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GM May End Pontiac or Buick Line

Looks like the budget axe may be falling at GM.

GM Says It May Kill Off One of Its Brands

DETROIT (Reuters) - General Motors Corp., which issued a shock profit warning last week and has been losing market share, may phase out one of its weaker car brands if sales fail to meet projections, company Vice Chairman Bob Lutz said on Wednesday.

GM's Buick and Pontiac are both "damaged brands" due to lack of investment over the years, and GM is working to correct that with an array of new vehicles coming to market, Lutz told a Morgan Stanley automotive conference in New York.

But if some of its brands fail to meet sales projections, "then we would have to take a look at a phase-out. I hope we don't have to do that. What we've got to do is keep the brands we've got."

Financial analysts have said for years that the world's largest automaker has too many brands to support, even with the gradual phase-out of the Oldsmobile brand a few years ago, particularly with its weaker U.S. sales.

Sales for both Pontiac and Buick have lagged in recent years. But GM is in the midst of a $3 billion investment in new vehicles for Buick, and Pontiac showrooms and they will have four new vehicles this year, including the Solstice roadster, Torrent SUV and the G6 mid-size coupe. [links mine -ed]

With all due respect to the marketing folks at GM, they are SOOO missing the boat. Those vehicles are boring. I'll tell you how to save Buick... The same way they saved the brand in the early 1980s. Horsepower.

In 1982 Buick introduced a limited edition Regal Grand National. It put Buick back on the map and saved them for another 2 decades. But unlike Ford who has (over)used (and so abused) the Mustang brand, Buick then walked away from it.

Now throw into the mix that GM is about to introduce the LS7 engine. Without too many numbers and letters, it produces 500hp in a 427ci block. Incredible for a production engine.

A Match made in heaven... Or at least Detroit.

What GM should have done is put LS7 into a 25th Anniversary, limited edition Buick Grand National II. Instead, they put it into the Corvette which, lets review, is going to sell anyway. They could make a limited edition black and silver that would be on the cover of every car magazine. They would be sold before they even started production. With the exception of the Vet and the Camaro, GM has failed to really milk a product line like Ford has with the Mustang.

Let's accept reality. (sorry Mustang fan but...) For about half of the product life of the Mustang, they have been a lame car. Everyone thinks of them as a muscle car but when they were introduced they were a "sporty" car, not a "sports" car. It was only later the Ford added the muscle.

And can you say Mustang II? Oh Please! What a humiliation for a proud brand. But Ford has milked the Mustang mystic for years. Time for GM to play the game.

OK, for you true car guys (and the occasional gal) I know what you're thinking... the reintroduction of the GTO was not that big a deal in 2004 right? Well, OK -- No it wasn't... but the car was boring! See the top of this rant.

Postscript- Now if they let Corvette have the LS7 but then built a Grand National II with an LS7 Turbo... Car freaks would have to wipe up the retro drool.


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Comments (32)

The problem is GM has what ... (Below threshold)
Faith+1:

The problem is GM has what 8...10 brands? Frankly, having recently been in the car chopping market I got confused as to what brand was what and they started to look the same. They need to slim down the product choices and focus on making a few lines better.

I'd prefer to choose from 4 kick-ass models than 14 mediocre ones.

I can't speak to the Grand National but I know the rest of the Buick Regal line was a disaster. My father and Uncle each got one and after a year (4 months spent in the shop) both sold theirs at a significant loss. Reallly crushed my Dad as he was a Buick man through and through...for example, this was his "new" car after his trusted 57 Roadmaster just needed to be retired...

GM will kill itself slowly.... (Below threshold)
jlj:

GM will kill itself slowly. They need somthing people WANT. Killing Buick wil only hurt. Buildit, the buyers will come.

Like a few years back when ... (Below threshold)
Ira:

Like a few years back when they came out with the brilliant new slogan, "It's not your father's Oldsmobile." My father had three of them and they were great.

