Ronn Torossian, CEO, 5WPR
Facebook and Google are not the only major American companies facing Congressional scrutiny and related negative headlines. Recent news cycles are revealing that General Motors chief executive Mary Barra has been called to Capitol Hill in order to “answer for the automaker’s announced plans to close four U.S. plants…”
According to Democratic House member Debbie Dingell, GM is, at least currently, “the most thoroughly disliked company in Washington, DC…”
And Congress is not the only group suggesting that opinion. Both President Trump and his supporters, legions of very committed consumers, have expressed discontent at GM’s plans. This could hit the company hard if the story continues to gain steam. Competition in this market segment is fierce, and many consumers remember that GM, but not chief rival Ford, took a government bailout a few years back. Sure, GM paid the loan back, but voters have not forgotten.
Barra, CNN is reporting, hopes to shift the sentiment in Congress and to use the massive pulpit offered by a Congressional discussion to push her company’s commitment to American consumers. It will be a tough sell. Barra will face Congressional delegations from Michigan, Ohio, and Maryland, the three states where plant closures have been announced.
Ohio Senator Rob Portman said he looks forward to “continuing engagement” with GM. “I hope the company sees the incredible potential in this plant by keeping (the Lordstown plant) open.”
That’s a message that’s sure to resonate with consumers, especially those deeply connected to buying American and American jobs. However, GM says it must cut thousands of salaried workers and more than three thousand hourly workers, a message that is sure to be a difficult one to get consumers to understand. Especially when a typically contentious Congress is crossing the aisle to oppose the closures. Another Ohio senator, Sherrod Brown, released a joint statement with his counterpart, Portman: “Senator Portman and I are committed to saving these jobs and call on GM to work with us to find solutions…”
If there’s an issue that can unite America’s political right and left, it’s a plant closure in one of their states or districts. And, these announcements also tend to unite workers who are directly affected by those who feel they may be next.
The timing of this news is less than optimal for GM too. With the end of the year shopping season in full swing, dealerships across the country are looking to sell off old inventory and make way for new model years. Consumers are also looking for deals, but they may think twice about a brand that is on the verge of pink-slipping more than 11,000 American workers.
This narrative is one that GM desperately needs to counter, and they need to do it fast.