Cars the stars at Detroit show, not lavish displays

January 13, 2009

Reeling from crisis and in hock to the federal government for $13.4 billion, General Motors spent only about half of what it normally spends on its display at the Detroit auto show this year. There were no pyrotechnics, no marching bands, no celebrities, no models.

But GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz surveyed the stripped-down display and found plenty to like in the new austerity.

“When you are really under severe financial stress and you have loans that you know that you are going to repay you start looking at what’s really important,” Lutz said.

“When you’re in a financial crisis it forces us to focus on the things that we have to have, rather than those that are nice to have.”

GM was not alone as almost every automaker slashed spending at the show this year.

In the boom days, Lutz recalled GM had spent lavishly, once spending almost half a million dollars on a Saturn display that featured a tower that visitors could climb to see holograms dance over the exterior of cars and make it seem as though the viewer was looking right through the sheet metal.

“This year all of that has been stripped out,” Lutz said. “But I think it looks a lot better. I think our stand has never looked better, more organized, business-like, or more reflective of GM‘s excellence. And it comes from not having the money to do dumb things with.”


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