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GM And TACH At The Olympics

By Andrew Frankl European Bureau Chief

Dateline: Olympic Village, Salt Lake City, USA

If this reads like a plug for the General, well that's exactly what it is.

They are doing a superb job in Salt Lake City . It started with the torch relay several months ago. Apparently they've been to something like 47 of the American states including Alaska! It must have been a logistic nightmare but it went without a glitch.

In addition to their own people they also had the whole-hearted cooperation of the local dealers who used this opportunity for getting people into the showrooms, something all auto makers desperately need to do at present.

The company has a 10 year deal with the United States Olympic Committe and from what I've seen it looks like a good investment.

First of all they are in and everybody else is out!

Here in Salt Lake City the scene is completely dominated by pristine GM SUVs and even Cadillacs!

One should never forget that some of the pompous Olympic delegates would not be seen dead in anything but a luxury car.

The funny thing is that after posing for two weeks like the most important people in the World-which they are not- they go home to a very humble existance.

The Skating Federation people for one should get in line for buses instead of being driven around because what they've produced in the pair figure skating was just a scandal.

All of which does not distract from what GM are doing. The most appealing aspect of their operation to mind mind is how they are looking after athletes, in other words-real people! Instead of giving lots of cars to officials to keep they, in conjunction with the US Olympic Committee have selected athletes- Summer and Winter- who had a chance of being in the Games.

For the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney they've selected 100 athletes, for the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics 40. These cars were handed over for good ! So if some of the athletes did not get into the Olympic Games they were still allowed to keep the cars!

I find this exceptional and truly the human face of an automaker.

My son Nicholas (who is also a TACH reporter)is about to compete in the 4 man bob so I know just how much it means to an athlete to have good, reliable transport without the fear of losing it in case of an injury whilst training.

As for the Games, touch wood, so far so good.The security is tight but fair. The police and the army are here in force as I would expect and they've thrown a ring around the City center. Everybody, but everybody goes through the metal detectors and quite understandably nobody complains although sometimes the lines can be very long indeed.

I seem to recall writing a report for TACH from Atlanta which, quite frankly was pretty badly organised. Salt Lake, thanks to a lot of effort by a lot of people is miles ahead.

As for GM,talking to their people here it is obvious that the arrival of Bob Lutz has had a galvanising affect throughout the company.

I cannot imagine a single reader who is not familiar with his name, 69 year old Bob is a legend. A former fighter pilot he worked for GM, then BMW, Ford, Chrysler and now back at GM.

If anybody can turn things round in a hurry-not so much on the SUV side but on the car side he has to be the man.