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Bikes are for losers, suggests US car maker's ad aimed at students...

Cyclists in the United States and beyond have hit out at car maker General Motors for an advertisement appearing in college newspapers that touts cars as the way to get around and bicycles as being for, well, losers.

Under the strapline, ‘Reality Sucks,’ the advert depicts a young woman in a car, smiling – or perhaps sneering, you decide – at a huffing, puffing, cyclist pulled up alongside her, with the text underneath saying, ‘Stop pedaling… start driving.”

The ad promotes GM’s College Discount, enabling students to buy qualifying Chevrolet, Buick or GMC cars at a discount – a tempting offer indeed for anyone who has taken on tens of thousands of dollars of debt in the hope of getting a foot on the career ladder once they graduate. The GM College Discount program also uses social media to get its message accross although such has been the level of negative response that the GM College Discount Facebook page now looks more like a spoof.

It’s unclear from the advert whether the travellers are stopped at the traffic lights – unlikely, we imagine, since received wisdom among the motoring fraternity appears to be that cyclists never stop at them – or in a traffic jam, which when you think about it, would be a funny way to sell a car. Creatives, eh?

Failure to respond to the threat of ever-increasing gasoline prices brought the Detroit-based auto makers to their knees during the 1970s, and it as only by following the Japanese model of smaller, more fuel-efficient cars that they were able to survive.

With oil prices again at record highs, money tight, and graduate job prospects not looking too rosy on either side of the Atlantic, we’re not sure it’s in the interests of car manufacturers to be too smug in targeting this demographic.

It’s the kind of ad you’d never imagine finding in a student newspaper in the UK, and with many cities in the US do have a thriving bicycle subculture, as the League of American Bicyclists points out, “obviously it’s been a while since GM execs and their creative teams set foot on campus.”

They go on to add that colleges are unlikely to welcome the $30,000-a-time price tag of creating new car parking spaces, let alone explaining how that fits in with their carbon reduction plans come the end of the year.

Having said that, this is a country where people start driving younger, and may therefore be more attached to their cars when starting college than their peers in the UK.

With many college campuses based around tight-knit, sometimes claustrophobic communities, you might want your own wheels to be able to get away to the nearest big city whenever you want.

But, as the League of American Bicyclists adds, not only is the ad promising you the freedom of the highway, it’s also promising to saddle you with more debt on top of the existing loans that American students take out to fund their studies. In fact, it’s provided some alternative text for the advert:

“If you are a student looking to add tens of thousands of dollars of long term debt, care little about the environment, and want to lump two tons of steel around campus while paying through the nose for insurance, gas, and parking…General Motors has got a perfect deal for you. Bonus: it’ll make you fat and unhealthy! All you have to do is give up that dorky bicycle that’s easy to use, practically free, gets you some exercise and is actually fun to ride.”

Having said that, we’re wondering whether the smile the young lady is directing at the cyclist might be based on something more than just pity for a fellow stundent who has to resort to using a bicycle to get around.

After all, those hours in the saddle are going to leave him fit, toned and tanned and with money to spare, rather than spending his travelling time sitting in a car watching the fuel gauge tick down, along with the balance in his bank account.

Or perhaps she just likes a man who can work up a good sweat?

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

19 comments

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downfader [203 posts] 4 years ago
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She's clearly stalking the poor lad.  3

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mad_scot_rider [581 posts] 4 years ago
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That's a grin that says "nice ass" if ever I saw one!

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Tonnio [37 posts] 4 years ago
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Looks like he's hiding his face from her, she's a stalker for sure.

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arrieredupeleton [576 posts] 4 years ago
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I suppose there's only so many pitchforks and banjos you can carry on a bike.

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Coleman [335 posts] 4 years ago
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pedalpowerDC [334 posts] 4 years ago
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Feel free to call GM and voice your displeasure. 1.877.221.9343

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Trev Allen [132 posts] 4 years ago
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Unfortunately the US do not pay through the Wahoo for gasoline. Not yet at least...

