Saturday, November 24, 2007

GM loves me!

I'm reading: GM loves me!Tweet this!

Cross-posted at Chicago Moms Blog

So does Dodge! And Chrysler, too! Sorry Amy, I don’t know what's with me and cars lately. A month ago, I was just another mommyblogger. Now, I’m AskPatty’s Mom.

You see, shortly after I agreed to participate in the Chevy Malibu test drive in Memphis in early November, a marketing group asked me to drive the new Dodge Grand Caravan for a week. Next Friday I’m going to get a souped-up Chrysler Town and Country minivan to test out for two weeks. I don’t know why the the stars have aligned this way, but I sure am enjoying the rides.

I wrote about the Caravan on my blog as I was expected to do as part of a word-of-mouth campaign, but I’ve yet to share the details of my Malibu experience. In fact, I’m not obligated to do so. The Malibu drive was different; I was flown down to Memphis as part of a traditional campaign launch. I was rubbing shoulders with real car writers like John from Edmunds, and Marc from The Torque Report. The only thing required of me was to mention that GM paid for my trip, should I decide to write about it.

So there I was hobnobbing with car guys, many of whose faces lit up like little boys when they talked about new vehicles. It was touching. And reassuring, in the sense that yes, two decades from now there just might be a decent job out there for your Hot Wheels obsessed six year-old.

I was also in the company of some great mom-bloggers: Table for Five, Mommy Needs a Cocktail, Not Just a Working Mom, Mocha Momma, It’s All Fun and Games and The Mummy Chronicles.

The evening before we stepped into the redesigned 2008 Chevy Malibu, GM treated us to a tour of the Gibson Guitar factory. I love watching things get made! And I was surprised by some of the similarities between the guitar-making process and that of making violins. (Do you know our area is home to one of only three violin-making schools in the USA?)

But the connection Chevy was trying to reinforce was one between the care and quality that goes into crafting a Gibson Guitar (and there’s a lot) and the craftsmanship that goes into building a Chevy Malibu. After the tour, representatives of the Malibu’s design and engineering teams introduced the car’s many features. I was impressed by the passion these men have for their work.

It seems every week there’s another massive round of toy recalls, usually centering around imported toys. But when it comes to cars, most moms and dads I know are all about the imports. In fact, plenty of people were impressed by the luxe Dodge Caravan I drove about town, but they told me that they’ll stick with Honda or Toyota for their minivan needs. The Malibu team is up against the same wall in the sedan category. And they know it.

The Malibu team isn’t crossing their corporate fingers waiting for the tide to change; they are working hard to give consumers a reason to buy American cars. DH and I used to do that until we had an unfortunate problem with a Saturn. And when I say unfortunate, I mean a problem that was found in many cars within our model year (mid 1990s) that the company would not resolve to our satisfaction. DH still refers to this as the time that "Saturn broke his heart." He replaced it with a Honda and his rebound affair with foreign cars continues to this day.

So GM wants my love again. And DH's. They want your love, too. Are they worthy of it?

Well, the “car guys” in Memphis were impressed by the design and handling. I was pleased with it, especially the smooth, quiet ride of the hybrid, but what do I know? I drive a 2000 Subaru with a steering wheel that vibrates so much I’m afraid it’s going to come right off in my hands one of these days. Even so, I left Memphis confident that the new Malibu is worth considering if you’re in the market for a sedan.

I think for us, and many of our peers, it's going to take more than a sleek design, good price point and better fuel efficiency to get us to go domestic. We want see an established track record- something that indicates a high level of reliability.

So, GM, it's possible that I might love you enough to bring you into my home again someday. For now, all I can do is promise to visit you at the Auto Show.

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