In defense of Ford... Ford ... (Below threshold)
Darkmage:

In defense of Ford... Ford finally caught a clue, which is why the Mustang came back from near-death in the early 90s. They adapted the car to the public's desire for the car, something GM has consistently failed to do. I suppose the argument exists for Ford "milking" the Mustang, but the Mustang is now what people want now. You can't really say that about GM except for the Corvette.

Gah, remember what GM did to the Impala SS? It used to be a kickass power sedan. GM could bring it back with a vengeance, but I doubt they know how.

It bothered me when the Old... (Below threshold)
been there:

It bothered me when the Oldsmobile line was dropped. If the Aurora had been introduced just a few years before it might have saved the nameplate.

The problem at GM is not th... (Below threshold)

The problem at GM is not that it has too many brands but that it makes too many vehicles that any idiot can see are virtually identical and tries to pass them off as somehow possessing different characters. We called it "badge engineering" in the 70s and 80s and it culminated in the disastrous Cadillac Cimaron. Buick's LaCrosse illustrates the problem hasn't gotten much better. Further complicating matters is styling that is either drying paint boring (Pontiac GTO) or unbelievably horrendous (Chevy Malibu). Kill Hummer, Pontiac and Buick, sell Saab before it croaks completely, make Chevy the truck/suv/minivan line (plus the Corvette), keep Saturn around for small and mid-size econo and sports sedans and sell/develop Cadillac for all its worth. Then cross your fingers because even such a restructured GM is going to have a tough, tough time battling Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Hyundai.

I've been discussing this a... (Below threshold)

I've been discussing this a bunch on my website following the purchase of my new car and reading the book "The End of Detroit", which details some problems with the Big3 that matched my experiences and impressions.

A
B
C

Bottom line is that the Big3 don't really approach car-making with a clear target in mind and an intent to make the best car for that market segment.
They need to differentiate better.
Rather than killing off Pontiac or Buick, they should remake them. Let Pontiac, say, attempt to steal BMW's market by making an American "ultimate driving machine" for $5000 less than a similarly-equipped Beamer. Let Buick attempt to take on one (or all) of the Japanese upscale lines like Acura or Infiniti. Retool Cadillac to take on the customer that likes Benz.
And first and foremost, raise the quality of every car. People won't stick with a carmaker that makes cars with problems like the ones Faith+1's dad and uncle bought. But I know dozens of people with experiences like that with American cars, and yet no one I have ever heard of has gotten a "lemon" Toyota or Honda. Not that it doesn't happen, I'm sure, but it isn't very common.
Which one each brand should go for is unimportant. The point is, the Big3

oops.The point is th... (Below threshold)

oops.
The point is the Big3 have been satisfied with "good enough" for too long, and people have learned they can get better for cheaper if they avoid Big3.
American loyalty only goes so far; it usually doesn't go as far as throwing away thousands of dollars.
There is no reason a new car should ever spend a day in the shop on non-scheduled maintenance in its first 3 years. If the owner meets all scheduled maintenance, it probably shouldn't have a problem while it is still being paid off, not if they want a repeat customer.

GM's biggest problem is the... (Below threshold)

GM's biggest problem is the UAW. Next to that, it's a failure to understand the market. I once had a roommate with a two year old Cutlass convertible. I thought it was a good looking car, but the interior was crap. The buttons and switches were loose, and falling apart. More eletronics is not a good thing, qulaity materials sells cars. Meanwhile, I had a Honda Accord with 110k miles and every switch and button functioned like the day it was first sold. Why is GM in trouble? When I look a the cars today, nothing has changed. They cut corners in the wrong places.

Slightly OT, but GM-related... (Below threshold)

Slightly OT, but GM-related. GMC's tagline these days is "We're professional grade." So does that mean Chevy trucks are for amateurs?

I mean, could an Olympic athlete lose his amateur standing by tading in his Chevy for a GMC?

'GM's Buick and Pontiac are... (Below threshold)
Jack Tanner:

'GM's Buick and Pontiac are both "damaged brands" due to lack of investment over the years, and GM is working to correct that with an array of new vehicles coming to market,'

They'd be better off trying to bring dead people back to life. Who under 70 owns a Buick?

