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Vid Picks: Carmakers Crash YouTube

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Listening to most executives talk is a hard thing to do for more than two minutes at a time. There’s so much verbal obfuscation it starts to resemble a game of how to use the most words to say the least, leading to achievements like JetBlue (s jblu) CEO David Neeleman’s YouTube non-apology. But right now the big three U.S. auto manufacturers are trying to get their point across to the American people, using the tools of social networking…with minimal success.

The GM (s gm) Blogs initiative is firing on all of its social media cylinders — blogging, Twittering and YouTubing. But as Chris noted back in October, YouTube comments are still disabled, and while the blog is well-intentioned (and does allow commenting), it’s all pretty after-the-fact. A post from Dec. 2nd makes GM’s plan for long-term viability available to the general public. But if GM were really interested in what the American people thought, why didn’t they make the plan available before submitting it to Congress, actively soliciting ideas and incorporating feedback into the final product? The 7-minute-long video accompanying this blog post gives the less-than-dynamic Ray Young a chance to answer some questions about the plan. Not questions from actual people, though, just questions chosen by the marketing team to focus on the points they want covered: another missed opportunity for real interactivity.

Chrysler (s dcx) is the most explicit about hoping to harness the post-Obama populist spirit. Its campaign “Grab Democracy By the Horns” (seriously: practically demands that people reach out to their elected representatives. But the site is badly designed, features at least one broken tag, and isn’t even completely finished — which seems absurd, given that the bailout appeal began approximately three weeks ago. Shouldn’t they know by now what they want to say about the PAC?

And the accompanying videos (which aren’t even linked to the main site) are pretty awful — amateur production values, rambling in length — which is probably why none of them have broken the 1,000-view mark. Below is one of their most-watched videos, a series of interviews with Chrysler employees and dealers. It looks like it was produced in 1988.

Ford (s f) has a nicely designed site with information about the company and plenty of social networking tools, all focused conveying on a message of “Really, things aren’t so bad, the company is solid, we just need a little help.” CEO Alan Mulally’s video outreach has racked up a somewhat impressive 30,000 views, but I think I’d be a lot more convinced by what he’s saying if he could look me — or the camera — in the eye.

Points to Ford for allowing text comments on its YouTube channel (unlike GM) and also for keeping things short (unlike Chrysler). But the one enduring characteristic is that as great as all their social networking is, none of it is driven towards getting taxpayer feedback. Here’s a hint, guys: People are usually more interested in having a conversation with — and hence doing a favor for — someone they know is listening.

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