Wagoner shrugs off 0% critics

DETROIT - General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner makes no apology for the Keep America Rolling 0 percent loan program, despite criticism that GM took advantage of an upsurge in patriotism after Sept. 11.

Wagoner said GM created the program after being urged by Bush administration officials to prevent the economy from stalling after the terrorist attacks.

"Time tends to dull a little bit the emotions around these topics, but this (was), what, eight days after Sept. 11?" Wagoner said. "There was a lot of talk about the role that business and labor can play in showing that America and the Free World won't be defeated by terrorism.

"And a lot of the talk that day was, the bad guys win if the economy closes down."

Columnist Bob Garfield of Advertising Age, a sister publication to Automotive News, wrote that the campaign overstepped good taste. He referred to the campaign as "a cynical exploitation of the terrorists' victims and an unforgivable insult to those who grieve for them."

Wagoner's response: "We looked at it, and we were convinced we could do something that was good for us, and it was very good for the economy, as well."

You can reach Dave Guilford at dguilford@crain.com

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