Sunday, January 28, 2007

GM renames gas-touting site

Thursday, January 18, 2007
The name -- -- could appear to be at odds with GM's stated goal of developing alternatives to gasoline.
GM renames gas-touting site
Automaker targets medium-duty customers to go for gasoline engines, not diesel.
David Shepardson / Detroit News Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- General Motors Corp. on Wednesday said it will rename a company Web site that touts medium-duty gasoline engines as a good alternative to diesel engines.

The name -- -- could appear to be at odds with GM's stated goal of developing alternatives to gasoline.

After The Detroit News inquired about the site earlier this week, GM said the domain name of the site will be changed to by Friday to better "match the site's purpose," said Greg Martin, GM's Washington-based spokesman, acknowledging "the irony of the name."

GM hasn't backed away from its "well-established commitment to energy diversity" and said there's nothing misleading about the site, Martin said.

GM launched the Web site last week in an effort to pump up sales of its medium-duty gasoline engines, which cost anywhere from $6,000 to $15,000 less than diesel equivalents.

"Our Gas Engine. Powerfully cost-effective," the Web site says, promoting "the advantages of gas Why gas? Learn more."

The site touts gasoline engines that are used in dump trucks, ambulances and some large trucks -- including some U-Haul moving vans. It offers potential customers a free $10 coffee mug if they seek information about gas engines.

Of 60,000 medium-duty engines sold by GM last year, 9,000 were gasoline-powered Vortec 8.1-liter V-8s -- with many of those going to U-Haul, GM spokesman Rob Minton said.

New clean diesel regulations that took effect in the fall make diesel engines more expensive, though they reduce particulate emissions and get as much as 25 percent better gas mileage than gas engines. GM sells a popular Duramax 6.6-liter V-8 diesel in the medium-duty truck segment, among other diesel engines.

The decision to change the name of the Web site comes as the company is battling the perception that it's behind Toyota Motor Corp. and other automakers in developing environmentally friendly vehicles.

GM CEO and Chairman Rick Wagoner said Tuesday the company will "dramatically intensify our efforts to displace petroleum-based fuels by building a lot more vehicles that run on alternatives, such as E85 ethanol," he said.

But with the site -- registered by GM on Nov. 20 -- the automaker is trying to capitalize on the difference to sell more gasoline engines over diesel for some commercial trucks.

It argues gas engines are a "good solution for lower-mileage applications" and provides a calculator that suggests how much customers could save buying a gas engine over a diesel.

Some environmentalists noted that GM has embraced E85-fueled vehicles that run on a mixture of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline even though E85 is less available than diesel and costs more per mile than gasoline.

"It seems strange that they are pushing gasoline as more available when on the other hand they are touting the advantages of E85 for light duty vehicles, which is significantly less available than diesel," said David Friedman, research director of the clean vehicle program for the Union of Concerned Scientists on Wednesday.

GM defended the site.

"To suggest that there is any message beyond the site's intent as a marketing tool for a very, very specific segment of the market is ridiculous and silly," Martin said. GM will send out 90,000 direct mailings this week to convince medium-duty customers to consider gasoline engines. GM Fleet & Commercial will promote through print ads, online banner ads, a CD-ROM and search engine marketing, Minton said.

GM has touted alternatives to gasoline through company Web sites like and said the U.S. needs to move away from dependence on traditional gasoline.

GM also introduced a concept plug-in hybrid, the Chevy Volt, at the North American International Auto Show last week.

You can reach David Shepardson at (202) 662-8735 or

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