Going social – A new approach from GM? And the same old one, too.

There’s been a few interesting developments in the online (and offline world) with GM in the last week.
As long-termers here will know, I’ve long advocated Saab having a much bigger and much more engaging online presence. I think the company’s definitely small enough to do it, smart enough to do it well, and definitely in a position to benefit from it. Yes, I have a slightly selfish motive for promoting this as it’s the field I’m engaged in myself. I don’t shy away from that. But it doesn’t alter my belief at all – Saab could benefit from this.
I’ve been promoting this for three or four (GM) years, which is why it’s ironic that GM are now embarking upon one particular campaign that embodies a lot of the things I’d love to see Saab do.
The Lab is a design forum where real designers are posting on the site, talking about future design developments and engaging in comments with the people who visit.
OK, it’s GM, so the engagement seems a little over the top when you read it. The films use the word ‘efficient’ a few too many times to come across as being spontaneous in any way BUT……
It’s a start. And a good one.
The fact that they’re engaging their customers in a real discussion about these coming designs/vehicles is a great step. It’s giving those commenters a sense of participation and ownership and perhaps, just perhaps, it might give that particular design team some useful ideas as well.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating, of course. GM are well practiced at creating an illusion of action. A product needs to be forged from this forum or it’s all one big road to nowhere.
But for now, it’s an encouraing development and this is one of the few times I’m happy to tip my hat to GM.
I still maintain that an open blog/forum/exchange between Saab staffers and customers is very do-able. I hope it’s something that’s in the plans for the post-GM era, when things get back to a relative state of normality. The Saab newsroom is a step, but only a small one. It should be breaking news, not following it.
Of course, even New GM is capable of looking like Old GM every now and then.
The 230 campaign has seen them step right back into their old razzle-dazzle routine whilst simultaneously creating a noose for their own necks.
In short, GM came out this week and stated that the Chevrolet Volt will get mileage equivalent to 230mpg!! That figure was calculated by them according to a preliminary formula from the EPA in the United States.
Unfortunately, the EPA declined to support the calculation:

EPA has not tested a Chevy Volt and therefore cannot confirm the fuel economy values claimed by GM.

The EPA statement goes on to heap praise on GM for their moonshot vehicle, the Chevy Volt. This is fair enough. I think the idea is pretty cool as well and I applaud them for it like everyone else.
But why come out with a massive campaign based on an untested methodology when the results, if not proven when the Volt comes to market, will make you look like a total doofus?
GM could have said “based on calculations made using a preliminary methodology from the EPA, we believe the Chevy Volt will average well over 100mpg”
Is 100mpg not enough? I think everyone would have said “100+ miles per gallon – Wow” and been pretty happy. It would have also left room for GM to raise expectations even higher when the Volt was closer to coming to market and they have a better real-world figure that the EPA wouldn’t have to issue a press release in denial of.
The bottom line – I’m so pleased this is the first post I’ve written about GM in a loooooong time. Sometimes these guys act so silly it makes me wonder how they survived this long.
Wait. They nearly didn’t survive, did they?

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