Big Success For GM's IPO, But Symbolism Sows Seeds of Worry

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2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible

2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible

By all accounts, the initial public offering of General Motors stock yesterday was a huge success.

Demand for the shares was five times the initial allocation, prompting the company both to raise the amount it sold and raise the price. At the end of the day, GM stock [NYSE:GM] closed higher than the initial price.

Everyone's happy, including President Barack Obama.

He issued a statement from the White House saying that the robust market demand for GM shares indicated a bright and profitable future ahead for domestic automakers--and that it vindicated his decision to rescue the company 18 months ago.

But in reading news accounts of the event, we noted that the sound of the traditional New York Stock Exchange opening bell was replaced by the sound of either "a revving Camaro engine" or a "Corvette horn."

Which we think is precisely the wrong symbolism for a new, global, more conscientious, less inbred General Motors.

It came the same day GM launched a $40 million Clean Energy Initiative. Can there be any doubt that the TV-ready revving Camaro got far more media attention?

Yes, the Corvette and the reborn Camaro are American icons. Yes, all red-blooded "true American" men want one. Yes, a Camaro engine is undeniably more macho than, say, a Volt pedestrian-alert indicator. Yes, the 2011 Camaro convertible launched this week at the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show is undeniably sexy.

Yes, blah blah blah. So what?

Using a noisy, gas-guzzling V-8 car as the symbol of the new GM was just plain stupid.

Neither the Corvette nor the Camaro sell in any volume outside North America, where gasoline is cheap. Even here, they are halo cars for only a portion of the public. You see very few of them in Silicon Valley, for instance.

In a world where European and Asian new-car buyers are better informed than ever about the carbon impact of their purchases, using a U.S.-only model with dismally low gas mileage by global standards is just bizarre.

Why not use one of the new and well-received global models that GM now sells around the world?

Perhaps the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze, the best compact GM has ever offered in North America, one that would be familiar to buyers in Europe, South America, Korea, and elsewhere.

Oh, right, because the Cruze doesn't have a sexy exhaust note. And that wouldn't be good television.

And, hey, what we do know? We just write about green cars here. And everyone knows fuel efficiency is for weenies. Because any real American craves a Camaro.

Sheesh.

[Reuters]

 
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