A year ago, General Motors Corp rolled out rapper 50 Cent to launch
a new sport truck at the New York Auto Show. This year it sent
executives in suits with a PowerPoint presentation.
The top U.S. automaker, which has operated on $13.4 billion in
government loans since the start of the year, is scrambling to meet a
June 1 deadline to present a sweeping restructuring plan and avoid
Susan Docherty, GM vice president for the Buick, Pontiac and GMC
brands, said the company was keenly aware of the fact that it should
not be wasting public money on auto show glitz.
This is not the time for conspicuous consumption or doing things
that are going to be seen as extravagant, Docherty said after
unveiling a new model at a news conference that was markedly low-key
compared with last year's extravaganza.
You saw me doing a PowerPoint presentation and talking from the
heart, Docherty said. It was nothing fancy, there were no dancing
girls, there were no parades and bands and things that you may have
seen at auto shows in the past.
Chrysler, which has been operating under $4 billion of U.S. government emergency loans, was also spending less to impress.
A government task force charged with restructuring the ailing U.S.
auto industry has given Chrysler until the end of April to complete an
alliance with Italy's Fiat.
Vice Chairman Jim Press made his entrance at a news conference in a
tiny Fiat 500 rather than one of the U.S. carmaker's own high-end
Chrysler said it has spent a third less on the show this year. Its
display features fewer bright LED lights and screens, and is using a
lot of fabric rather than hard panels, which cost more to make and
ship, an official said.
Toyota U.S. President Jim Lentz said he had noticed far less glitz.
You can't be ostentatious right now, the consumers' mood is not about
that at all, he said.
Toyota has cut the amount it spends on public relations and media by 25 to 30 percent, spokesman Mike Michels said.
Mass market brand Hyundai Motor Co said it was gaining sales from
the backlash against excess. There's a bit of reverse social stigma
going on, said John Krafcik, the Korean automaker's U.S. chief
There was still plenty of lush carpeting, blaring music and
high-tech gadgetry, but there was less free food and drink and auto
reporters who are normally wined and dined like royalty were treated to
less lavish partying than usual.
As far as manufacturers go, we used to fly a lot more journalists
in, said Maurice Durand, manager of product communications for
Mitsubishi Motors North America.
That's not the case any more, we can't throw down for 20 rooms for
two or three nights in New York for media like we used to, he said.
Mitsubishi held a cocktail party for reporters on a much more frugal
scale than usual, he said.
Instead of buying a whole property or a club for five or six hours,
now you're buying a room in the back of a restaurant for an hour or an
hour-and-a-half, he said.
Johan de Nysschen, head of Audi of America, said the luxury
automaker, a unit of Germany's Volkswagen, had always tried to be
classy and sophisticated rather than showy and ostentatious -- an image
he said was more appealing than ever in the current economic climate.
We're not seen as a fat cat brand, he said.
(Additional reporting by Poornima Gupta, editing by Matthew Lewis)