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Title:From the arsenal of democracy to 0% financing: Promotional communication at General Motors
Author(s):Hebert, Mary Grace B.
Director of Research:McChesney, Robert W
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):McChesney, Robert W
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Stole, Inger L; Ciafone, Amanda; Oberdeck, Kathryn J
Department / Program:Communication
Discipline:Communication
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree:Ph.D.
Genre:Dissertation
Subject(s):political economy of communication
general motors
GM
public relations
PR
advertising
media relations
journalism
newspapers
news
Detroit Free Press
Detroit
SUV
Sport utility vehicle
greenwashing
safetywashing
corporate social responsibility
philanthropy
corporate philanthropy
CSR
CAFE
Corporate average fuel economy
auto bailout
TARP
Troubled Asset Relief Program
GMAC
General Motors Acceptance corporation
auto industry
American auto industry
American auto manufacturers
auto-industrial complex
Abstract:This dissertation is a study of the commercial media system situated within the political economy of communication. Through a case study of General Motor’s promotional communication, this dissertation investigates how commercial propaganda, such as public relations (PR) and advertising, influence the commercial media. From 1990 to 2009, GM became a financial powerhouse through General Motors Acceptance Corporation (GMAC), its financial subsidiary. At the same time, GM increased production of SUVs. This dissertation examines how GM’s promotional communication supported these two trends. Through ads, GM sold SUVs using lucrative financial promotions. GM’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) complemented this approach by safetywashing GM’s SUVs through community programs. Thus, despite widely reported safety problems, many Americans believed SUVs to be safe. Likewise, GM used greenwashing PR and CSR to portray the corporation as environmentally conscious while lobbying against Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) regulations. Through these PR and advertising campaigns, GM successfully countered criticism and shifted public opinion around auto safety and environmental regulations. When GM faced bankruptcy in 2009, the corporation used promotional communication to influence the debate over the auto bailout. In the years since the bailout, the auto industry remains surprisingly similar to the 1990s and 2000s. Despite their impact on consumer safety and the environment, SUVs are popular worldwide. The promotional communication tactics advanced by GM in the 1990s and 2000s continue to influence public debates over auto safety, CAFE, and the sale of SUVs.
Issue Date:2019-07-08
Type:Text
URI:http://hdl.handle.net/2142/105902
Rights Information:Copyright 2019 Mary Grace B. Hebert
Date Available in IDEALS:2019-11-26
Date Deposited:2019-08


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