Former GM Economist: Detroit Ignored Demands For Efficiency
Former GM Economist and current head of the Automotive Analysis division
of the Transportation Research Institute at the University of Michigan
Walter McManus wants you to know that GM’s SUV strategy of ignoring
efficiency as a marketing input was his fault. In an interview with
Energy and Environment News [via Edmunds Green Car Advisor], McManus
explains how surveys in the 1990s showing consumers did care about
efficiency were ignored:
The survey would estimate that people would estimate fuel economy
fairly highly. Being a good economist, I said, ‘No, they don’t,’ and I
changed the results. There was a systematic bias against such results.
Our job was not to seek the truth, but to justify decisions that had
already been made… It’s my fault they had the wrong vehicles until now
Can you say culture issues? McManus’s explanation for the insular
attitude is a familiar refrain, namely that decisions “are being made by
upper-middle-class white males, by and large. They don’t understand that
the customers are not the same as they are.” Now that gas prices have
made efficiency impossible to ignore though, McManus sees change coming.
People have a hard time thinking about their fuel savings. It’s
hard for people to understand the abstract, that a mile per gallon means
this many dollars saved every month. But if you actually start
experiencing by driving the vehicle, then you understand it.
And for the domestic automakers who buried their heads in the sand on
efficiency, declining market share is having a similar effect.
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