GM Pondering Brand Cuts

Posted by: David Kiley on November 28, 2008

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The Detroit Free Press reported today that General Motors, in its attempt to put forth a workable restructuring plan to keep it from going bankrupt, is looking at killing off three brands—Pontiac, Saab and Hummer.

Everyone knows that GM is over-branded. The problem has long been that the company does not want to have to pay dealers to fold the brands it does not need as it did with Oldsmobile in 2001. State franchise laws prevent a car company from simply ending a brand. Closing down Oldsmobile cost the company around $2 billion.

It’s unclear how GM could avoid paying big money to shutter the three brands.

Hummer has been on the selling block for months. The automaker has circulated a document to prospective buyers, which have ranged from Russian business moguls to Turkish private equity groups.

Saab is not thought to have any hot buyers. According to past conversations with GM execs, Saab Cars has never turned an annual profit for GM. It has, at times, made money in Europe. But those gains have always been off-set by losses in the U.S.

Saab is one of two Swedish car companies with limited interest from both consumers and investors. Ford, too, tried to sell Volvo earlier this year, and found no takers willing to pay Ford’s asking price.

Both Saab and Volvo have a problem of not being quite luxury. Both premium brands have long had followings of people who place safety above all other vehicle characteristics. Saab has also attracted some performance-oriented buyers as the company has long offered turbo chargers in some of its models.

Volvo is on track to sell about 82,000 vehicles this year. Sales through October were down 28%. Saab is on track to sell about 20,000 vehicles this year. Sales were down 32% through October.

Earlier this year, GM CEO Rick Wagoner said GM did not have too many brands.

Pontiac has been starved of hot new products for two decades. The current lineup consists of the Vibe (a twin of the Toyota Matrix, engineered by Toyota and built at the joint-venture NUMMI plant in Calif.), the G6/G5, Pontiac Torrent (twin of the Chevy Equinox) and the G8 sedan. The G8 has been well received by auto journalists since its debut last year, but the large sedan category is so soft and sleepy that few have noticed. The Pontiac Solstice roadster convertible, while also well received by journalists, is such a niche product that it can’t carry the whole brand.

Pontiac sales are on track for about 280K to 290K vehicles this year. Sales through October were down 21%. A hefty percentage of Pontiac sales, though, are fleet sales to rental agencies.

At the core of GM’s problems is not having enough resources to feed eight brands with unique products, and then feed each brand with unique and competitive brand campaigns. Every industry analyst and consultant who has passed through the company's corridors has told GM management that same message for 20 years. It is one of the reasons that Pontiac, Buick and Saturn have had a revolving door of brand campaigns—each new brand chief groping in the dark for a new big idea that will kick-start bigger interest in these product lineups.

The contrast with Toyota and Honda is astonishing. Toyota manages a 14.9% market share (through October) with just its one brand. Yes, it has added Scion and Lexus. But the Toyota brand is amazingly efficient by putting so many efficiently produced vehicles under its flagship brand. Ditto Honda, whish has a 9.8% share.

Hummer, Pontiac and Saab together only manage a 2.5% share of the U.S. market. And I’m willing to bet at least .5 of that is rental fleet.

Nah….GM doesn’t have too many brands.

A few years ago, ad agency Deutsch, which currently handles advertising for the Saturn brand, cooked up a brand positioning for Pontiac that focused on the gritty side of Detroit. It surrounded the brand with music in the style of Bruce Springsteen and John Mellencamp. The strategy centered on performance, street rods and American car culture. But the decision was made that while the positioning was attractive, GM couldn’t fund a product program that would live up to the ads.

GM has been merging dealerships into a single network of GMC/Buick/Pontiac stores wherever it can. That way each dealer can manage a single showroom of products that has depth and breadth of sports cars, sedans, SUVs and trucks. But that strategy also depends on supporting three different, attractive brand strategies.

If GM can execute this plan it would be left with Chevy, Cadillac, Saturn, Buick and GMC. One of the arguments for keeping Buick is how well it sells in China. The Chinese are mad for the Buick brand. I’m not entirely sure, though, that GM would lose sales in China if it killed the brand in the U.S. Sure, some brands are global. But I’m thinking Buick would do just fine in China without U.S. sales.

That brings GM down to Chevy, Cadillac, Saturn and GMC. GMC sells well, and GM execs have long said there is no reason to kill it. There are apparently a flock of consumers who go for the “Professional Grade” nonsense of GMC. GMC is, after, all just a slightly stepped of version of Chevy trucks and SUVs.