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OldRidgeback [2627 posts] 4 years ago
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Let's be honest here, GM cars are for losers. The range available in Europe for example is pretty much inferior to that of its major US rival Ford, not to mention the German and Japanese competition. GM bought Saab, messed it up and got rid of it. I'm in the process of looking for a new car and the plummeting values of GM products the instant they leave the showroom speaks volumes about their perceived quality. The secondhand value of an Astra of the same age as a comparable Focus model for example reveals how market forces come into play, and not to GM's advantage. GM cars fare even worse when compared to VW or Honda products in terms of holding value. That the ad execs resort to such poorly thought out campaigns just shows how far off market demand the firm has become.

I'd rather continue having no car and using my bicycle fleet for local trips than buy a GM one.

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Municipal Waste [239 posts] 4 years ago
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If I lived in America, quite frankly I would by now be able to afford to buy and run a very powerful muscle car like an old Corvette or something. In fact, probably I wouldn't be into cycling any more  1

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McBadger [4 posts] 4 years ago
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I see even after being bailed out by the US taxpayer these people still want to destroy anything in their way that is probably better for society:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_American_streetcar_scandal

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McBadger [4 posts] 4 years ago
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In fairness the old US Ford Focus (body same as a MkI UK Ford Focus) is a piece of sh1t compared to the UK one, I-beam rear suspension vs multi-link for example...

Interior was a lot lower quality as well.

I see Ford has started selling a new Focus in the US, maybe they'll be able to make the change. GM though, still terrible.

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OldRidgeback [2627 posts] 4 years ago
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McBadger - I've rented a few GM cars when I've been in the US and they were, without exception, all horrible things that were clearly built down to a price. The worst was a Chevrolet Malibu, a truly nasty car that rattled and vibrated at 70mph on the highway due to its use of the cheapest quality components and thin sheet metal. It was also sluggish, noisy, cornered like a blancmange and was uncomfortable. Almost as bad though was the SUV, which a colleague and I had to accept as we were late and the Ford we'd ordered had been given to someone else. The SUV had incredibly vague steering and required constant input to be kept in a straight line. Various family members have European Vauxhalls and these cars are, without exception, also built down to a price and it shows with their nasty interiors, tinny doors and generally soggy handling. I've even driven one of the Korean built Chevrolets, an SUV, which we rented for a work trip and like the US model it felt stodgy, bland, slow and had indifferent cornering.

Remember that a young Ralph Nader's career was launched when he wrote 'Unsafe at any speed' a book demolishing the poor safety standards of US cars of the day. The book focussed its venom on Chevrolet's notorious Corvair, an ill handling vehicle that combined a rear-mounted engine with cheap suspension that developed an appalling reputation (all deserved) for roll-over accidents as well as spontaneously combusting.

Better no car than a GM and I was convinced of that long before this stupid ad campaign was launched. I'll stick to my Ridgeback until I can find time to buy a proper car

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dave atkinson [6224 posts] 4 years ago
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snappy comeback from Giant - thanks to @Tbag75 for the link!

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dave atkinson [6224 posts] 4 years ago
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don_don [149 posts] 4 years ago
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Actually I quite like our (2nd hand) family Zafira  13

but I much prefer my bike...

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marriott [6 posts] 4 years ago
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To Dave atkinson,bloody brilliant with the giant poster. Fantastic, never give up the bike for nothing.

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tommy2p [89 posts] 4 years ago
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Wow if you spent $27000 on a bike , it would look a lot sexier than a chevvy, would be faster, and would get you fitter and would save in gym membership, and travel time, plus you'd attract that woman out of her car and onto a bike, oooohhhhh women on road bikes, now you're talkin'.  38

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jazzdude [72 posts] 4 years ago
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All Vauxhall/GM cars are shit whichever continent you buy them in. But the americans don't care as long as they don't have to walk their lard arses any further than the parking lot.

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Adam Ef [8 posts] 4 years ago
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