DETROIT: General Motors, already battling decreased Wall Street expectations and a flagging stock price, will try to shift focus to messages of value and brand differentiation as company chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner takes over.
Wagoner on April 4 assumed direct responsibility for North American operations.
He has since said he wants to get away from using incentives to sell cars and instead rely more heavily on marketing to convey key GM brand messages.
With GM's focus on discounts and other incentives to promote sales following 9/11 and the subsequent economic downturn, "we probably have walked away from reminding people about value," said Tom Kowaleski, VP communications. Wagoner has made it clear he wants that to change.
GM communications will push the value message with the media while the marketing department does the same with consumers through advertising and merchandising in dealers, Kowaleski said.
The automaker already has begun communicating more about its OnStar navigation system and the stability control features it offers in some vehicles.
"Those are huge value pieces and there will be other value pieces too," said Kowaleski.
GM has weathered repeated bad news about sales and earnings expectations in recent months. Its US sales in the first quarter were 5% below year-ago levels. GM is scheduled to release its latest earnings this week. The company already has said it expects a $1.50 a share loss for the first quarter.
Kowaleski said media coverage of the company has gone through what he calls the "pundit period" when media pundits make predictions about GM's future.
With such forecasting over, "our communications approach is to make sure the true information [about GM] comes out," he said.
One topic auto writers have been discussing extensively in recent days has been the impact higher gasoline prices are having on SUV sales. GM has no plans to shift its communications focus away from SUVs to smaller cars, Kowaleski said.
"The market is still there and we don't think it?s going to go away," he said.