DETROIT — An internal investigation conducted by General Motors has concluded that a “pattern of incompetence” is to blame for the company’s failure to recall millions of vehicles it knew to be defective and dangerous. Although the company faces numerous lawsuits over deaths allegedly caused by the faulty vehicles, GM executives are hoping to turn things around with a new branding strategy that will target “thrill-seeking” consumers who hope to “flirt with death” by driving a GM.
“For a long time we’ve been courting the soccer moms and the pickup truck dads,” said Mary T. Barra, GM’s chief executive. “But in light of recent events, we think we’re better off targeting a new demographic–namely, those drivers who value adrenaline rushes and near-death-experiences more than fuel mileage or safety.”
GM–the fourth largest automobile maker in the world–will begin rolling out several new ad campaigns starting late summer 2014. The first—tentatively titled “Why GM?”—will highlight the benefits of seeking thrills behind the wheel of a Chevrolet or a Buick instead of through more traditional daredevil activities.
“Feel like skydiving?” one ad will ask. “Why not drive a Cobalt instead?”
Another informs consumers that “when you swim with sharks, there’s a cage to keep your from harm. But with a GM, the danger is very real… Are you Man enough to take the wheel?”
Barra called the campaign “edgy but honest.”
“Most consumers already know about GM,” she noted. “We’re just here to remind them that driving any other car brand is boringly safe.”
Thirteen deaths and 47 crashes have been linked to faulty ignition switches in GM vehicles. Shortly before the results of the company’s internal investigation were announced, 15 GM employees were dismissed for failing to act on information that the switches were causing vehicles to stall suddenly, resulting in crashes. Many experts believe the company will have difficulty regaining the public’s trust, but Barra admitted that “it’s probably too late,” and said that GM will “instead embrace the anxiety and fear our vehicles inspire.”
“The more dangerous, the better,” Barra said. “Instead of fixing these ignition switches, we’re going to install them in every new model. Each time you start your GM vehicle, you’re rolling the dice, and what’s more exhilarating than that?”
GM executives also believe that veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan might “feel right at home” behind the wheel of the company’s “many affordable models.”
“These guys are used to driving down the road, worrying about IED’s, never knowing when disaster will strike,” Barra said. “We know that some soldiers really miss all that excitement, and the omnipresent dread of driving a GM is the closest analogue you can find back in civilian life.”