Corporate Blogging Survey 2005

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September 2, 2005

An Interview With General Motor’s Best Customer

Dennis Schrage’s family is a long time customer of General Motor’s cars and trucks, during May of this year he asked a general question on the FastLane Blog of General Motors.


How long do you think that GM can survive while ignoring the wants of the buyers? Build AMERICAN cars that last like the Asian and European but look like AMERICAN. Give us the great American V8's and rear wheel drive.

While the question is a very general in nature, I had asked a number of GM customers what their reaction was to the GM Fastlane Blog and the connection with GM employees. I thought Dennis and his family had a particularly strong connection with General Motors and he may even be one of General Motor’s best customers. Dennis was kind enough to answer a few of my questions. Initially Dennis gave me some background on his connection with General Motors.

Dennis Schrage: I am a third generation GM owner, My family has owned nothing but GM's since 1936 when my grandfather started our Rigging and machinery moving business. Since 1936 we have bought on average 6 new GM cars or more often trucks per year. Not to mention my collection of antique and muscle cars. I am a big automotive enthusiast and GM loyalist who is getting very disappointed with the current line of cars and trucks coming from the General. I only wish they would build some exciting vehicles again.

My family's history with GM is quite detailed but I will try to give you a good idea how Important GM was to our success.

In the early 20's my great great grandfather and his four sons decided to us a truck to deliver milk rather than the horses and buggies. His first new truck was a 1918 Chevrolet model T "ton truck" it could carry 2000 pounds and made short work of his delivery route. He paid around $1200 dollars for the chassis and had Dierzen Body Company build the cab and body. By the late 30's he had eleven Chevy trucks delivering milk as far as 50 miles. This started the love affair between the Schrage family and Chevrolet, He continued that milk business until he died in 1969 and the family sold that business, by then he had owned over 90 Chevy trucks,

All of the sons except my great grandfather stayed into dairy farming and delivering, My great grandfather took one of his dad's old trucks in the late 30's and started picking up scrap steel and selling it for cash, At some point someone gave him a very large machine that weighed 80,000 pounds, It was all steel and his if he could move it out of the factory. So he went home and started fabricating the equipment he thought he could use to take apart and move this machine. He bought a very large winch and welded it to the back of the Chevy truck, Then he built a steel frame over the machine, He ran the cable from the winch on the truck to the top of the steel frame and used the truck to lift the heavy components off the machine he got for free. Since that worked out he continued looking for large machines for free to scrap and soon people were calling him to just move or install machines within their factories, In 1949 he incorporated under the name US Machinery Movers in Chicago IL. Since that little Chevy truck put him into business he insisted on owning only GM products his entire life, That rule continues today, I now run the business and it is much much larger than it was in 1949 but since then no other vehicle has been owned by the company or our family members. We are the largest rigging company in the Midwest and we owe it all to that little Chevy truck. I do have the truck and have totally restored it to mint condition; since she already paid her dues I only take her out on an occasional Sunday drive. Otherwise she is parked along with my collection of antique and muscle cars.

John Cass: How has the GM blog helped provide information to you as a GM customer? Here I am looking for any positive benefits from the blog. If there are none let me know as well.

Dennis Schrage: It has been good for getting specifications on upcoming models but other than that it is no real help,

John Cass: How would you like to see the GM blog used in the future as a way to communicate with you and other GM customers and non-customers?

Dennis Schrage: It would be a great way to hear from purchasers what they want in a car and a good way to let the enthusiast know what may be coming next.

John Cass: It seems to me that you are a loyal GM customer, you mentioned your family has been buying their products since the 1930's and you purchase 6 a year now. As someone who has invested a lot of effort into the GM brand over the years. What do you think needs to be done about the future of GM?

