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How do you like GM's new logos?

As Bob Dylan sang, you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. These days, a dire breeze for General Motors is picking up, and, although it's coming from different places, and at different velocities, it's all blowing the same way. Um, down.

As James Surowiecki reports in last week's New Yorker, for the first time in history (the history of the automobile, anyway), GM is not the top seller of cars in the world. Toyota is, and Surowiecki credits their success to their distinctively Japanese approach, which hews to the ideal of kaizen—continuous improvement.

That bad news for GM dovetails with the company's announcement that it will close its Windsor transmission plant, a move that brings to 4000 its total Ontario layoffs in the past two years. Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty chose an odd metaphor to describe the shutdown.

"GM has a massive footprint in the province," he said. "In an ideal world, we could have said, 'We're prepared to partner with you on condition that you don't reduce any part of that footprint.' But no auto manufacturer was prepared to do that."

One primary reason that Toyota has surpassed GM: it's producing high-mileage and hybrid cars at a time when consumers, worried about their carbon footprint, are bringing ecological concerns to bear on their automobiling.

Now, of course "automobiling" and "ecological concerns" are uneasy bedfellows, but that doesn't seem to slow down the public relations exercises. In this morning's Globe and Mail is an insert entitled "The Greening of the Auto Industry." On the cover, certainly to GM's chagrin, are two large images of the hybrid Prius, the car that put Toyota over the top. GM is having a hard time getting itself on the cover of a corporate pamphlet, it seems.

GM does have an ad on the front of advertising insert, and it features their new lineup of "green" logos. Even if research and development have been flagging at the former number-one, people are staying up late in the public relations department. And for that they deserve commendation. Well done, GM—the logos are really nice.

[More reading at GM: Green by Design.]