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GM Anti-Bike Ads Get an F on College Campuses

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Just had to jump on this two-wheeled bandwagon for folks who might not have seen the furor over the ad campaign that General Motors (GM) has been running on college campuses this Fall. In a cynical and tone-deaf effort to appeal to today’s “disaffected” youth, the ad campaign, titled “Reality Sucks – Luckily the GM College Discount Doesn’t,” suggests that biking or walking is uncool – the tagline was “stop pedaling, start driving.”

GM ad that ran in college newspapers

One ad even went so far as to suggest that riding a bike would make you unattractive to the beautiful women driving their cars around campus. REALLY?!

Lots of good folks have blogged about this and GM has been furiously backpedalling (pun intended), taking down the ads and apologizing for their ham-handed marketing scheme. But this one deserves just a little more air time. What did GM expect?

Frankly, their ads are all the more galling when you look at the environmental performance of their vehicle fleet. In UCS’s fifth Automaker Rankings, released last Fall, General Motors continued its less than impressive performance in those rankings. Here’s how our Research Director Jim Kliesch characterized GM’s standing in the report:

“General Motors stagnates in next-to-last position. GM’s lackluster eco-portfolio and high sales of inefficient vehicles continue to undermine the company’s success in these rankings. The forthcoming Chevrolet Volt and Cruze Eco, however, show promise of a new direction; sales of those models will reveal whether the company is serious. To become the greenest of the Detroit Three, GM needs to step up its efforts on global warming emissions in almost every class of car and truck it sells.”

What if GM focused a bit more on improving the vehicles they bring to market rather than employing lame marketing tactics aimed at college students?

The bottom line is that the college years provide a golden opportunity to choose alternate forms of transportation that are better for the environment and better for the health of Jack and Jill Co-ed.  Whether it is biking, walking, or taking advantage of a growing number of car-sharing programs, there are better choices.

This reality may suck for GM. Perhaps what GM really needs is a reality check.

Posted in: Global Warming, Vehicles

About the author: Michelle Robinson has more than 25 years of experience in public policy and advocacy. She joined the Clean Vehicles program in 1992 and is a nationally recognized expert on state and federal transportation policy. See Michelle's full bio.

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One Response

  1. Neal Jones says:

    How many years have we (the car-buying public) given GM the message that we want to see the transition to electric cars. GM can make that happen. Yet, they still push the gas guzzlers on the American people. How cool would it be if the ‘Vette went elec? Now that will sell on campus!