General Motors : Overlooking recall connections

A crisis response suffers from weak assembly of its parts.

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The feature

General Motors (GM), US-based auto industry giant, has many of the right parts to support a large-scale vehicle recall but has not assembled them as well as it might.

GM’s global home page has a ‘Latest News’ panel highlighting a single story and providing options to browse four others. The default lead item today [18 March] is a news release about the appointment of a new ‘vehicle safety leader’, part of the company’s response to problems that have prompted the recall of 3.3 million vehicles worldwide this year, the latest tranche of 1.7 million being announced on Monday [17 March]. The ‘safety leader’ release is also carried in the company’s main Twitter feed as well as its media Twitter feed, though only the latter has a link to the recall announcement of 17 March. Neither featured on the company’s Facebook page (as of 2pm EST).

A search of the global site for ‘recall’ produces a link to a single-page ‘site’ dedicated to the ‘ignition switch recall’. This includes FAQs, a link to a message (dated 4 March) to GM employees from its CEO, Mary Barra, and to the GM Owner Center, where owners can sign up for information about their particular GM model. There are no links to the recall site in recent related news releases or on the global home page.

The takeaway

With the latest instalments in the recall story generating heavy media coverage GM’s global site reflects the company’s decision to be seen to be reacting quickly and positively. Its home page and news section have clear links to the latest releases, with feeds on Twitter pointing (in varying degree) to the same content. At the same time it has launched a ‘crisis site’ to provide background information and the company view on the main recall issue, as well as an onward link for vehicle owners. What is glaring by its omission, though, is any clear link on prominent global locations such as the home page or in the news coverage to the recall site. Anxious GM owners coming to the global site for information (and that will include many not affected by the recall in addition to those who are) should not have to have recourse to the search engine to find the content prepared for them.

One reason for what seems an illogical action on GM’s part – prepare a crisis site, then not provide signposts to it – could lie in the nature of the content that is featured prominently. Its primary aim is speedy news updates for journalists and investors, not vehicle owners: corporate communication rather than customer relationship. Hence the difference in coverage between the media and global Twitter feeds, and the lack of mentions on Facebook. The parts are in place to serve both audiences well simultaneously if only they were better assembled.
First published 18 March, 2014
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