It's pretty hard to sum up ... (Below threshold)
jeff:

It's pretty hard to sum up the problems at GM in a short blog post... let's just agree on that. Financially, their legacy pension costs are really what's killing them as a bigger chunk of the cost of a new vehicle is attributed to those pension costs than any other car manufacturer on the planet. Look at the steel industry and see the effects of decades of rich pensions coming due in a stable or shrinking workforce (same predicament as social security).

On the brands issue it's really clear that GM does have too many brands. Going back a few years they pulled back and killed only Oldsmobile when there was talk of doing in Buick or Pontiac at the time as well. Rebuilding the Cadillac brand has been a $2.5 billion exercise for GM and it's just now paying off (although the XLR is only hitting 70% of it's sales targets and you could make the case that a rebadged Tahoe in the form of the Escalade is not enough for durable success). You could lose Buick today and the market would fill the void immediately.

The Corvette is an important car for GM because of it's historical significance and the global appeal, something Buick and Pontiac just don't have. The new LS-7 powerplant in this car is a smart move, especially with the 6 less inches in the wheelbase. This is legitimately a car that can take on the world's production supercar class and hold it's own, and at a price point that is 40% of what those cars range in at. The GTO that you lambast is a smart move because it's a rebadged Monaro from Australia, which simply means the car is profitable from day 1. GM and GMC trucks are still the vehicles that pay for everything else and they are both due for a makeover in the face of strong F150 sales. Saturn has new models coming out on shared platforms, there's a huge investment there and one that needs to be maintained.

You talk about the Grand National... it was one car 23 years ago and as a standalone model it just isn't capable of selling 80,000 units a years. Period. Performance does sell, but today's market is a hell of a lot more complex with sport and rally type cars taking the lions share of the performance markets. Buick is stuck in a tweener market, remaking the brand as a pure performance brand would be a several billion dollar investment and doing so is what really misses the point. Pontiac has a much better chance of doing this. The GM Performance division has also built a nice franchise with the SSR, SS version of the Cobalt, and the -V versions of the Cadillacs.

GM has plenty of performance, the prescription for them is unit economics. Read more at Bob Lutz's blog, http://fastlane.gmblogs.com/

I don't understand how you ... (Below threshold)
George:

I don't understand how you think horsepower will save GM.
They already have it!
You can get a Corvette with 400 hp,
GTO with 400 hp,
SSR with 390 hp,
Cadillac Escalade with 345 hp,
Hummer with 325 hp,
Suburban with 320 hp,
Trailblazer with 300 hp,
Avalanche with 320 hp,
Cadillac STS with 320 hp,
Cadillac SLR with 320 hp,
Silverado with 300 hp,
Cadillac DeVille with 290 hp.

George,Look where al... (Below threshold)
sparky:

George,
Look where all the HP is though.

You just showed us Cadillac and Chevy with the exception of the GTO. That car is so mundane I don't even notice when one goes by. Sure it's fast but it doesn't turn heads and draw attention.

The new Mustang sure turns my head and I've been a lifelong Firebird fanatic.

GM doesn't pay attention to what the market wants. They kept making the f-bodies bigger and more bloated while the Mustang stayed smaller and more popular. Sure the Camaro/Firebirds had more HP but that didn't save them.

I look at GM's lineup of vehicles and there is nothing except for Cadillac and the Corvette that interests me at all.

My wife's '01 Golf may not have a great repuation, but it's been rock solid for us so far and it's a far bit nicer inside than any of the GM cars that size.

Buick used to be the iron fist in the velvet glove, now it's just an old peoples car. Pontiac used to much plastic cladding and the G6 still doesn't compare to what imports can offer as far as ride and performance. The Grand Prix is nice but with an automatic only I'll pass.

Whoever made the point about Pontiac taking on Bimmers is right. Sink some money into it and do to Pontiac what the Corvette is to other supercars.

While you're at it give Buick some sort of style that stands out, and I'm not talking Aztec.

