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GM's contrasting public and private messages are working

General Motors Co. made a swashbuckling return to the Super Bowl on Sunday: Five Chevrolet commercials, a product placement with hit sitcom Glee and a Camaro convertible giveaway to new NFL Golden Boy Aaron Rodgers.

But the glitzy ad blitz was in contrast to the understated themes dealers heard at make meetings the same day: Collaboration. Diligence. Humility.

“The theme was: Stay humble and hungry,” said Joe Serra, president of Serra Automotive Inc. of Grand Blanc, Mich.

From the time GM emerged from its government-funded bailout nearly two years ago, industry insiders have been on alert for whiffs of a return to the arrogance that marked the old GM.

Sure, plenty of dealers and suppliers say the cultural overhaul touted at the top hasn't yet seeped down to the zone managers, field reps, and purchasing agents that man GM's army.

But it's clear that GM's bosses keep saying the right things. And, if that continues, it's more likely to permeate GM's culture eventually.

Dealers no doubt will be eager to see if those same themes apply at NADA in 2012.

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