Chevy Seeks to be Earth-friendly

By: Evander Klum

General Motor Corp., an American automaker, plans to have an ambitious campaign to give its Chevrolet brand an environmental image. The company seeks to hold this plan to compete with the hybrid-master Toyota.

According to leading environmental activists at the Los Angeles Auto Show, the competition will be a tough sell. The idea has made Dan Becker, environmental consultant and longtime director of the Sierra Club's global warming project, laugh. He said, "GM's an environmental pariah... They have zero credibility as an environmental leader."

Mark LaNeve, GM vice president for sales, service and marketing, is well-versed that the company possesses a bad reputation on the environment. Thus, the new marketing campaign shall be the first step in a long-term attempt to alter the image.

LaNeve mentioned that GM will be focusing on fuel efficiency, alternative fuels, hybrids on vehicles sold now as well as the Volt extended-range electric vehicle expected to go on sale in 2010. The company will also have a fleet of 100 zero-emission hydrogen fuel-cell Chevrolet Equinox SUVs tested by consumers in 2008.

Acknowledging the fact that the attempt will take a breakthrough vehicle like the Volt to change Chevrolet's image, LaNeve said, "We are going to offer solutions for our company, the consumer, America and the environment."

Considering that the world's largest automaker Toyota is the one that dominates the hybrid market with its popular Prius, GM realizes that they are in long-term project. But, they know the challenge can be even tougher.

Becker said, "Most of the campaign's claims are bunk" knowing that the E85 ethanol-gasoline blend key to GM's claims is unavailable in California, he said, "They don't have any credibility on these issues."

In the campaign, Chevrolet will be touted with "Gas-friendly to gas-free" slogan. Chevrolet general manager Ed Peper said, "It's critical to our brand that providing fuel solutions be part of our image... This is certainly not business as usual. Chevrolet really is changing at its foundation of how we power America."

Jim Kliesch, senior engineer in the Union of Concerned Scientists' clean vehicles program, said that GM needs more than a nifty slogan to change its image with environmental groups. He said, "Evaluating an automaker's environmental performance based on an ad campaign is like judging how well somebody sings based on what kind of shoes they wear."

Kliesch has given credit to GM as the American automaker began selling hybrid full-size trucks, including a Chevrolet Silverado pickup, and its development efforts on the Volt and fuel cells. But, he said, the automaker is lacking efforts against high fuel-economy standards.

Kliesch said, "It's important to support policies to reduce carbon dioxide and raise fuel efficiency... GM and other automakers are lobbying against these standards. That does not jibe with the message they're trying to send."

Despite the criticism, GM is eager to pursue the campaign. LaNeve said that Chevrolet will be a leading environmental brand and "We want to be seen as the solution, not part of the problem."

So from now on, Chevrolet vehicles are expected to be sustained with not just quality , but features that will provide benefits for the environment.

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