The Mirror

GM denies social media destroyed exec’s promotion

Betsy Rothstein Gossip blogger
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A GM spokesman is citing “Facebook fatigue” for the reasons why GM executive Mark Reuss recently deactivated his Facebook account.

The company also denies that Reuss’s alleged involvement in an AstroTurf campaign was the reason he was passed over for CEO this week when his name had been floated for the post. In fact, GM denies any truth whatsoever to an online campaign in which an automotive blog asserted that Reuss used a fake username to beat back anti-GM commenters.

According to automotive websites, Reuss’s name had been mentioned as a possible successor to CEO Dan Akerson, who was appointed to the GM board by President Obama‘s Treasury Department during the government bailout after the company went bankrupt in 2009. Akerson later became CEO. This week they announced he’ll retire and Mary Barra, 51, will be the first woman to ever be CEO of a major automotive manufacturer in the world. Reuss, meanwhile, will slide into Barra’s position as global product development chief.

“Of all the speculation I’ve heard nothing more ridiculous,” GM spokesman Greg Martin told The Daily Caller’Mirror blog Thursday when asked if the recent social media weirdness surrounding Reuss was the reason he was skipped over for the CEO job.

The timing of Reuss deleting his Facebook account is certainly awkward. In early November, Reuss deleted his whole Facebook profile after posting a seemingly harmless response to a story on The Detroit Bureau, which cited the U.S. General Accounting Office and claimed that GM’s market share had dropped. Reuss defended GM in the response. His social media disappearing act has been covered by automotive websites such as Automotive News.

Wall Street Journal blog captured Reuss’s remarks before he deleted them. But the gaping hole here is the fact that Reuss used to use his Facebook profile to communicate with GM dealerships looking to be reinstated.

“Facebook [fatigue], I think it’s something that afflicts everyone from time to time,” said Martin, while stressing that social media sites like Facebook are important ways of connecting with the customer. He also said Reuss’ Facebook page was likely back up again and only on a two-week hiatus.

“It was fatigue,” Martin said of Reuss’ need to temporarily shut his Facebook page down. “Sometimes I get the messages and the comments, it’s just nice to take a break every once in awhile. I have to be particularly careful. I had to hide my phone for a couple of hours over Thanksgiving because I wanted to spend time with my family.”

Huh. So all this stuff about Reuss is made up? Complete and utter fiction? According to Martin, yes.

“That story was completely false and inaccurate,” he said, referring to a piece on the Daily Kanban, which said that Reuss had been part of an AstroTurf campaign to discredit commenters making disparaging remarks about GM. They outed Reuss, alleging that he led an anonymous online campaign out of GM headquarters in Detroit, where he and his team would blow up comments sections of articles that were critical of GM.

The details are downright juicy.

Most of Reuss’s posts were purportedly written by PR operatives. The tell-tale sign, reports the blog: Reuss is dyslexic. They explained, “Most of the allegedly-by-Reuss statements were grammatically correct.”

But Martin says no, not true. “There’s absolutely no basis in fact for that story,” he told The Mirror. “If you search the depths of the Internet, you will find varying depths of opinion, some more outlandish than others. We do take it for granted that we do have a free exchange of ideas. Now whether they’re true or not is a whole other matter.”

Reuss, at least formally, seems excited about his new position, even if it isn’t the top slot.

“The driver’s seat of designing and engineering the strongest product line up in GM’s history is the best seat to have,” the 50-year-old Reuss said in a story on the automotive website The Detroit Bureau. “We’re going to keep the pedal down on GM’s product resurgence and keep winning new customers.”

Pretty peppy for a guy who just got passed over.

Martin made no grand excuses for the pitfalls of social media, or the news media for that matter.

“I’m going to resist painting the press with broad strokes,” he said. “In this day and age with social media, if you’re an executive or someone, you always have to assume what you post, what pictures you post are out there in perpetuity. I think all of us understand the changing nature of the press, certainly the intense level of competitiveness of the press that the cycle is constant. Even though there may not be any news of substance, the cycle still needs to be fed.”

Could an exec mired in a social media scandal rise to CEO? Or was it just not in the cards? And now, out of the blue, he has scrapped his entire Facebook profile after posting one article on his page, as opposed to simply deleting what he had written.

The official explanation was in itself pretty sketchy. Martin said at the time, “Mark made a personal decision to deactivate his account, and it was in no way related to any recent posts.”

According to GM’s former vice chairman Bob Lutz, who still consults for the company, GM needs to be more open and transparent with the press.

“I do believe we have to be much bolder and much more self-aware, and in some cases, more controversial or willing to tell it like it is rather than putting out a more sanitized version,” Lutz said in a story for USA Today.

Right, unless it’s a GM exec on Facebook. Then, shhhh.