News ran a multiple-choice poll in Wednesday’s edition, asking readers: How can Bob Lutz best help GM improve its marketing?

The answers supplied included these four:

- He should mimic Lee Iacocca and pitch GM cars in ads (16% answered yes to this choice as of 6pm Eastern time Wednesday);

- He should make sure that GM’s marketing of its vehicles is consistent with their design (40%);

- He should be the public face of GM at auto shows (5%);

- He should carry out his new role in the background and yield the spotlight to younger executives (39%).

Lutz is no stranger to automotive marketing. In his many years in the industry, during executive stints at Ford, BMW, Chrysler and GM, he’s often had a hand in marketing, promotion, advertising and sales.

He was there and had a voice when Ford’s Explorer SUV and Merkur imports were first suggested, when the successful Chrysler “cab-forward” LH cars, Dodge Viper and Plymouth Prowler were put in-production and at GM he brought the “new” Pontiac GTO and Pontiac G8 from Australia to the US market, for better or worse, along with the Buick Lacrosse crossover and the sporty Saturn Sky and Pontiac Solstice coupes and Chevy Malibu sedan.
2009-07-16-1993PlymouthProwlerConcepttakeout.jpg 1993 Plymouth Prowler concept

While at BMW, where he worked on the original 3-Series, he dealt with the ad agency which developed the fabulous slogan, “The ultimate driving machine,” a winner which Bimmer uses worldwide to this day.

After last week’s Detroit press conference where he “unretired” and was named in-charge of GM marketing and advertising, Lutz told reporters that he has, to paraphrase, “(O)ften been a critic of our (GM) advertising, and maybe that’s why I got this job. They figure if I don’t like it, let’s see if I can come up with something better.”

Can he come up with something better than the “sale of the week” ads which many local dealer groups run, amidst a hodge-podge of regional and national TV, radio, Web and print ads which seem to have no cohesive message?

Lutz has been talking-up focusing on GM’s styling and design, and the company has a strong history in that arena.

GM was the first car company in the world with a dedicated styling department, and the first car-maker to produce a “concept car,” the 1938 Buick “Y-job,” overseen and built (and then driven almost daily) by the industry’s first legendary designer, Harley Earl.
2009-07-16-buickyjobharleyearl1938.jpg Regarded as the world’s first “concept car,” the 1938 Buick Y-job

There have also been many slogans throughout the years, from the memorable corporation-wide “GM – Mark of Excellence” to Cadillac’s “Standard of the World.” Should these be resurrected?

GM advertising has used both photography and artwork through the years, like the fantastical, exaggerated automotive renderings of Art Fitzpatrick and Van Kaufman, particularly of Pontiac’s “Wide-Track” models of the ’60s and ’70s (later mocked by artist Bruce McCall).

But with still so many different kinds of cars and trucks, can GM find one theme which runs through their entire line-up, something which will wake-up the public?

Also, while Lutz says styling must be part of GM’s new ad theme, are average buyers so concerned with their vehicle’s appearance?
2009-07-16-fitzandvan1967pontiacbonneville.jpeg Artwork of a 1967 Pontiac Bonneville by GM’s Fitz and Van from a GM print advertisement

Maybe style is a major factor for luxury car-buyers, but for most of us, aren’t reliability and quality factors at least as important as looks? Don’t bottom-line price and the overall “buying and service experience” trump snappy style? JD Power and Associates doesn’t query consumers about “style,” but about quality, dependability and value.

Certainly the somewhat bland, appliance-like styling of so many under-$30,000 cars tells us that a product’s perceived worth is often more important than design.

So we put it to you: If you were Bob Lutz, how would you begin promoting, advertising and marketing (three quite separate disciplines) the new General Motors to the American public?

More on Cars


Categories: World Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Steve Parker: What!?! Bob Lutz back at GM!

July 11th, 2009 admin No comments

General Motors has come out of bankruptcy after a somewhat-biblical 40 days and nights of massive reorganization, as a new, smaller company more than 60% owned by the US government (that’s US, as in “us”).

