Kim Carpenter Speaks on Life as GM Communications Manager

By Brad Credit, JCamp reporter

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Even when still, the Corvette Stingray is threatening.  The sleek red convertible is half the size of the SUVs that make up much of the parking lot, yet it seems to dwarf them.  For some, the Vette’s ‘bad boy’ presence is appealing, while others might be wary to turn the key.  For Kim Carpenter, remarking her preference for driving at low speed, it is the sight of a Chevrolet Tahoe or Traverse that ignites a particular passion in the Texas native.

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14-dayone0004“The reason I love the Tahoe is because it’s the vehicle that the first plant that I ever worked at made,” said Carpenter, explaining her love of Chevrolet’s full-size SUV.  “The other car that I have a lot of affinity for is the Chevy Traverse because that was a plant that didn’t exist, and I was responsible for getting it from the ground up.”

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Carpenter, who drove cautiously around Boston in Chevrolet’s new C7 Corvette Stingray so as to not damage the $53,000 coupe, is headquartered in New York City.  There she heads GM’s East Coast communications team, who take on the responsibility of things such as marketing GM’s cars to potential buyers and providing automotive journalists and bloggers with cars.

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Cars played a massive role in the Texan-born’s early life, as the state’s mass required her family to drive everywhere if there was a place she needed to go.  Driving was such an integral part of her life that she recalls celebrating her 16th birthday on a Sunday, and being in the DMV on Monday to receive her driver’s license.

That does not mean that she joined the General Motors Company purely out of an all-consuming infatuation for automobiles, admitting that though she definitely has an interest in cars, she can not explain what everything in it does.  Carpenter has long been involved in manufacturing businesses, having previously worked at a paper manufacturing company, citing an interest in contributing to the manufacturing of a product as to what drove her to GM.

“I came to General Motors because I love manufacturing, I heard about the people, and the innovation and technology,” she said about what brought her to one of the United States’ ‘Big Three’ motor companies.

As GM communications manager, it is also Carpenter’s responsibility, along with the rest of the communications team, to help oversee the correction of issues the company may face.  This is especially of relevance now, as General Motors finds themselves in the midst of a federal court case after having recalled 2.5 million cars for faulty ignition systems.  The problem, mainly seen in cars produced between the years of 2003 and 2011, is blamed for the cause of 31 crashes and 13 deaths.

When a situation such as the one currently plaguing General Motors comes upon the company, it is Carpenter’s job, along with the other members of the communications team, to ensure that everyone is in place to deal with the crisis, and also to form a small group of people with the most recent knowledge of the situation so they may relay it to the press.

“[To deal with serious issues] It needs to have the technical people from engineering, the safety officials and every discipline that touches the grain,” Carpenter said.  “And communications has to have a seat at the table to work on message development, and figuring out how to tell the story,” she added.

Carpenter also mentioned that the rest of the communications team must concurrently remain updated on what is going on, as though they may not have direct control over the situation, it is still important for their job position to know the latest happenings.  Carpenter said that her job as of now, amidst this crisis which has actually taken GM to federal court, is to “make sure that the media [she] interacts with are speaking to the right spokespeople.”

Kim Carpenter is honest in saying that the C7 Stingray intimidates her.  The fact that the gleaming red convertible is the company’s car and is sandwiched between two SUVs in a dim parking lot probably doesn’t help.  As friendly as the car is suggested to be, now featuring voice activation and other nifty gadgets to help the car appeal to a wider audience, the exhaust’s snarling growl warns otherwise.

Backing out of her parking spot, eyes fixed on the Stingray’s rearview camera, Carpenter minds the weight of her right foot, as the car’s monstrous 6.2-liter V8 engine has 450 horsepower itching to leap from the starting gate.  It is certainly a lot of power, but Carpenter can handle the responsibility.