Thomas Friedman of NYT talks back to GM

GM's war of words [1] [2] with Thomas Friedman of the New York Times continues, but this time it's Friedman's turn to talk. We were recently tipped off to the contents of a Friedman editorial dated for June 14th (today) that's locked inside the gated online community of We're hesitant to republish it in its entirety for fear the Times will go medieval on us, so we'll do our best to sum up.
In response to General Motors' denouncement of Friedman's original op-ed that appears on the company's FastLane Blog, the reporter reminds us that in addition to making more cars that achieve above 30 mpg on the highway than any other automaker, it also sells more cars that get 9 to 11 mpg than any other automaker. Friedman is referring specifically to the HUMMER brand and presumably the H2 in particular, although Friedman doesn't specify and GM doesn't make the H2's mileage numbers readily available on its consumer website.

Friedman also learned that in addition to GM's controversial fuel subsidizing promotion that began this battle, at least some dealers in California have also been authorized to offer $5,000 discounts on 2006 Tahoe and Suburban SUVs. We're willing to cut GM some slack on this one, as its needs to get these 2006 models off the lot post haste to make room for the more popular and newly redesigned 2007 models. No conspiracy there, just a logical business decision to move last year's model.

Finally Friedman pulls out a rather sharp argument that none of the domestic automakers has yet confronted: the story behind E85. As many of you know, the domestics have been selling flex-fuel vehicles back in the mid-Nineties, though have hardly marketed the technology at all until now. Many if not most consumers were completely unaware their cars were flex-fuel capable since they first went on sale. The reason it wasn't promoted, according to Friedman, is because the automakers produced flex-fuel capable vehicles in order to take advantage of a federal loophole that increased the overall mileage of each company's fleet to within federally mandated limits. Friedmans cites the 2006 GMC Yukon 2WD that actually gets 15 mpg city and 20 mpg highway, though is rated at 33 mpg in order to meet the government's CAFÉ standards. Only by producing these vehicles as flex-fuel capable were the automakers able to take advantage of this loophole.

That's it for now until Steve Harris, GM's VP for Global Communication and author of GM's first response, gathers the General's troops and formulates another response to Friedman's response.

Thanks Dave G. for the tip!


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