In its latest backward step in the credit card business, General Motors seems to serve warning that it is going to sell the steak, not the sizzle.
Putting it another way, GM has a lot of new product, and has decided to sell the product, not the deal.
It makes sense.
GM is severing ties with its three remaining credit card partners - Mobil Corp., MCI Communications Corp. and Marriott Hotels. Earlier, GM cut in half the amount that a GM Card user can earn toward the purchase of a GM car or truck. A credit card may seem to be a strange business for a carmaker, but it has a definite promotional value: Every time you use the card, you see the carmaker's name.
GM's changes may alienate some who counted on the Card to help get them into a new vehicle, but GM apparently has decided that its products can carry the ball - just as GM's products once did.
And it signals that GM is dead serious about returning to its core business. No more data processing outfits. No more defense contractors. No more home mortgage companies. The capital that once purchased those operations now goes into product development and manufacturing processes.
How far is GM willing to carry its newly revived product emphasis? Will it put a rein on prices and thereby cut back on the customer rebates that plague the industry? Will it examine its leasing practices and call a halt to runaway residuals?
Maybe that is too much to hope for, based on a simple change in credit card operations. But a new approach to selling cars and trucks is needed. And who better than General Motors to lead the way?
Rollover test is needed
It is good news that NHTSA is finally trying to develop tests that measure a vehicle's propensity to roll over.
Sport-utilities and other trucks with relatively high centers of gravity have become such an important segment that consumers need reliable information about so-called untripped rollovers - those not caused by the vehicle striking another object.
NHTSA officials must use today's new technology to develop fair, accurate and reliable test procedures, with appropriate input from engineers. NHTSA should not just adopt tests used by Consumers Union - or any other outside source - that cannot be fairly and universally applied.
The agency also should take note of recent airbag history and avoid the temptation to dither.
Do it right the first time, and do it soon.