General Motors North American President, Troy Clarke invited a small
and diverse group of Los Angeles based bloggers, writers and
representatives of the press to join him for a tour of HRL, a
laboratory founded in 1948 by the infamous Howard Hughes and after many
changes of ownership is now owned jointly by The Boeing Company and
General Motors. HRL's major technical thrusts are in R & D
development of cutting edge Information Sciences, Microelectronics,
Communications and Photonics, and Sensors and Materials. The HRL
facility is perched high on a cliff overlooking Malibu with a breath
taking view of the Pacific Ocean.
A perfect summer solstice day, Dr. Matthew W. Ganz, president and CEO of HRL Laboratories, LCC., treated us to a progress report on how HRL is working with GM to develop solutions for more fuel efficient vehicles, gave us a history on HRL and eluded to a dozen other top secret projects we were not privy to as this facility requires a high level security clearance.
General Motors North American President, Troy Clarke focused his talk on alternative fuel and fuel efficient vehicle choice offering in their line op and what GM is working on now and in the future. He shared an overview of the roadmap to launches future of additional GM Hybrid and Flex Fuel vehicles and a progress report on the controversial yet much anticipated Chevy Volt plug in electric vehicle.
Troy Clarke spoke on how GM's Chevy Volt plug in electric vehicle production timing and launch date revolves around the issue of creating a ION Lithium battery packaged to be safe, reliable, long distance, practical from a cost/use for consumers to purchase and really enjoy driving, quite a tall order. GM has contracted with four firms to work on the issue simultaneously to speed getting a solution to the market. Japan who holds the lions share of Lithium ION battery technology and R & D research for this, Japanese companies are not an option as the Japanese government stepped in to prevent sharing of the technology development with US companies s. This only punctuates how important it is for GM to succeed.
Some nay sayers believe the announcement of the Chevy Volt plug in electric vehicle is just a public relations stunt. When this topic was raised by an attendee, Troy Clarke's eyes lit with fire and with a quiet yet strong sense of purpose resounding in his voice stated, "GM has not been known to be a risk taking company. However, we at GM believe this risk was well worth taking to make the Chevy Volt plug in electrical vehicle plan public. Our staff working round the clock to make this happen. It is the most exciting and important project I work on at GM.”
GM has had trouble convincing the LA car buying market on their serious commitment to a greener vehicle strategy, Toyota
sells 40% more Prius Hybrid's in L.A. than all the total combined GM
products sold here. Troy Clarke wanted to know how to reach this market
with the GM message. He gave us all an opportunity to express
viewpoints positive or negative which resulted in some pretty pointed
questions from the green camp.
As I see it, GM is actually “forcing the issue" by
holding a BIG gun to their own heads publicly to make it happen. By
making this announcement they are gaining the much needed support from
all the stakeholders to help make it happen. My hat is off to GM for is
taking such a risky and strong position and making it public. Now
that’s what I call a BOLD move!
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that GM already makes 23 rather popular vehicles that get 30+ MPG. When presented with this new data I wondered why I did not know this, I should know this! Perhaps GM is just now getting these aggregated facts out to consumers. The 23 vehicles that get 30 MPG+ do not include their line up of Hybrid or Flex Fuel vehicles, so there are even more choices for consumers who want to save on fuel costs and help keep it green. As a woman I am much more interested in these facts than horsepower or torque, perhaps GM needs to focus on marketing these facts to women so we will ALL know the vehicles choices they have to save on fuel costs and make the planet a bit greener. We women are the best word of mouth marketers and GM can benefit from sharing this story.
By the way the much anticipated first E85 pump in California will be
unveiled in the famed neighborhood of the rich and famous, Brentwood,
California on July 17th 2007. Seems the Hollywood stars want gas for
their Flex Vehicles In fact, GM has helped to launch the installation
of E85 fueling pumps at up to 175 new locations, with more coming in
You can also visit our E85 pump at the AskPatty- Automtoive Addvice for Women venue on Pontiac's Motorati Island in Second Life and get a notecard filled with information on E85.
GM also offers more choices of E85 Flex Fuel vehicles than any other manufacturer. Models for 2007 include the Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Yukon and Yukon XL, Chevrolet Suburban, Chevrolet Silverado and Silverado Classic, GMC Sierra and Sierra Classic, Chevrolet Avalanche, Chevrolet Impala, Chevrolet Monte Carlo, Buick Terraza, Pontiac Montana SV6 (Canada only), Chevrolet Uplander, GMC Savana and Chevrolet Express. In Europe, the GM-owned Saab brand is making headway with the E85-fueled Saab 9-5 BioPower, which is now available to consumers in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, France, Great Britain and Germany.
After the brief talks, Q &
A and tour of HRL, (and I mean very brief for one of these type
events), I was ushered out onto the HRL patio to enjoy the incredible
ocean view, cool breeze, sip on mango green tea smoothies and nibbled
on chips with fresh guacamole. Apparently, Troy Clarke arranged this
event to get intimate with this small group of bloggers, writers and
journalists and the setting was just perfect for relaxed and open lunch
I was honored with a seat at General Motors North American President ,Troy Clarke's table which included represented a diverse and multicultural mix of publications and writers based in the Los Angeles area including Dan Weil a Los Angeles Based writer for www.gaywheels.com, publications Ricardo Rodriguez- Long for www.autoafondo.com and www.LaOpinon.com, Philip Reed, consumer advice editor of Edmund's and Joanne Helperin the Editor of the Edmund's Driving Woman Blog, who I greatly admire.
We dined on the patio and discussed many topics related to Troy Clarke’s philosophy on getting closer to GM's customers, understanding micro markets, segmentation and getting to know verticals at the one inch range. Troy Clarke described this process as going to the laundry mat to see how the laundry was "actually" being done and he has tasked his senior management to do the same by exploring opportunities to get up close and personal to "get" what consumers really want from the GM brands.
I hope GM and the General Motors dealer network
follow through re-thinking how they market and advertise to women. For
the most part I think they and for that matter US auto manufactures in
general are really missing the mark with women. Who makes the decisions
on who to market vehicles to by gender anyway? There really are no
vehicles more likely purchased by men, women , race or sexual
preference if you ' make' the market with each micro segment using
effective marketing and advertising plans that understand the message
that will resonate with each. Women represent so many micro segments
with every lifestyle you can imagine, women buy all makes and models.
For years one would believe all women drive minivans or SUV's if you
buy the marketing and advertising dished out to get women into these
We enjoyed an amazing desert with the GM brand
embellishment in cinnamon on the rim of our plate, Ricardo
Rodriguez-Long of AutoAFondo comments “Think of it, the combustion
engine was born in 1914 and will be 100 years old in 2014. The US can
continue to lead the auto market and win the race to launch a long
range electric vehicle and General Motors may well be the auto
manufacture to retire the combustion engine age with the birth of the
plug in technology in the Volt." I would love this statement to become
a reality in my lifetime for the sake of the planet and my children's
children and hopes GM succeeds.
My lunch today with Troy Clarke and guests was a gourmet delight and GM gets big kudo's from AskPatty.com for taking time to listen to this group of serious auto bloggers and I was duly impressed at the Try Clarke's interest in hearing from this diverse group in such an intimate setting, the exchange of ideas and conversation was absolutely a delicious main course for lunch!