Cadillac is a strong supporter of diversity in the arts. / Courtesy photo

Automakers Support and Celebrate LGBTQ Drivers

During Motor City Pride in Detroit last June, General Motors put its best wheels forward with faded rainbow-painted versions of the Cadillac Lyriq electric crossover and CT5 sport sedan, each bearing the phrase “Everybody In.” During the month, GM’s iconic Renaissance Center headquarters was fronted by an array of Pride flags. GM is not alone in its support and celebration of our community.

I’ve been involved with the auto industry my entire life; my father retired from General Motors. In their day, it was unimaginable for automakers to embrace LGBTQ employees and customers. Even following the era of Bud Light and trans TikTok star Dylan Mulvaney, automakers continue to support some of their most loyal stakeholders.

Authenticity Required, Humor Appreciated

Those of us in the LGBTQ community can detect inauthentic people quickly. We’ve encountered their judgment and patronizing sass our entire lives. If an automaker — or any company — is going to approach us, they must act genuinely. Still, a little humor never hurts.

In 1996, Subaru followed Saab and Saturn in advertising in gay newspapers. The company was also the first in the auto industry to design gay- and lesbian-specific pieces.

“Subaru owners have always been our biggest source of inspiration, and there is nothing more authentic than real people sharing how their vehicle enhances their life,” said Diane Anton, Corporate Communications Manager, Subaru of America. “Subaru is also authentic in our own corporate spaces. Subaru of America, Inc. was named a 2022 Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality by the Human Rights Campaign.”

Subaru used out tennis player Martina Navratilova in early ads, but a clever one featured the sporty performance-oriented WRX model mounted on a bubble card with the headline, “Nice Package.” Another featured the first-generation Outback alongside the Forester crossover and Legacy sedan with the line, “Different Drivers. Different Roads. One Car.” Another displayed an Outback lofting bicycles saying “It’s Not a Choice. It’s The Way We’re Built.”

“Subaru holds the record for the longest consistent history of gay and lesbian advertising,” Anton continued. “Furthermore, Subaru was first in the automotive industry to design gay- and lesbian-specific ad creative, rather than running the same ads featured in mainstream publications.”

Subaru first embraced LGBTQ drivers when researchers discovered a disproportionate number of lesbians in the Northeast purchasing its cars. Turns out, lesbians just liked the cars, appreciating their all-weather capability and versatility. So, Subaru embraced them and still contributes to organizations devoted to causes that matter, like HRC and PFLAG. Subaru was also one of the first automakers to offer same-sex partner benefits to employees.

Showing Some Public Pride

General Motors took a similar approach — and it also began from within.

“We’ve supported Motor City Pride parade and festivities in Detroit during Pride month since its inception,” said a GM DEI spokesperson. “Beyond June, we’ve worked with the Human Rights Campaign for several years and continue to work with community organizations that support LGBTQ youth. Above all, we continue to support our employees and the GM PLUS [employee resource group]. This has allowed us to gain more insights into LGBTQ customers and their needs.”

General Motors, along with Ford and Chrysler, was early to offer same-sex partner benefits — a request from the United Auto Workers during negotiations with its hourly workforce. GM is celebrating 30 years of GM PLUS. More specifically, Cadillac is a strong supporter of diversity in the arts and focused on photographer Dario Calmese as part of its Audacity of Hope campaign.

One of my all-time favorite ads was for the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid, a “bi” car, sitting between a Tahoe SUV and Cruze compact, with the line, “Mom, Dad, I’m Electric.” The piece was created to promote Motor City Pride and won a GLAAD award.

“We are on a journey to be a more inclusive company,” the GM spokesperson said. “Our message often starts with our employees, which means creating a workplace culture where everyone feels safe and comfortable being their authentic selves every day.”

Supporting LGBTQ Drivers Matters

In light of controversy over Bud Light and DEI being under attack in Florida and other states, automakers do not take outreach to our community lightly.

“While we can’t comment on other companies and their journey, we know that it’s imperative to bring everyone along as we transition our business to electric vehicles,” the GM spokesperson said. “Our employees are our greatest asset and through them, we strive to meet customer and market demands.”

In the end, LGBTQ customers are like any other drivers. We enjoy cars, take our families on trips, drive to dinner, and occasionally spank a sexy sports car during a weekend romp. We should also appreciate the automakers that embrace our community.

When I was coming out 20 years ago, there was a Volvo ad that read, “Whether you’re starting a family or creating one as you go.” It featured all kinds of gay couples, including two young guys with a baby. That photo was in my mind as my husband and I adopted our little girl. Ads like these respect who we are, show us where to spend our money, and make it okay for others to do the same.