GM's Lutz takes auto mags to task over perceived bias

DETROIT: A senior executive at General Motors has come out swinging against the American automotive press, saying car magazines are biased against US automakers.

DETROIT: A senior executive at General Motors has come out swinging against the American automotive press, saying car magazines are biased against US automakers.

In a speech to the American Magazine Conference on October 20, Robert Lutz, chairman of GM, North America, told a magazine publishers group that car magazines continue to lump domestic manufacturers in a group that they characterize as inferior to foreign automakers.

In particular, Lutz apparently singled out a quote from a review in a recent issue of Automobile magazine of the latest Cadillac SUV, the XLR. The review allegedly poked fun at some of the vehicle's features, likening them to something from a science-fiction movie.

Jean Jennings, editor-in-chief of Automobile, said Lutz took the quote out of context. It had been used in a positive way, she said, adding that Lutz singled out her title because he was upset about an unfavorable review it ran of a Pontiac Grand Am.

"There is no gross injustice being perpetrated against GM at this magazine," Jennings said. "It's annoying to me he got the context wrong and that he misrepresented the quote as being negative."

Tom Pyden, GM staff director of executive communications, said of Lutz's speech: "What he was trying to do is drive home one of the basic tenets of journalism, i.e. objectivity. He was asking the audience to judge GM on its own merits."

While Lutz's speech did not mention pulling ads from the magazine he felt harbored anti-GM sentiments, some interpreted a few of his off-the-cuff comments during his speech as such.

Pyden said it is "an overreaction to characterize his comments as a threat or a warning" to car magazines.

Jennings said GM can't afford to abandon advertising in the automotive enthusiast press because it plays a major role in auto-buying decisions. "They have to advertise in the enthusiast press," she said.

GM's Pyden said that whether Lutz continues commenting on biases he sees in the auto press "depends on coverage going forward. I don't have it scripted for another speech, but this is certainly a hot button for Mr. Lutz."

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