GM spokesman Greg Martin spoke to me on Wednesday about my piece on Shanghai GM’s sponsorship of a Chinese propaganda film.Mr. Martin agreed that GM and Shanghai GM were indeed a joint venture, but told me on Wednesday:
“It [SGM] is a separate distinct entity in that they’re autonomous and completely independent in what they decide to do in marketing and distributing our vehicles over there, but there is a clear and distinct separation in terms of funding and what have you. So, no, General Motors Corporate or American money goes to SGM. They’re entirely funded. They get our cars and they sell and market it within that region.”
Mr. Martin went further saying, “So, in this case they sponsored the film company and this film festival. Whether the cars appear beside some banner shouldn’t be considered a GM Corporate endorsement. It’s a very specific market decision by this SGM…Shanghai GM.”
However, while the stars of the film were chauffeured around in GM’s Cadillac SLS vehicles, the Cadillac logo was also promoted on hammer and sickle laden Chinese Communist advertising for the film.
“It shouldn’t be considered a GM endorsement. Again, that was a very separate and very market specific decision between SGM, which is an independent business in that film festival,” said Mr. Martin. “We don’t have any editorial control. We don’t tell them how to market their vehicles as such. That shouldn’t be considered a GM an endorsement.”
Mr. Martin did not say if GM Corporate would be discussing the harmful branding of their company by SGM, but that, “[SGM is] an independent entity that’s marketing and distributing vehicles in China which happens to be Communist.”
As I mentioned in my last post.
GM’s inclusion of Shanghai GM all over annual reports and press releases makes it terribly tough to believe the U.S. automaker is not tied to SGM and to treat SGM as just a random separate company who came out of nowhere and is running around using the Cadillac logo to help promote a Communist film is just as un-believeable.
Furthermore, GM fails to see how it has no problems associating itself with Shanghai GM when the company needs to show investors and the rest of the public through an annual report or SEC report that GM car sales are growing faster in China than the United States.
Yet when GM sees their foreign sales distributor in China involved in activity that could harm the GM brand at large, the corporate flagship reacts as if the relationship between GM Corporate and SGM are as relevant to each other as Starbucks corporate and a McDonald’s franchise in the Middle East.
Branding decisions with company logos do not happen without the explicit consent of the company that actually owns the brand. SGM did in fact use the Cadillac logo in their sponsorship of the Chinese film. If has GM has failed to file a trademark infringement lawsuit against Shanghai GM, then GM can only be looked at obviously supporting it (not to mention a “joint” owner of Shanghai GM). It’s time for GM to man up and make that phone call to their Communist propaganda supporting joint venture in China.