From an interview I did today with GM’s Gary Grates, VP Communications for North America, for the book:

“Bob Lutz, our 73-year-old vice chairman, was on a plane coming back from Europe when he started writing a response to some posts about GM he’d read on other blogs. He said, ‘What do I do with this?'”

Grates told GM’s communications techies to drop what Lutz had written about the new Saturn design into the Movable Type template being readied. And Fastlane was born (on Jan. 5, 2005)…

(GM’s Web techies had been pushing for a blog and the compay had already hired a PR agency, Haas MS & L, to design it.)

Apocryphal? I think not. Speaking with Grates today I was struck by his comfort level with the extemporaneous, reactive and in-the-moment nature of blogging — scary stuff for most big companies intent on controlling the message.

He used phrases like: “The worst thing we (GM) can do is make (blogging) a process or a program that needs to be serviced or funded.” Currently about 3 techies and 3 or 4 communications managers work on the blog but it’s not an official part of anyone’s job description.

Grates and several direct reports review the hundreds of comments posted to Fastlane before they go live. They usually get the comments up within 24 hours. (They delete very few of them, he told me.) Grates loves the long comments from passionate customers and thinks they’re getting ever more “constructive” even if many are critical.

And yes, Lutz writes all his own posts and then emails them to the tech staff who drop them into the blog.”I’d love to say that communications is helping him,” said Grates.  “But they’re not.”

As for what Lutz chooses to write about, “He juxtaposes his response to reader comments with what he wants to write about next,” Grates said. “There’s no science to it.”

This makes GM sound like a poster child for corporate blogging, doesn’t it?! Maybe I’m an easy sell but I believe it. Click Comments below and tell me to jump in a lake if you disagree.

I’ve got more good stuff from the interview but I’ll save it for the book… Gotta hold something back, right?!