The only thing that will s... (Below threshold)
Peter:

The only thing that will save Buick is if they bring back the Roadmaster. A full sized six passenger V-8, with rear wheel drive, a comfortable ride and quiet luxury.
The Roadmaster was THE car for people who could afford Cadillacs, who wanted the reliabilty and comfort of a Caddy but without the flash and glitz. Wealthy people who wanted their wealth noticed drove Caddys, those who did not want to be noticed drove Roadmasters.
Remember that book The Millionaire Next Door? That millionaire drove a Roadmaster.
Idiot GM let the quality slip then came the inevitable shutdown. Peabrains.

People don't just want stra... (Below threshold)

People don't just want straight-line speed anymore. Handling, feeling the road, braking, less road-noise, decent fuel economy...all these things seem to rank as highly as horsepower and gadgets these days.
The Big3 are still making cars as if people have to start out buying spartan econoboxes while lusting for the eventual day when they can "move up" to a Pontiac, Buick, or Cadillac. Those days are gone.

WOW great comments Jeff you... (Below threshold)
Paul:

WOW great comments Jeff you said a bunch of interesting things but these caught my eye:

The GTO that you lambast is a smart move because it's a rebadged Monaro from Australia, which simply means the car is profitable from day

I did not lambast it per se. My point was that if you are going to bring back the goat make it more goat like and less "lexus wannabe with a big engine." Think Ford GTO

You talk about the Grand National... it was one car 23 years ago and as a standalone model it just isn't capable of selling 80,000 units a years. Period.

True, big I think you missed my core point. Give people a reason to want a Buick again! When was the last time you heard someone say, "Man, have you seen that new Buick?"

Buick's big problem is that... (Below threshold)
profligatewaste:

Buick's big problem is that the majority of their customers are men wearing hats, barely able to see over the steering wheel; they'll soon run out of repeat business. I don't how they can revive Buick's appeal to younger customers, but then on the other hand, I thought Cadillac was doomed.

Having grown up in a "chevy... (Below threshold)
DJ:

Having grown up in a "chevy" only household, I'll always have a soft spot for some of the GM lineup (namely Chevrolet).

Buick and Pontiac are dead weight for General Motors. Bad decisions in styling (aztek, rendezvous), poor quality, and a geriatric image have killed them. Best thing going for either brand is the rebadged Toyota Matrix in the form of the Pontiac Vibe and the rebadged Holden Monaro in the form of the GTO.

Horsepower alone will sell to some people, but for the vast majority (myself included), it's a package deal with a compromise between performance, styling, and reliability all with respect to price. Buick and Pontiac fail miserably in at least two of the categories (performance and sytling) and usually fail with respect to price as well.

The Corvette is THE GM perf... (Below threshold)

The Corvette is THE GM performance car. You'll make a lot of people very mad if you take the new LS7 and turbocharge charge it and stick it in something else.

Plus, let's remember the history of the Grand National. It was only a V6. I don't think it has the same kind of legacy as the GTO.

A new Grand National could be made, but you can't force people to buy it. I don't see it saving a brand. GM has enough niche cars already.

Being a successful car company doesn't rely on having a bunch of glitzy attention getters. Honda and Toyota sell tons of vehicles (most of which I don't care for) based on them being good, affordable cars.

And they should ditch the UAW.

Paul,I also think th... (Below threshold)
jeff:

Paul,
I also think the GTO is boring, but from a product management standpoint it is boring without having all of the downside of introducing a totally new car that is called boring. GM can (and should) do better with the GTO, they seem to have heard that message so let's see what they come out with. Most of all I dislike the amount of flimsy plastic in the interiors (I have a GMC Sierra and my wife has a GMC Denali). That would be my first area of serious attention... if you compare the new F150 interior to my Sierra it's night and day.

On the Grand National, that was an interesting car at the time because it was so out-of-the-box thinking for GM (same with the Hurst Olds that came out at the same time, remember the lightening rod shifters!). I just don't think they hit the same market appeal today with that car or that thinking. Buick and Pontiac both could offer performance in the same vein that the Mitsubishi Evo and Subaru WRX cars are doing, take the Pontiac Vibe and make a rally car out of it. The problem with just putting more horsepower in the powerplant is that car buyers want more... handling and styling as well.