Yet GM is stubbornly holding onto Buick and GMC, when the other two of the General’s remaining “Core Four,” Chevrolet and Cadillac, are all they really need and all that make sense.

It appears, though, that the vestiges of cars and trucks past aren’t the only things GM is clinging to: Bob Lutz, 77, has “unretired” and will continue as GM’s vice-chairman.

He will head the company’s marketing, advertising and communications and have significant input on product design. In February, Lutz had said he would retire by year-end after eight years as GM’s product development chief.

In an interview heard on All Things Considered on NPR Friday, Lutz told host Robert Siegel that, “We took our eyes off the ball in the ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s,” when it came to product quality.
2009-07-11-BOBLUTZCIGAR.jpg GM Vice-Chairman Bob Lutz

Siegel naturally asked Lutz how the company might overcome more than 20 years of admittedly poor product and with a reputation and market share dropping almost by the minute, and all Lutz could offer was, “Well, none of us were here when that happened.”

During the interview, he also managed to work in the usual litany of thinly-veiled anti-union rhetoric; “legacy costs” and the like.

The always-quotable and sometimes-acerbic Swiss-born Lutz, a favorite of reporters, has also been at Ford, BMW and Chrysler — where he served as one of the top two executives along with Bob Eaton — is an ex-Marine fighter pilot who collects cars … and fighter jets.

He may be possibly the last remaining still-active genetic throwback to the revered and storied “GM General Manager,” the men who ran the separate GM divisions as their own private car companies, battling the company’s board of directors for every last penny for their pet projects — and constantly fighting each other to be first with the best and the most. The top general manager usually became president of the company (except Chevrolet General Manager John Z. DeLorean, but that’s another story).
2009-07-11-boblutzchevyvolt.jpg Lutz introduces the Chevy Volt concept

But is Lutz right for this job, at this time?

With CEO Fritz Henderson fast-tracking right out of GM’s bean-counting financial world, and the new chairman of the board, Edward Whiteacre, the former AT&T chief who admits, “I don’t know much about cars … but I can learn,” who will stand-up for creating and producing world-class products?

I’d say Lutz … if this were 1967 and gas was 30 cents a gallon.

In our current decade, Lutz shepherded to market the “new” Pontiac GTO and the Pontiac G8, both sales disasters because of their gas-guzzling engines. One could argue that, “Well, they were great cars but the price of oil just went crazy.”

But that’s the same excuse each of the Big Three have used far too often and for far too long. The GTO and G8 (and to some extent the Ford Flex with its big V6 and of course the Dodge Challenger and too many other Chrysler products) are only the latest examples of the short-sightedness and arrogance of Detroit executives.

Lutz is getting much of the credit for the Chevy Volt, an extended-range gas/electric hybrid which may hit the roads by early 2011. But its predicted near-$40,000 price tag and limited availability already has some analysts shaking their heads, especially when Honda is selling their Insight, a small hybrid sedan, for under $24,000, fully-equipped. And Ford’s Fusion hybrid isn’t much more.
2009-07-11-2008_dodge_viper_srt10.jpg Lutz green-lighted the Dodge Viper for production while at Chrysler

Perhaps the White House and GM should have taken note of story which came out of Louisiana just a few weeks ago. At a former GM plant there, T. Boone Pickens is among the investors in an automotive venture called VVC. When the fledgling company announced their top staff members, their design chief was revealed to be Tom Matano, formerly Mazda’s chief designer and the stylist who created the Mazda MX-5 Miata, the world’s most-popular sports car. Matano understands small cars, small engines and knowing what the public-at-large wants.

Why doesn’t GM shock the industry and wake-up the public by finding their own Tom Matano? Or does Detroit’s “Not Invented Here” philosophy still rule the day for what used to be known as Generous Motors?

Is it possible for a 77-year old gentleman to essentially do a complete 180-degree turn from his life experience and philosophy? After all, among Lutz’s major claims to fame are green-lighting the Dodge Viper and the Plymouth Prowler faux hot rod.

Can Bob Lutz get the religion necessary for the 21st century automotive world?

Maybe GM’s new owners should step in at this point for some major and meaningful executive changes.

More on NPR