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September 14th, 2004

See Oprah, Get a Car

I’ve said some good and bad things about Oprah in the past, but the stunt she pulled on her season debut has made me reevaluate everything I’ve said.

On Monday’s show, Oprah gave every single audience member – all 276 of them – a brand new Pontiac G6. Here’s a Chicago Tribune blurb on it. Many audience members were selected when they wrote Oprah and spoke of their car and financial woes but, can you imagine? You go there and come home with a new car?

Of course it wasn’t paid for by Oprah herself, and it’s more of a PR stunt on Pontiac’s part, but who’s going to be thinking about that when driving in a new car? They’re going to think that Oprah is super great. And for Oprah, that’s super smart.

Posted in Television, Movies, and Music

FROM: Ryan [E-Mail]
DATE: Tuesday September 14, 2004 -- 9:40:39 am
Maury never does anything like this.

FROM: Joseph
DATE: Tuesday September 14, 2004 -- 10:10:13 am
She's a billionaire. She could do this every day if she wanted to. Not to minimalize the gesture, but it's a great publicity stunt for Pontiac and Oprah's show. I think the car giveaway, while a hugely nice thing to do, was secondary to the publicity that the show and Pontiac got. It was on all the major networks last night and this morning again.

Giving away these cars is a drop in the bucket when you consider the advertising budgets of GM, Pontiac, the networks and Oprah. The truth is, these companies could do this every day and not feel a pinch. Every day. Every single day.

It's like the rich fat monarchy throwing doubloons into the streets and watching the proletariat scramble.

If we really wanted to address the transportation problems of the poor, GM could give away two-year-old cars to ten times as many needy people for the same buck--but who would want to get excited about a used car giveaway?

On the positive side, it does illustrate that in this country being without an automobile can qualify someone as needy. I'm glad for that much at least. There are lots of people who think that a car is a luxury and that the poor should rely on public transportation.

We know that in most cities public transportation just doesn't work. I'm glad to see people recognize that in the US the basic necessities are food, clothing, shelter and the independence of a private automobile. Many people simply won't be able to meet the responsibilities of employment unless they have a reliable car, which is way more reliable than public transportation. It's just the truth.

Not to completely dampen the mood of the new car giveaway, but did someone on Oprah's show also consider the additional expenses of insurance and property tax on a new car? If these people are that poor, they will be in for a big surprise when that insurance bill comes in and that property tax, where applicable, which is assessed against the blue book value of the car and on a new car can be from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, becomes due.

I'd like to see a follow up show in a year with all the people who got the cars and see who still has them. Maybe with the car, they'll be able to get a job and get insurance and pay the property tax and be alright. But I bet a few sell the car for money as well.

FROM: Joseph
DATE: Tuesday September 14, 2004 -- 11:35:41 am
Had Oprah provided slightly used cars, which could have easily been donated by one of the big rental conglomerates, with a tip of the hat to GM, she could have also seen to it that all normal operating costs such as gas, insurance, licensing and taxes would be provided for a year or two. That would have been a more complete and thoughtful gesture--and would sound to me less like HUGE PUBLICITY STUNT.

FROM: Tony [E-Mail]
DATE: Wednesday September 22, 2004 -- 9:41:32 am
Well, I guess I'll mention, the G6 is not a quality vehicle by any stretch. GM needs to wake up and smell the innovation. They're using the Saab platform that's been used since 93' also, that 3.5L six that puts out a woeful (claimed) 200bhp, is just a 3.4 with a bit more bore, someone tell GM to give up OHV, leave that for Corvette's and Camaro's.

FROM: Paul
DATE: Wednesday September 22, 2004 -- 1:46:18 pm
Tony, it's good to see you around these parts again!

Note that the news broke today that all of the car "winners" will indeed have to pay taxes. That brings the "free" price up to about $7k. Still not bad, to be sure, but definitely not free.

FROM: edzo
DATE: Friday September 24, 2004 -- 6:01:42 am
I wonder how her staff feels about it They work for her all year for probably not more than a competitive wage with maybe a nice Christmas party and some other petty gestures that don't amount to squat. All the audience members get a new vehicle; they get zilch, but have to be gushy and enthusiastic about what a great idea it is.

I know I wouldn't be happy about it unless I got a heluva good Christmas bonus every year for my efforts.

FROM: Joseph
DATE: Monday September 27, 2004 -- 1:07:34 pm
This is why Oprah is a genius. She convinces the public that she is helping the poor. But these very "poor" must be able to take a $7k hit at tax time. I'm not poor, but I don't know that I could afford a $7k hit at tax time.

According to one winner, Oprah really gave away a nice 75% discount on a new car. If Oprah really wanted to help the poor, she's buy up the $2k ten year old Toyota Camrys, like the one across the street for sale. I have a 1996 Plymouth Breeze that blue books for only $2k and after 100k miles I would still drive it anywhere. The thing still drives/looks like new. I'll drive it as long as I can just to avoid the high property tax charged in my town that is assessed on cars with higher blue book values. That tax alone keeps me from ever wanting a new car.

I bet there are a few reputable used car lots in the Chicagoland area that would be happy to have their stock bought out by a truly generous Oprah, who would then turn around and give the cars to the truly needy.

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