I don't know what the prescription is for Buick or Pontiac, but GM has a real mess on their hands. The investments that they have made in the Corvette and Cadillac (even though the XLR is built on the corvette platform) are hard to transfer to other brands without risking the premium brands. Trucks and SUV's are tapering off, and at any rate GM needs to refresh that entire line in 2007. Their small cars (Vibe, G6, Cobalt) are nice cars and should do well, but they'll still have to plan a big refresh on that lineup by the end of the decade. I'd like to see them drop Buick and focus on Chevrolet/GMC/Pontiac/Cadillac/Saturn and turn around Opel in Europe. Hummer is a good low volume, highly profitable group, they should be left alone (the H2 and H3 are built on the Tahoe platform anyways).

Back in the 80s, Buick was ... (Below threshold)
Alan Draconic:

Back in the 80s, Buick was getting a rep as an old people car, then the 86 and 87 Grand Nationals came out. If you look at the production figures for the 87 versus the 86, word got out.

http://www.gnttype.org/general/product.html

If you look the sales TRIPPLED between 86 and 87, wehn word got out about the incredible platform the Regals were performance wise.
Buick has always been famous for "quiet" performance, the GS of the 70s is a great example, Buick had a 455 that would rival any Poncho 455 easily yet it's hardly talked about in the muscle car era. Let buick have at least two "big stick" cars. They have an Ecotec VVT V6 in the wings that's 400 HP with twin turbos, put that in the GN as the main show car. Then also have options of a Regal with the TT V6, the LS7, the 5.3 or the supercharged 3800 that would appeal more to the masses for your bulk of the sales.
When he's talking about Mustangs being over milked, he's definitely right but a lot of owners look at it this way; the sale of the V6 stangs pays the bills and is what allows the GTs and the Cobras to exist.
Whoever said that GM needs to realize that Americans have choices other then ecconoboxes, I think you've hit it on the head; GM's making econno boxes while others are moving on. If Buick were to make something that was high quality with decent power and RWD plus nice styling, they'd have something on the competition and be competitive. If they had gotten on it a few years back they could have released a new Grand National in 2007, just in time for it's production line to have been silent for 2 decades.

On the GTO, GM needs to use their heads, the re-labeled Manaro would have looked significantly sportier with a new trunk lid, tail lights, rear bumper cover and hood. GM definitely doesn't realize what they have, I've heard the interiors on these is incredibly well built and overall they're nice cars just toned down. I think pontiac's "sport" image is far over used as well, and it hurts the new GTO.

Oh yeah, screw you GM for killing the Astro van off.

Exposing the deeper problem... (Below threshold)
Joe Ego:

Exposing the deeper problems, is the cost issue. Pension and worker/health costs are way too high. Before investors realized this was a problem GM was happy to subsidize underperforming brands with cash from Hummer and GMC.

The central problem is identity. Nobody could articulate Oldsmobile's identity in a way that differentiated it from Buick, Cadillac, or the other brands. Now it's gone. Buick and Pontiac desperately need their own identities. I don't believe GM can afford to maintain 3 sperate catchall brands in the US (Chevy, Buick, Pontiac, maybe Saturn).

Pontiac = excitement. Is that 'racing excitement' or 'extreme excitement'? The headline products (Solstice, GTO, G6) say 'racing'. But then why the Aztek? Why the Montana, Torrent, and SV6? Pontiac should not be selling minivans and SUVs! Let GMC, Chevy, or Hummer sell the funky, outdoorsy stuff. BMW should defintely be a performance target! Who would argue with a car that offers 8 tenths of BMW performance at 2/3 price? As mentioned, this is total performance. The Grand Prix GXP only gets halfway there with a V8 driving the front wheels.

The Solstice is an example of amost everything done right. It looks as good or better than the orginal concept show car. It is built first and foremost to match the design concept, an old style roadster, instead of trying to force inappropriate-square-peg-parts into a round-hole-product. To top it off, it was created quickly. A lot more G6 would sell if people didn't have to wait 2 years from release to get a 4-cylinder version.

