Crank of the Week - September 29, 2008 - Pete Lewis, GM

This week's crank is actually shared among a number of parties, including General Motors, CNN and the “environmentally conscious crowd.” It seems that CNN is reporting that GM is a bit conflicted with regards to its marketing plan for the upcoming Chevy Volt plugin hybrid. In the article, author Beau Estes draws a vibrant image of a future NASCAR race where the competitors are racing in electric cars.

As the fans join in a full-throated cheer, 43 of the world's best drivers reach down and press a button. What follows is unprecedented: pin-dropping silence, save for 43 small clicks...Electric cars, with their quiet engines, turning laps in silence every Sunday on the NASCAR circuit? It may be a tough sell.

Naturally, CNN finds NASCAR fans an easy target for derision. “Chevrolet understands that marketing the Volt, which was announced in 2007, might be a balancing act between blue- and red-state America,” writes Estes. He then goes on to quote Cristi Landy, the Volt's product marketing manager, as saying “We are attracting the 'green' crowd and the 'tech' crowd.” In fact, it is the hesitancy of General Motors to advertise the Volt as a “pro-American” car that is the real point of this article.

The topper comes from GM worker and our crank of the week, Pete Lewis: “There is a fear that if we position this as a 'pro-American' car, it will upset some of the environmentally conscious crowd, and we want it to be embraced by everyone.” See NASCAR fans are all gun toting, tobacco chewing, slack jawed yokels who just don't get the whole green thing, while the eco-sensitive are all far too mature to embrace anything so crass as patriotism. If NASCAR goes electric all the fans would “pack up their Budweiser and leave.” Despite the fact that NASCAR fan John Frost is quoted as saying “we are for the elimination of U.S. dependency on foreign oil. We're no dummies,” the message is clear—GM is torn between marketing to patriotic hicks and sensitive greens.

So, CNN gets part of this Crank of the Week for spinning GM's marketing concerns as a knock against naive, patriotic heartland Americans (i.e. the NASCAR fans); GM gets part of the award for worrying that greenies will stay away from the Volt if they point out the patriotic aspects of driving a car that reduces our dependence on foreign oil; the fatuous environmentally conscious crowd gets a nod because GM really should worry that they will be alienated by a pro-American car; and Pete Lewis earns headliner status for being foolheaded enough to even discuss this crap with a condescending flack from the media. By the way, we think that Chevy will sell all the Volts it can make as fast as they can make them without any help from the eco in-crowd.

Too patriotic to appeal to greens?

What did the reporter do

What did the reporter do wrong? GM seems to have brought it up.

What the reporter did wrong

The entire article was a fatuous puff piece, playing on regional stereotypes in an attempt to be humorous. The article trivializes the efforts of GM and other car manufacturers to simultaneously address a severe market downturn, looming energy shortages and possible environmental concerns. In short, the reporter was an insensitive and unthinking ass.

Amazing that you could make

Amazing that you could make those judgements about the reporter. Did you talk to him or her?

Not so amazing

From reading the newspaper article, which used terms like "NASCAR gearheads." The author probably thought it as a funny, lighthearted way to write about electric hybrid cars but it was really just an insulting piece that stereotyped NASCAR fans and racers.

I'm thinking that CNN didn't

I'm thinking that CNN didn't spin this as much as just quoted the dude from GM.