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GM Doesn't Have a Bad Image. It Has A Bad Reality.

Posted by: David Kiley on March 24, 2005

Paraphrasing a line written by David E. Davis, the dean of automotive journalism, about the city of Detroit, “General Motors (Davis wrote of the City of Detroit) doesn’t have a bad image. It has a bad reality.”

GM’s market share is sliding despite heavy incentives. It has a union, the United Auto Workers Union, that blackmails GM, as well as other automakers, into keeping plants open it doesn’t need. The threat is this: close the plant you don’t need and take our jobs away and we’ll close the plants you do need by picketing. That’s a reality. Rank and file members use that same leverage pay far less than salaried workers as a percentage of pay in healthcare premiums, while GM’s costs go up 18% a year. More reality: GM used to have have twice the market share it has today with Chevy, GMC, Oldsmobile, Buick, Pontiac and Cadillac. Since then GM has subtracted Olds, but added Hummer, Saturn and Saab. More brands and half the share? That’s a problem. GM’s Bob Lutz suggested yesterday that Buick or Pontiac could go the way of Olds if things don’t improve. Buick is the obvious choice.

But let’s look at the stuff GM can control and has botched. New products and advertising. Pontiac and Buick have had recent marketing makeovers, yet GM marketing chief Mark LaNeve says they aren’t right yet. Huh? How’d you get through a process, practically a new brand strategy every year for the last four years for those brands and still not get it right. Press GM executives on Saturn and Saab, and they’ll tell you that the marketing strategies hatched for those brands aren’t right either.

GM produces some solid, competent products, but far too few that stir any emotion. Worse yet, dreary images of Buick, Saab, Chevy and Saturn passenger car brands do not wrap competently produced cars in a blanket of appeal the way, say, Toyota’s image of quality and reliability wraps a bland Camry or Corolla in an attractive coverlet.

As one rival car executive commented about Buick and Pontiac, “These aren’t brands for the 21st Century.”

The trouble at GM is that it has a bad image to go with a bad reality.

Reader Comments


December 25, 2005 12:19 PM

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Larry Bartley

June 10, 2006 11:37 PM

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December 11, 2006 8:03 AM

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mike farrell

May 23, 2007 1:42 PM

i have owned 2 gmcs from the year 2000 and could not say anything good about them. constant problems with the transmissions and rear ends. i have now purchased a 2007 toyota tundra and can not say enough great things about it. another guy that i work with has a 2500 gmc with a 6.0L and he does not have a chance in hell to perform with this half ton truck. 430 gears 6 speed trans. and a hell of a lot more cheaper. keep dreaming ford, gmc, and dodge. toyota said that they were going to bring it and here it is!!


January 2, 2008 5:04 PM

Has anyone else have a problem with GMC waiting years after they know theres a problem before they issue a RECALL. Then when they do issue one, OH SORRY YOU HAVE TOO MANY MILES. How convenient...This must be their way of looking good, issuing a recall, but their OUT in paying for the DEFECTIVE part/parts. We were told by GMC, You are approved,go ahead and get it fixed, we will refund you for the cost. NOT!!!Now they say OH NO you have too many miles now. Does anyone have any info that "just might know" How to STOP getting the shaft from these people?

GMC TopKick Guy

January 18, 2008 10:07 PM

In Canada they really need to lower prices it is riduculous they will continue to lose market share.


September 7, 2008 11:47 PM

This article is nice and highly informative.

Business Sale

September 30, 2008 4:20 AM

That being said, I've noticed a bigger GM presence in developing countries like South Africa. Its going to become more competitive. It has too or sell.

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News, opinions, inflammatory meanderings and occasional ravings about the world of advertising, marketing and media. By marketing editor Burt Helm, Innovation Editor Helen Walters, and senior correspondent Michael Arndt.

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