There is much argument for killing Saturn, too, leaving GM to concentrate in the U.S. on Chevy and Cadillac as the whole company. Indeed, without the GMC/Buick/Pontiac sales channel, I don’t know how you would support GMC as a brand, unless you engineered a rapid consolidation of retail distribution perhaps selling GMC through Chevy or Cadillac dealerships.

But, as I said earlier, the big barrier is the state franchise laws, which give dealers a lot of legal firepower to get paid off if GM moves to shutter these brands. It seems like a reach that it would just close Hummer anyway as GM still sees a possibility of selling the brand for real cash. GMC/Pontiac/Buick dealers would surely miss the sales volume from Pontiac. But is a GMC/Buick network really worth keeping long term?

As GM faces its near-death experience, and asks Congress for survival money, it has to make some moves that tell analysts and legislators that it is doing the things to fix its operations that everybody in the room knows it has to do.

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Reader Comments

Patrick Di Chiro

November 28, 2008 11:40 AM

David, I agree, I just don't see how GM can keep all those brands. Pontiac has not been interesting since the early seventies and the last of the decent Firebirds. Demonstrating how clueless GM really is, Pontiac tried to bring back its iconic GTO brand a few years ago and they did it in the body of very boring Australian Holden (good V8 engine, but crappy packaging). It was dead on arrival. What is Saab anymore other than the Vermont car with the ignition on the floor? It is on life support. The Buick SUV has been popular, but that is just a fancier version of a Chevy and Saturn SUV. I also agree that no one would miss Buick in the US. And, please tell me what the Saturn brand represents today. It long ago lost its lustre as a "different kind of car company." If they keep Saturn, they need to do something bold like make it an all electric line of small, very high mileage cars.

Given the pressure of the Congress for GN to have a real plan the public can get behind, it will be interesting to see what they do with their brand management challenge. I am not betting on GM doing anything innovative or disruptive. They have not done so in the past.

Michael Dusing

November 28, 2008 11:48 AM

Why not as example have a auto called a pontiac vibe sold in a chevy dealership another auto called a pontiac solice sold in buick dealership etc. you elimate an auto company and sell the name in other dealerships. GM powertrain makes engines for all the autos already so why not.

Jim

November 28, 2008 11:53 AM

GM's issue in this area has been coming since the 1960's. They became not overbranded, but over modeled. They lost their original focus where Chevrolet was the full-line base and Cadillac was the flagship, with Buick, Pontiac, and Oldsmobile having limited lines designed to appeal to specific markets, and had to turn each brand into a full line, to the point where each had its own compacts, minivans, and SUVs, all competing against each other for buyers, with few discernible differences among them. They spent too much money keeping up with the Joneses, too. Just because Ford spent way too much money buying overpriced niche lines such as Jaguar and Land Rover was no reason for GM to to the same by purchasing Saab and developing the Hummer, which was never intended to be more than a military use vehicle. Compounding the Hummer error by trying to develop a full line, with the H2 merely being a Tahoe in disguise and the H3 being perceived by buyers as what it was--a downsized, downpriced, downequipped H2 did not help either.

Merk1001

November 28, 2008 11:57 AM

The laws of our country are preventing GM from making sound business decisions. The State franchise laws need to change. Some of these laws are driving GM to bankruptcy.

JohnB

November 28, 2008 12:00 PM

Actually GM have done a reasonable job with Pontiac. The G6 is a very nice small car for the money, and I think the G5 is due an upgrade soon (its really a Chevy). The G8 is a nice bigger car, the Solstice is also good. The Vibe doesn't help them (it needs to be built off the G6 platform). However, there's definite overlap here with Saturn, which is now the brand for the smaller Euro cars (Opels, Vauxhalls) - these are the true 'global vehicles' for GM. The question is, can GM afford both, should it do both a US-based small car and a Euro small car? I don't see how it can and the Euro small cars are far superior. I don't see much sense in Buick, its not doing anything unique or different with that brand though the SUVs are nice. You could happily fold GMC with Chevy. So now your question becomes what to do with Chevrolet, and this is at the heart of GMs problems. This is where the losses are being made though no-one will fess up to it. The SUVs and Trucks will come back, albeit at lower volume. Chevy created the new Malibu which is a nice car, but its the only decent one in the range. What do they want Chevy to be, and how can it carve out an area for itself that is distinctive? Cadillac is safe as the top level brand, they've done a good job with that as well. But it seems to me, they've got to stop having Chevy, Pontiac and Saturn as car brands and pick one. GMC/Chevy can be the Truck and SUV brand. They need one mid-tier car brand, or they need to target Saturn as the 'small car' brand (using the global platform cars) and Pontiac/Chevy as the 'larger car' brand for US-only cars. They've tried to make all brands cover the entire gamut of vehicles; that can't work. They've also been trying to create 2 'brand combos' or channels, but it frankly doesn't work. The whole GMC/Buick/Pontiac channel has to go, painful as that is. And they have to answer the question of whether they can have a global car platform + US designed car platform to go along with its US designed truck/SUV group, or just go with the global cars and US truck/SUVs.