Buick = luxury? So what do you do with regards to Cadillac? Plus Chevy and others squeezing from the bottom? I like sparky's "iron fist in the velvet glove" description. They're getting there, but again with the cookie cutter minivan? "Quiet Tuning" is a good bit of marketing and design. They need a halo, Grand National-type vehicle. Just like the 300C and Magnum, Buick really needs that one good product topped off by an outstanding halo trim level to get people's attention.

Random fan plug: http://www.gminsidenews.com/

As the son of a Buick lover... (Below threshold)
Oldsboy:

As the son of a Buick lover, I must tell you my 60 something dad is becoming really disgusted with GM. After driving Oldsmobiles for years he left them for Buick after they attempted to "remake" Olds for import buyers and failed miserably. When they finally pulled the plug on Olds, he was disappointed but they only had themselves to blame. Like a previous post, he wouldn't own a Cadillac because they are "too flashy" and the Pontiacs and Chevrolets turn him off completely. I believe he will desert GM on his next purchase for Chrysler or Mercury.(My Mom already has) He is a child of the glory days of Detroit and gives some credit to his 1957 Buick Super with landing my Mom, plus he liked her '55 Olds 98. I wonder how long the rot that is GM will start infecting all the divisions?

I think GM keeps trying to ... (Below threshold)

I think GM keeps trying to maintain it's base in a concerted effort to also attract new buyers. The net result is products that don't really appeal to either.

Everyone here seems to agree that the new GTO isn't great. The new Malibu was a let-down. The reborn Impala was a waste.

In trying to please everyone, they're hardly impressing anyone.

I think there are different... (Below threshold)

I think there are different kinds of luxury, yanno? So Buick could be the understated, performance luxury sedan, and Cadillac could be the ostentatious, flashy luxury. Like the difference between Lexus and Mercedes Benz, perhaps.
Yeah, you could kill off Buick and let Pontiac and Cadillac each take half of the performance/luxury continuum, meeting in the middle.

Something needs to be done, though, and straight-line power/massive HP totals just ain't gonna do it.

People live in their cars these days, commuting hours each week. With both adults in the household working, and usually far apart, with no neighbors working anywhere near each other, having a breakdown that necessitates taking the car to the shop is a major irritation. The Big3 need to learn to make a truly, 100%-for-the-life-of-the-loan reliable car, and build from there.

Years ago I owned an 85 Bui... (Below threshold)
John Irving:

Years ago I owned an 85 Buick Regal Grand National (before the Intercooler system was added to the turbo 3.8 V6), around 1990-1993. I blew the doors off of eery car that dared challenge me but for two. One was a brand new ZR-1 Corvette, a car that cost probably five times what I paid for mine, and the other was a customized 5.0 liter Mustang GT with a nitrous fogger system. The third time we raced, his engine caught fire. . .
"Entity" (as my car was known, and tagged) averaged 25-28 miles to the gallon, seated four comfortably, had the trunk space for a weeklong trip for those four, and turned heads with the gloss-black styling that quietly stated "how's it feel to want?"

The day Buick put out a new GN I'd be at the dealer the first model day with bank paperwork in hand.

Two years ago the spot pric... (Below threshold)
robert:

Two years ago the spot price flirted with the $15 range and the sales of larger trucks and SUV's went up. This was good for GM with the larger profit margins - a Suburban has a margin about five times that of a Mustang. Several years ago, GM made a boatload of money, so I question that the problem is with the product offering.

Today, with the spot price about $55 and just as likely to go up as down, the management of the sales mix will change. Trucks are about half of the current consumer market and the big three sell a higher percentage of them, as opposed to the foreign manufactuers.

GM has very high per unit costs due to a number of things, but it is not untrue to associate much of this with higher labour costs, UAW, pensions, health care, etc. Higher profit margins are the only thing that can sustain higher costs, over time, since the UAW is not going away anytime soon.

