Automakers Affected By Politics, But The 'Show' Must Go On

General Motors made big news last week with the announcement of a logo change and a new brand campaign focused on bringing electric vehicles to the masses.

However, it was a little hard to focus on marketing news, considering what was happening in Washington on Wednesday. 

I wondered out loud if GM had considered delaying the announcement (which was tied to this week’s CES) in light of the state of the country and the fact that many people, like me, were pretty distracted.

“We are certainly mindful and paying attention to world events and working through that as people ourselves, but developed this campaign with optimism and inclusion as main themes and feel those are the types of messages the world needs to hear moving forward,” a GM spokesperson told me Friday.

Several days have passed and as the news of the insurrection sinks in, companies are now reacting, with a large number deciding to rethink their Political Action Committee donations. Some are suspending contributions specifically to the Republican members of Congress who challenged the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

General Motors issued a statement that is noncommittal about future actions, but assures that “character and public integrity aligning with GM’s core values are considered when making PAC contributions, according to the automaker.”

“For 2021, as is standard in any contribution cycle, PAC contributions will be evaluated to ensure candidates align with our core values,” the automaker told the Detroit Free Press.  "GM PAC is committed to supporting and building relationships in a bipartisan manner, funds are contributed by GM employees and are distributed to support the election of U.S. federal and state candidates who foster sound business policies and understand the importance of a robust auto industry.”

Ford Motor Co. is being more definitive, saying it will pause political donations in light of Wednesday’s attack on the Capitol and that it “condemns the violent actions that happened this week, which contradict the ideals of a free and fair election and a peaceful transition of power.”

“As we have said, events over the past year have underscored the need for a broader, ongoing discussion about other relevant considerations when it comes to our employee PAC," Rachel McCleery, director of government relations for manufacturing policy, told the Detroit Free Press.  "In order to give these important discussions the time and reflection they deserve, the Ford PAC will be suspending new contributions for now.”

Automakers are likely keeping a close eye on President-elect Joe Biden’s likely nominations for his cabinet. The companies may soon have a well-known former Michigan politician to deal with in Washington. 

President-elect Biden says he intends to nominate Jennifer Granholm to serve in his cabinet as energy secretary.

Granholm will draw on her experience with the auto industry as a two-term Michigan governor to advance the incoming administration’s climate goals. If confirmed, she is expected to play a key role in expanding the development of electric vehicles and 500,000 charging stations across the U.S., as promised by Biden.

Environmental officials lauded her selection. 

“I think it’s a very insightful pick,” said Nathan Murphy, state director of Environment Michigan, in a blog post. “Gov. Granholm has been a champion of renewable energy, both as our governor and since then. She understands how Michigan’s automotive industry fits into building a path away from dirty fossil fuels.”

Granholm would work with former Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, who Biden nominated for transportation secretary. Buttigieg has pledged to restore Obama-era vehicle emissions standards and supported making the U.S. carbon-neutral by 2050.

So maybe’s GM’s electric campaign is well-timed after all. 

Next story loading loading..