Karl

November 28, 2008 12:50 PM

GM should cut their executives first!!! None of them have a clue as to how a company should be run!!! Shame on the shareholders for NOT demanding that there's a complete change at the executive level!!!!!! At least by late January a $10 bill should be able to buy about 30 to 50 shares of GM stock, huh? Remember the old slogan- "GM, mark of excellence?" Now it's- GM, mark of STUPIDITY.

Ed Straker

November 28, 2008 01:12 PM

I never found a post-1970 GM product appealing (save for one or two exceptions). Perhaps GM should just cut GM and reincarnate as a new company.
On the other hand, they tried a new approach with Saturn and look what happened there, plastic panels that can't hold paint. This is definitely messy problem and any solution will be killed with three letters: UAW.

Jim

November 28, 2008 01:13 PM

Chevrolet... GMC......same vehicle differnent grill and nametag
Buick....Do YOU know anyone who has bought a new Buick?
Pontiac... The biggest seller they have is a Chevy Equinox
Tough expensive legal battle....Mr Wagoner listen to your people....fight the fight and rid us of some of the useless efforts your company is putting forth

Dan Druff

November 28, 2008 01:23 PM

The reason Pontiac and olds have went bust is the congress of the United States and theyre idiotic cafe standards.Both of these car brands done great when they built good solid cars like the Delta88 or GTO but now these brands ended up makeing little cars that were nothing but pieces of S***.Over regulation and eco nut cases are ruining our country.I live in a big city and when you see the mangled bodies from car wrecks and the horrible suffering caused by congress and eco nut cases it is nothing short of shameful and even more shameful they refuse to look in the mirror its like they love people to be killed in such horrible ways.If pontiac could go back to makeing a GTO and scrap these tiny worthless cars they would be in great shape and Americans would love to drive them again.All you have to do is look at how people act when a beautiful 56 Chevy Impala drives by and then notice how the same people act when a new tiny piece of crap drives by and you will know congress and eco nit-wits have ruined our country and put millions on welfare and shame.get rid of them STUPID "cafe" standards and bring back the GTO!

cgold

November 28, 2008 01:33 PM

Saturn is the only quality brand GM has. The service is excellent, it is no hassle, and they dont invent ways not to cover warrany items under warranty as does the "classic" GM brands. Saturn should be their flagship mainstream line.

David

November 28, 2008 01:36 PM

If they would declare Chapter 11, the state franchise laws are a moot point. They can cancel Pontiac, Buick, Saturn, Hummer, Saab and GMC + reduce their vast overhead costs with a single signature on a document...why wait? I don't buy the arguement that millions will loose their jobs. Millions are gonna loose their jobs anyway if GM cuts those brands loose...wny not really cut your costs and get competitive...especially with you hand out for MY money????

ap

November 28, 2008 01:50 PM

Alfred P. Sloan's tiered branding strategy was a good idea ... for a time. So was the strategy of "planned obsolescence." Unfortunately, GM's failure to acknowledge the rise of consumer power has proved to be its undoing.

At this point, brand cutting about amounts to re-arranging the deck chairs *after* the iceberg has ripped your hull.

http://thegreenterprise.blogspot.com/

mike poletti

November 28, 2008 02:03 PM

saturn is opel now and opel is gms biggest profit maker and saturn prices are very good and they have cars that sell to the masses with the no hagle aproach why would you want to drop that for caddilac which does not sell to the masses and doesnt get good gas millage doesnt make sense

K. B. Scott

November 28, 2008 02:04 PM

Gm, Ford and Chrysler need to be let go. Many of the cars’s sold in Japan and other countries have weathered the economic storm without a “Governmental Bailout”. People are greedy and the UAW has stated it position that it will not make any more concessions. This bailout will just come back as a tax liability to the tax payers in the end anyway.
I say just let them die, no one else in the U.S. make’s over $24.00 an hour plus benefits which exceeds any other manufacture in U.S. History.

EZ

November 28, 2008 03:15 PM

While we've owned several Pontiacs, we'd perfectly content with an uplevel Chevy - their styling is really doing a lot better these days. Especially the Malibu. So bye bye Pontiac. GMC? Long term, truck sales will never be what they used to be, so quit spending money on GMC advertising. Chevy is as professional grade as GMC is! Time to let Buick go, too. Doesn't anyone except the PGA care if Buick were to disappear? I think back to "This is not your father's Oldsmobile" and one could say Buick is at the same crossroads. Time to go!

