Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Prospective Customers Reveal Few Concerns over GM Trucks

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Prospective Customers Reveal Few Concerns over GM Trucks

Article excerpt

By Dan Blake

Associated Press

As General Motors Corp. scrambles to protect its reputation, the company may be having some success with customers.

In random interviews from around the country, auto dealers and individuals trying to sell GM pickups report few questions from prospective customers about the gasoline tanks that have caused such a publicity ruckus.

"I was kind of worried when I put it up (for sale) if that would be a problem, but I've had four calls today and nobody's asked" about the tanks, Tim Flood of Louisville, Ky., said Thursday of his 1985 Chevrolet C-30.

Flood's truck is one of nearly 5 million 1973 to 1987 full-size GM pickups in North America with gasoline tanks in each side of the truck. Critics say the design makes the gas tanks vulnerable to fiery explosions in side collisions.

GM has denied these trucks are unsafe, but it has changed the design in newer models.

Most dealers telephoned Wednesday and Thursday said the controversy hasn't affected sales.

Roy Gladen Jr., used car sales manager at Don Carter Pontiac-GMC Truck in suburban Dallas, said none of his customers has mentioned the tank. But he said some customers aware of the claims may already have decided against shopping for a pre-1988 GM pickup.

For GM, the public's confidence in its vehicles is crucial. The company reported the largest loss in U.S. corporate history Thursday and is trying to cut costs so it can start making money again.

GM's trucks and minivans have been one of the few bright spots in a historic downturn. Truck and minivan sales last year rose 9.7 percent while car sales were down 1.5 percent.

GM has been trying to turn the tide of negative publicity in recent days, winning a victory over NBC and embarrassing the network into apologizing for rigging tests of GM trucks in a report aired in November.

"We haven't got any calls, yet," Jim Knabe, general sales manager at Goodman Pontiac GMC in Littleton, Colo., said of concerned customers. "Some people don't look at that but the majority of people feel they're good drivers and `it's not going to happen to me.' "

Although NBC's apology settled GM's defamation lawsuit, auto industry analysts say the tank issue, like other safety questions, will not go away quickly. …

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