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Never make claims that can’t be backed up

Once upon a time, one could “stretch” a claim in an ad or a sales presentation and it would likely go unchallenged. But that was before the Internet opened the door to fact checking by any one, on virtually any thing, at any time.

Today, what we put in our ads or say in our sales presentations to prospective customers better be factual or we’ll surely be called out! Case in point: the latest TV commercial from General Motors. In it, Ed Whitacre, GM’s CEO, announces the “new” GM. He proceeds to tell us: “We have repaid our government loan, in full, with interest” – and he does it with a straight face.

Now, that would certainly be great news . . . if it were only true. But, a simple fact check reveals it’s not. So, what we have is a really good textbook example of making a dumb decision to twist facts for ad purposes that a little checking will easily show to be false.

What Whitacre is talking about is GM’s latest repayment of $5.8 billion to the U.S. Treasury (including some to Canada.) Unfortunately, a simple fact check shows that GM has essentially repaid a TARP loan . . . with cash from another TARP loan! That’s because when GM was being bailed out, an account totaling $17.4 billion was set up for GM at the Treasury. When $6.7 billion in TARP loans was paid back, an additional $5.6 billion was released to GM. Want to play under which shell is the pea?

But you really don’t even have to research the TARP loan facts. That’s because virtually every breathing American knows taxpayers invested about $50 billion and got a 61 percent stake in GM. Oh, and don’t forget the additional $16 billion that went to bail out GMAC. Why, even GM’s Stephen J. Girsky, vice chairman, reportedly admitted in a TV interview that the statement in the commercial was not true.

The point here isn’t GM, of course. If its chairman wants to be in commercials and make statements that everyone with a pulse knows can’t be true, that’s up to him. The real point is everyone knows . . . or can easily find out.

When it comes to selling boats, truthful claims are even more important. That’s because we’re usually dealing with prospects most prone to do their homework, both before and after they visit us in our showrooms. Yes, there’s always a temptation in creating an ad or in face-to-face selling to make the proposition sound “too good to be true.” But these days, making claims that aren’t factual will not sell products or garner respect in the marketplace.

Comments

3 comments on “Never make claims that can’t be backed up

  1. dave

    I seldom see in the press or elsewhere, the $$ amount of those stockholders holding GM stock that were effectively zeroed out during this fiasco….I would think that those dollars would amount to something, and for this eX stockholder…it will be a very long time before I do anything to support GM when they make commercials like the one you mentioned. Did the CEO think all of us were going to go back and be loyal to GM or buy GM cars (and I have owned several corvettes)…I think not…

    In the boating market it is getting tougher and tougher to keep the players straight with the bankruptcies that happened last year, and again those CEOs coming out about what a great deal this or that is. If I could have my poor business practices rewarded and my slate wiped clean every few years and start fresh, even I could be competitive building boats. I feel sorry for the stand up guys like Tiffany’s and Pacific Seacraft, when they try to compete with Tartan/C&C and Irwin..

    Buyer Beware…

  2. C. Moore

    Please the guy ran a phone company.
    Can anyone figure out who has the largest G3 network or their phone bill?
    That industry can’t even get the prime directive of their industry (talking on the phone) to work consistantly. Have you ever had a dropped call?
    Please we haven’t sunk to the phoney claims of that industry & now Gov’t Motors. Lets hope not.
    Though the Growboating thing come real close to the GM stretch of truth….
    Here’s a simple rule to live by & follow…
    You never have to remember the truth but you do have to remember, for ever, every lie you tell.

  3. Dr. Sarah Atkinson

    When I first heard Whitacre say that on a TV commercial, I immediately checked the facts on the internet. The next morning I called my local dealership and cancelled my order for a new Caddy. I cannot tolerate liars!

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