General Motors doesn't have many friends these days in the hallowed halls of automotive marketing.
The Ford and Chrysler people want GM to ease up on incentives. GM has no intention of doing so, and GM CEO Rick Wagoner has told his rivals to "stop whining and play the game."
The latest of the whiners is an unlikely candidate: Joe Eberhardt, executive vice president of global sales, marketing and service for the Chrysler group - unlikely because, after all, Chrysler started the whole rebate merry-go-round back in the days when it was an American company known as Chrysler Corp.
"Incentives aren't helping our industry, no matter how many vehicles they may help move off our dealers' lots," Eberhardt told the Management Briefing Seminars this month in Traverse City, Mich. "Somehow - sometime soon - today's unworkable market contest has to come to an end."
Doesn't Eberhardt remember Super Bowl Sunday in 1975 when Chrysler kicked off the modern-era customer rebates? When sportscaster Joe Garagiola began chanting "Buy a car; get a check"? When Garagiola was the most famous pitchman in the United States?
The checks Garagiola was touting were for $200 or $300, a far cry from today's $3,000 or $4,000.