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GM & Barra: Shrewd Reverse Sexism?

A commercial not seen in recent reviews of the Ford Mustang’s introduction 50 years ago is one that showed a prim and proper Miss shake the Mary Barradecorum of her office job, literally let her hair down and hit the open road in her Mustang convertible. Whether it was the competition or Ford’s intent, there were those who called it, “the secretary’s car.” That was before Carroll Shelby put some muscle in it and it truly became a good-looking, affordable performance car.

Also not seen are cynical media appraisals of Dan Ackerman’s hasty departure from GM, stepping out the door just before the recalls hit the fan. And, the departure of his PR chief, Selim Bingol, who may have advised his boss to point to his wife’s illness and run for cover while the image-shattering appointment of Mary Barra stole the headlines. Perhaps it was shrewd reverse sexism, recognizing that GM’s image would be softened and hoping she would symbolize a “new GM,” while banking on people in and out of the company rooting for Barra to succeed, holding their wrath long enough, at least, for Ackerman to swim safely to shore, his public record ostensibly blameless and to privately indulge his reported distain for some of the male CEO aspirants around him. To be fair, AW contributing columnist Mac Gordon has suggested GM’s turmoil would make a great opera with Barra as the soprano protagonist surrounded by male tenors and baritones.

This black and white version of one TV spot in the “Secretary Campaign” – not the one referenced above but enough to establish where “secretary’s car” came from and, in AW’s opinion, a tone-deaf response to Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique published three years earlier that fomented America’s second wave of feminism. Carrie Nation exciting the first.

Hugo Miller writing for, reports that somewhat surprisingly, BlackBerry, Ltd., which fell from the lead to less than 1 per cent of the global cellphone market, is the leader in the connected car market which is predicted to reach $83 billion by 2018. The Canadian company’s QNX operating system has become “the technology of choice for mapping, communication and entertainment systems in cars from Ford Motor Co. to luxury German brands Porsche and BMW, Miller states.” One of QNX’s biggest selling points he says, “is that it’s a microkernel-based operating system — meaning it has multiple layers or servers that keep operating even if one is shut off or freezes.” QNX’s reliability has been documented in contracts with the U.S. Army’s unmanned Crusher tank and nuclear power plants operated by Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. That is comforting to carmakers and will help sell connected cars to consumers.

They’re called “Easter Eggs,” drivers of Chrysler vehicles can search for, according to Mark Phelan’s April 17 story in The Detroit Free Press: Chrysler gives owners a wink to history with hidden images. According to Phelan, whose story was brought to AW’s attention by former co-Autowriters Pit Notes: Chrylser Easter Eggs : Willys Jeepworker Marty Habelewski.  As part of a whimsical game Chrysler design teams have embedded images into some of their cars for consumers to try to find. For example: a tiny image of a 1941 Willys Jeep climbing up the corner of 2011 Wrangler windshield or other demi-totems such as floor mats imprinted with the outline of race courses where the Viper set records or another with an outline of the Detroit skyline sans the iconic GM building.

This July Fourth, a radically expanded and revised edition of Karl Ludvigsen’s book, Corvette – America’s Star-Spangled Sports Car – The Complete History, 1953-1982, will go on sale through Bentley Publishing. This new edition more than doubles the size of the 1973 edition of Ludvigsen’s landmark Corvette history book, with 784 pages, 989 photos and illustrations, and 52 chapters (compared with the original’s 19 chapters.). Ludvigsen’s only US appearance in support of this book will be Friday, June 27 when he is inducted into the Great Hall at the 41st annual Bloomington Gold show in Champaign County, Ill. It is the longest continuously running Corvette event in the U.S. and Ludvigsen will sign books at the Bentley stand there. For more information and to order go here.