Dennis Schrage: What is good for America is good for General Motors, and vice versa.? That means taking steps to align the company's interest with the national interest. What could be more AMERICAN than a beautifully designed, V8 powered, Rear wheel driven car with a very tasteful touch of nostalgia? We were damn proud of our cars back when that cliché was popular. A car is a big investment and we should be allowed to get what we want. It is a dirty shame that we are forced to buy a truck if we want a V8 engine and rear wheel drive with a frame. If GM wants to build Asian looking front wheel drive cars then GM should move to Asia. It makes no sense to me. GM was the mark of excellence and built the best looking and performing cars consistently from 1955 thru 1972, I am sure that has something to do with GM's success during that time. After 1972 those vehicles slowly died along with GM's success. Now GM is near bankruptcy while Ford and Mopar are booming, I am sure Ford and mopar's success has a lot to do with building AMERICAN cars like the mustang, charger, T-bird etc. AMERICAN style performance along with big V8's and rear wheel drive. These freakish looking front wheel driven cars surely have Zora Arcus Duntov rolling over in his grave. Do you know the definition of Insane? Someone who keeps doing the same thing but expects a different result. So by definition GM is insane.

I know GM really wanted to beat Ford in truck sales "I would have enjoyed that too" but that goal cost too much. The price was ending up with the worst line of cars ever. The car line is almost a duplicate of Chrysler's in the 80's. I would assume that is because that was Chrysler's bankruptcy line too. Plus you have Bob Lutz making decisions there; you cannot have someone like him making decisions. Only someone with a true love for the company can save you. It requires a thoroughbred GM man, Someone who knows every detail of GM's past, The name is all you have left. You need to touch the hearts of the Americans and let them fall in love with your cars again, But it cannot be done with the current models, You need all American cars, Big V8 engines, Beautiful styling and REAR WHEEL DRIVE made 100% here in the Good old USA. Build us something to be proud of. When your heart is in it so will the publics' be.

John Cass: I wondered how much your family had spent on GM cars over the years. Could you give an estimate of the number of cars or the amount of money? I think it would be interesting to know that statistic, from the reader's perspective and GM. Maybe even list all of the vehicles purchased.

Dennis Schrage: Oh my god, how many GM vehicles have we bought. Well I would say well over 3,600. I am going to have to say we have spent around 1 million since the late 20's. It is so hard to figure because the prices changed so much over the years. But I am sure it is not less than 1 mil.

John Cass: A few years ago two authors wrote a book called the Influentials, it talks about how 10% of a customer community will influence the other 90%. By their measure I think you might be an influential customer for GM. But it all depends on whether you’re active in talking with customers and non-customers about GM products. So I wondered, how many people do you talk with offline and online about GM vehicles? And if you regularly forward and post comments about GM information by email and on forums?

Dennis Schrage: I talk to anyone I can get to listen, I e-mail everyone from GM corporate to the salesmen in the showrooms urging them to make changes. I post messages anywhere the name GM appears. I call GM's complaint line and even try to send Bob Lutz e-mails and letters. I guarantee you John that I am borderline obsessed with talking to people about what is and isn't going on at GM. I am a true Auto enthusiast who looses sleep over some of the issues.

John Cass: I was wondering if you hear a lot of the same issues about GM's lack of response on the forum sites? I was also wondering if any of the other customers have their own blogs? And if so do they chat about these issues on those blogs?

Dennis Schrage: Yes the three biggest complaints are the CAMARO issue, The lack of other rear wheel drive options and the lack of interest in listening to us.

John Cass: While I have not conducted a comprehensive study of GM’s customers, it was my goal in producing my interviews with Dennis Schrage and Lisa Foltz to gain some insight into how customer’s are reacting to GM’s FastLane Blog. From a number of email conversations with GM customers who posted on the FastLane Blog I thought that Lisa and Dennis had interesting stories to tell about their experiences with the blog and what they thought about the experiences. Based on these conversations I am going to make some suggestions in another post to corporate bloggers on how they can avoid some of the customer frustrations with handling customer criticism based on the model developed from the Backbone Media Blogging Survey.

Posted by johncass at September 2, 2005 10:43 AM

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It seems that GM’s Fastlane blog has been a victim of its own success (which can’t be said for General Motors).   Fastlane has received 4,500 comments this year, but does not have the resources allocated to follow them all up.&... [Read More]

Tracked on September 3, 2005 3:43 AM


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