x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

GM gets a makeover made in Hollywood

News General Motors struggles to keep out of the spotlight as Chevrolet models steal the show in the new Transformers film.

The muscular Chevrolet Camaro is an iconic image of General Motors and Transformers 2 : Revenge of the fallen.
The muscular Chevrolet Camaro is an iconic image of General Motors and Transformers 2 : Revenge of the fallen.

Just when you might have expected General Motors (GM) to be keeping a low profile while it gets on with the business of working out how to pay back $50 billion (Dh183.5bn) of loans from the US taxpayer, along comes a Hollywood blockbuster to remind the world of some of the excesses that helped humble the company in the first place. Of course, the millions of dollars GM committed to Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen in product placement were promised long before the car maker's recent troubles began. But, depending on your view point, Transformers 2 is either another example of the overspending that brought the company to its knees or a step forward on the road to recovery.

In case you've missed all the pre-release hype and, indeed, Chevrolet Arabia's "Transform Your Ride" promotion on new cars, the movie features a number of GM products - the muscular Camaro, the outlandish Corvette Stingray concept and the groundbreaking Volt, to name but a few - in some of the finest Chevy chase scenes since Fletch was playing at your local cinema in the 1980s. With all those cars speeding across the screen, the film's plot is fairly standard fare. As it begins, the world is at peace thanks to the efforts of the fabulously named organisation called NEST who have been keeping a lid on the evil Decepticons since the first instalment of Transformers.

Then, there's a lot of aggravation and, wouldn't you know it, only two people, some GM cars (Autobots) and a load of CGI can save the world. Fortunately, for any male viewers of the film, one of those two people is Megan Fox. After the best part of two-and- half-hours - during which GM cars always look like world-beaters - all concerned agree to settle their differences and move on. And while you may not be able to stifle a yawn at these predictable turn of events, it didn't stop the film raking in $201.2 million (Dh738.9m) at the US box office in its first five days. The film is also a huge worldwide hit.

You might have thought this is good news for GM too? And, it's true, the Chevys look stunning in these high-gloss surroundings, but there are some obvious flaws too. Sure, the Camaro (which transforms into the loveable Bumblebee) is already in production and the Volt (aka Jolt) will definitely make it too, but the rest are more of a mixed bag. Sideswipe, a Corvette Stingray Concept, is such a futuristic rendering that it is unlikely to be seen in showrooms any time in the next hundred years.

While Mudflap and Skids, who are respectively, the defunct Chevrolet Trax concept and the next-generation Chevy Spark, are meant to be to this film what R2-D2 and C-3PO were to Star Wars, but have, instead, become embroiled in accusations that both characters are offensive, racial stereotypes. Michael Bay, the film's director, strenuously denies these claims, but its not really the best argument for Chevrolet to be caught in the middle of.

Despite all this, the futuristic retro classic that is the Camaro does literally and metaphorically win the day and makes GM look decidedly cool in the process. Whether the legions of teenagers who make up the film's target audience could afford to buy Chevrolet's hot new muscle car is another matter entirely. motoring@thenational.ae