Many of us are horsepower freaks - and bless us for it - but the market for high horsepower cars is not particularly large, or particularly profitable.

Nor are the individual problems with cars and dealerships, related in this thread, likely to solve it: GM has made remarkable progress in initial product quality ratings (JD Power) and now leads the foreigners in many product categories. Buick has been strong in this area.

In this thread, the expected explosion of high horsepower cars runs contrary to what one would expect with higher fuel costs.

The elimination of Buick or Pontiac, or both, reflects the shift to trucks as much as anything else, and offers a reduction in overhead and redundancy. I agree with the above posters who point out that GM has for too long offered too similar products in the brands. GM, I think, agrees also.

No, the future of GM has much more to do with the oil price and the shift to trucks than it has to do with the missing 500 hp LS7.

Bob Lutz turned around Chry... (Below threshold)

Bob Lutz turned around Chrysler, I think he will be successful at GM, too. But GM is a much larger, and more dysfunctional, ship.

The key is design. Lutz made Chrysler build interesting cars (the PT Cruiser, for example, or the Crossfire, or the 300M). I bought my first ever Chrysler product in 2002 -- a PT.

It takes a couple of years for the new designs to reach the field. I think 2006 and 2007 are key years for GM; then we'll see if they have it in them to be interesting.

To me, I would also consider merging Pontiac and Chevrolet into one division, and merge Buick into the Cadillac end of the business. But these are secondary considerations.

Build interesting cars and people will come.

"The Corvette is THE GM per... (Below threshold)
jef:

"The Corvette is THE GM performance car. You'll make a lot of people very mad if you take the new LS7 and turbocharge charge it and stick it in something else."

that's exactly what they are doing with the Trailblazer SS - it has the same powerplant as the Corvette. It's the total package that makes a car like the Vette, not the powerplant alone.

"The central problem is identity. Nobody could articulate Oldsmobile's identity in a way that differentiated it from Buick, Cadillac, or the other brands."

I'm just not buying this notion anymore that a brand has to stand for something singular. Take a look at Cadillac as an example, the CTS-V racing program has had a fantastic first year, including 3 wins (one at Sebring). Is Cadillac a performance brand? The XLR is built on the Corvette platform, the Escalade on a Tahoe... roadster and truck. A Saturn ION holds a world speed record at Bonneville, over 212 mph using a crate engine, is Saturn a performance brand.

Mercedes has the phenomenal SLR car, yet offer the Maybach, are they super luxury or performance? Better yet, Mercedes also has the A class and the Smart car, are they econo cars? Toyota has the Prius and the Tundra, what are they known for? Quality is the answer, and that's not anything that should differentiate one GM badge from another.

The notion that a car brand has to have an identity that appeals to a specific set of emotions is outdated, an artifact of the 1950's-60's.

A comment was made in this thread about Bob Lutz and what he did at Chrysler to make interesting cars. It's true, but what enabled that was technology advances that enabled Chrysler to bring cars from the drawing board to the showroom floor in 24 months rather than the 60 that it used to take. Today, flexible manufacturing (which is where much of the investment in Cadillac has gone) is enabling auto manufacturers to be profitable with fewer numbers of cars in any given model. If you can be breakeven on 30k units a year, then the risk associated with an edgy design or new technology is significantly offset. Having said all that, the platform investment is enormous in terms of people and dollars. GM's Zeta architecture was recently put on hold for this reason, they have to get the next gen of trucks/SUVs out sooner and need the resources that Zeta was consuming.

It's nice to think that thi... (Below threshold)
Andrew:

It's nice to think that this problem could be resolved by getting rid of a union, or bringing in a new lineup or even chopping the current one(s). But let's face a reality, GM has been chopping jobs for some time now(800,000 since 1980 in US), and by cutting so many jobs how can you expect to sustain sales?

To compete with Japan, GM NEEDS to bring back operations in Canada and the US. Operations in Mexico that were thought to save money are losing money, and until they make a move to save themselves, both the US and Canada are in a bind.

I read this topic. I think ... (Below threshold)

I read this topic. I think may be more optimistic opinion...




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