If ever there was a sign that this whole blogging thing is getting serious, this is it: Earlier this week, General Motors Vice Chairman Bob Lutz started blogging. Or at least his PR agency did — the “gmblogs.com” domain is apparently registered to GM’s PR agency, Hass MS&L (Thanks, Niall Cook.) Still, the blog is remarkable. In writing about the new Saturn models, the Sky Roadster and Aura sedan, Lutz (or his PR flak) is more candid than you’d expect, admitting GM used to be “bad at” seat tailoring, carpet fits, and sheet metal quality and confessing to Saturn’s traditionally “narrow, aging product lineup.”
What’s really laudable, however, is GM’s decision to allow comments from readers, critics, and cult Saturn fans. In just two days, there’s already been more than 50 comments, ranging from love letters (“Someone leaked Saturn Sky pics a bit early but my god it is GORGEOUS”) to product feedback (“the cupholders inside the rear center armrest are really quite cheesy”) to biting criticism (“Saturn is toilet [sic] where you’re flushing cash. Shut that toilet lid and invest in your other lines”). Most readers were thrilled with Lutz’s effort to connect with customers (“You are a breath of fresh air”) but others couldn’t restrain themselves from a personal stab or two (“I’m not a fan of your work. I don’t see any difference between the GM before you and after you except that the cars have less plastic cladding and the hype surrounding the designs is greater.”)
Remarkably, the marketing mavens in Detroit haven’t yet pulled down the comments, despite the harsh, honest musings spawned by the post. Indeed, they’ve thanked readers for them. In the process, they’ve created an instant, cheap, and much more authentic focus group than anything corporate marketing could artificially manufacture. It will be fascinating to watch what they do with it.