• Jun 12, 2006

General Motors and Thomas "The Mustache of Wisdom" Friedman already went one round last week when the New York Time writer's strongly worded column triggered a rebuttal on GM's Fastlane Blog, but this particular maelstrom is too good to end there. The story now picks up at the General's FYI Blog, where we get to read about the automaker's trials and tribulations at getting a "letter to the editor" published in the Old Grey Lady.

GM originally submitted a 500-word response to Friedman's 800-word column, but the Times requested that it be limited to 175 words. Further negotiations resulted in a 200-word limit, but then the Times objected to GM's use of the word "rubbish" when describing Friedman's rant, stating that "it's not the tone we use in Letters". GM finally requested that its letter not be run in an excessively edited state, obviously feeling a bit miffed at the lack of an opportunity to address someone who equated the company to "a crack dealer" for offering incentives on its SUVs while ignoring the same actions by other automakers.

GM does commit a bit of a 'net faux pas by publishing its e-mail communications with the Times, but at least it's an amusing read [PDF warning].

[Source: GM FYI Blog; HT: Kaus Files]



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  • 28 Comments
      • 8 Years Ago
      There is a big difference between Friedman and GM. One is at the top of their game, and the other is dying. One is trend up, and one is trend down.

      Wake up people. Outside the world of xenophobes and enthusiasts, GM is in serious, serious trouble. And they show no signs of changing their ways. That's the worst part. The drug addiction comment is apt.
      • 8 Years Ago
      lol as a New York Times subscriber and a GM stockholder I find it kinda funny that people are convinced that everything is super black and white. As if the entire staff of the NY Times has some crazed vendetta to destroy GM or something.

      Seriously people, you don't HAVE TO AGREE WITH EVERY ARTICLE YOU READ IN A FREAKING NEWSPAPER. Do you not possess the ability to think about what you read?! Hell, I disagree with most of the opinions I read in newspapers, whether it's the New York Post (for those who don't know, a heavily right wing slanted newspaper) or the New York Times, you shouldn't just be taking every opinion you read for granted.

      Sheesh, even though Friedman is going way overboard with the crack dealer comment, if you actually bothered to strip away his ranting you'd notice that maybe the article has some good points about the auto industry in general, and how we should think about where we're headed in terms of fuel efficiency to reduce our dependency on foreign oil.

      Seriously, if you read the stuff Maureen Dowd writes and you're a man, then you'd be flipping out every issue if you thought you *had* to agree with her.

      And if I felt like I had to agree with the NY Post I'd probably always be raving about how family values aren't around anymore, or how all non-english speaking immigrants are scum lol. Heck I'd probably have joined the Minutemen by now hahaha.

      Seriously people, how about trying to form opinions of your own, after reading multiple opinions from others and gleaning the facts? I'm going to guarantee you right now that there isn't a newspaper out there 100% filled with opinions that are identical to yours. And in fact if there were, why the hell are you even reading the stupid opinion pieces, do you just like your own voice? Sure it feels nice to have your ideas validated by seeing others print what you believe, but if you'll avoid reading newspapers with articles that disagree with you you're just a sad sad person.

      Anyways, this isn't some comic book where everyone's either a superhero or a supervillain ok? See in this thing called "real life", where GM does and says stupid stuff sometimes, and where the NY Times does and says stupid stuff sometimes, and where you in all likelihood do and say stupid things sometimes. But chances are that GM does things right sometimes, and the NY Times prints really good articles sometimes, and you probably do and say pretty useful and smart stuff sometimes.

      At the end of the day even if you don't agree with the Times it's better than a lot of the other drivel out there (and this is compared to both left-wing and right-wing papers people).

      If you really want some interesting viewpoints go read what foreign newspapers thing of everything.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I will say it again; would you expect anything less from the NYT?
      • 8 Years Ago
      "I also agree, that if GM spent the same kind of effort on their core business (THEY DO STILL MAKE CARS AND TRUCKS, DON'T THEY?) instead of worrying what the newspapers say about them, they would have NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT."

      I'm not entirely sure about that. I'd argue that a huge part of GM's current problem (as of right now, 2006) is a problem with perception, not product build quality or even mileage issues besides the offering of hybrid powertrains (the necessity of which I'd say is arguable and more of a trend rather than a true money saver or environental breaktrhough). You can't make every product some amazingly distinctive hit and it's not truly necessary. Just look at Toyota which has the blandest lineup of any company, but it's all reputation (I still don't understand how they manage to beat Honda in sales...at least Hondas have a pulse and two sports cars).

      I think if you wrote enough bad press about Honda or Toyota, you could easily sway the opionion of people over a couple of years. Most people don't really pay attention to raw data...pretty sad. In this case, by unfairly saying that GM's SUVs are somehow more evil than the competition's (when in fact they get comparable or better mileage) is absurd and hinders any efforts to break lingering bad sentiment about GM. So I'd definitely argue that on the press/perception front is one of the key areas where GM needs some positive movement.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Just a few comments:

      I'm NOT a reporter, but even I know that a newspaper, ANY newspaper can and will (for whatever reason), edit a letter to the editor. Yeah, and they also have this bad habit of making edits that "nueter" the impact of your letter. Newspapers also have capricious limits on the size of letters, and it isn't just the NYT that does this. I am amazed that someone who says he was a reporter doesn't SEEM to be aware of this.

      I am surprized that the New York Times calls ANY corporation the equivalent of a "crack dealer" AND THEN, when a representative of that corporation uses the word RUBBISH to dismiss that argument is told "we won't print that kind of language"....talk about a double standard.

      I also agree, that if GM spent the same kind of effort on their core business (THEY DO STILL MAKE CARS AND TRUCKS, DON'T THEY?) instead of worrying what the newspapers say about them, they would have NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT.

      No one will remember this by the the middle of June, give it up GM, you aren't going to win.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Are we going to see them pull any ad $$$'s? I wonder how much they advertise with them but that's their only real weapon or a libel suit.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I wonder if around 2015-2020, Friedman will still praises Toyota with Hyundai quality rising up? http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13207035/ Toyota and Honda might face maybe sooner then later, the same path then Sony faced recently.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I urge all of you to write to any publication, on any topic, and see if your 500 word letter to the editor is published in its entirety.

      The Times was being generous by offering to print a rebuttal letter at all. They have no obligation to do so.
      • 8 Years Ago
      God I HATE the Times. They have no idea how most people live or feel in this country (and this is coming from a democrat voting, volvo s60 driving (ok i do own a camaro also) white collar employee)will they ever learn that they radical compared to... well compared to everyone.
      • 8 Years Ago
      laserwizard, what truth is that? Toyota doesn't build giant trucks & SUVs? Although I guess we really shouldn't expect much from a typical New York Times reader.
      • 8 Years Ago
      gm should make as big an issue as the possible can about this. its an arguement that they will win in the publics mind. NYT should have given them as much space as the wanted to say what they wanted. NYT crossed the line and i think its obvious to them all.
      • 8 Years Ago
      GM, while correct in attemting to correct an article, just needs to let it go. Most times trying to defend yourself against the press is one of those "choose your battles wisely" moments.

      Better to keep making positive moves with product, warranty, sales and good news press releases and let the Times eat the big one in the long haul.

      The Times simply shows that Yellow Journalisim is alive and well and people will still buy into it.
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