William James

November 28, 2008 03:27 PM

Dealers make a contractual agreement with Maufcatuers that require them to make a large investment in facility, parts, tools, training, and inventory and more. The manufactuer holds all the cards and that's what state franchise laws are for, to protect the small-business dealer from the manufacturer.

So it would be expensive to drop dealers since they need to be remibursed for this investment.

Rick Friedl

November 28, 2008 03:38 PM

Now that the baby boomers are getting old enough to drive a Buick, we would have to get one from China? That's not right!

Jim

November 28, 2008 03:44 PM

GM is missing the real auto market by miles.They need to drop everything and put everything into GM. If a car is not tailored to the market; drop it. The government should drop all union contracts to make a profit. America needs a tax credit for all American cars. We must dominate the energy game. Quality must come of the table. We must also hire Japanese business leader to run it.

mcs

November 28, 2008 04:49 PM

GM needs to drop the Saturn brand and use the Opel name instead. This would give them a brand without the baggage of the older brands. It would be easy since Saturns are rebadged Opels anyway. They would also need to upgrade the dealers buildings and push the German Engineered angle. I would also recommend downplaying the GM association. They've damaged their brands images to the point they need to do something to go after their disaffected buyers and this is a quick, easy, and relatively cheap way of doing it.

m.r.

November 28, 2008 06:31 PM

G.M. (now) has too many workers, plants,
brands, brand models,and too much DEBT!
G.M. cannot be what it used to be! it cannot be all things to all people.
it must downsize, restructure, reinvent.
it must design, engineer,build and promote product for the future.
it must bring on board new management
(including a new and more responsible board).
it must be allowed to renegotiate its contracts to reduce debt.
puting public money into the present
business model merely delays the end.
I also forgot too many DEALERS.

Mr.Laurie Scott

November 28, 2008 07:53 PM

From Australia;
I was always a Chev man, Pontiac was always an over-rated tin can copied off
Chevrolet. General Motors should get back to their original concept of making one good model of each car make & if people want the mod-cons let-em pay for it as options. I didn't know the Buick line had stopped, would have been better dumping Cadillac,make one good Buick.Do away with Chevrolet trucks,use GMC to trucks in the States & Canada. Market Buick & Chevrolot cars in the States & Canada.When better cars are built Buick will build-em.Want 'A' good all round car buy a Chevrolet

Borgy101

November 28, 2008 08:15 PM

GM's arrogance about keeping it's brands hasn't changed until recently (this year). Actually, GM's arrogance hasn't changed in decades. My vote for brands to keep: Chevy & Saturn. Cadillac might be successful but not practical. The Cadillac line-up consists mostly of inefficient luxury vehichles for the celebrity set. Chevy & Saturn can cover most demographics (like Toyota & Scion to a degree) and share platforms.

Luis B. Aramburu

November 28, 2008 10:40 PM

GM's management is sooo slooow! For more than 10 years it has been obvious that GM has way too many brands. And this is another reason their best option is to declare bankruptcy and walk away from obligations to its Pontiac, Saturn, GMC and Buick dealers. As Mr. Kiley article states, they may leave Buick alive in China, but only there (and Opel in Europe). But, in the USA GM should only have TWO brands: Chevy and Cadillac. Period. These guys haven't undertood that they are in a life and death situation, they still are operating in a business as usual mind frame. GM's management is not only slow, it is grossly incompetent. And you also have to wonder about the board of directors. Are they all asleep? Wagoner's tenure has probably been the most catastrophic one in the history of capitalism, and yet, that guy is still at the helm of GM. How is this possible? He should be fired immediately.

Stephen

November 28, 2008 10:41 PM

Lets see, kill off Pontiac, the 3rd best seller for GM, above Cadillac and Saturn.

What are they nuts!

Pontiac sells more vehicles than a lot of the competion.

mikey

November 28, 2008 10:49 PM

um.... like, who cares? They surely won't come up with anything compelling or interesting to consumers. Just more good-ole-boy feel-good junk that gives them another 6 months.

shigg

November 28, 2008 11:29 PM

GM should be looking to their partners for $$$ --the Oil companies that have for years stifled, slowed and lobyed against the non gasoline technology behind closed doors.
Exxon has deep pockets from the profits from the last 6 yrs.
It's about sustainability now and not profitability nowdays.

shigg

November 28, 2008 11:30 PM

GM should be looking to their partners for $$$ --the Oil companies that have for years stifled, slowed and lobyed against the non gasoline technology behind closed doors.
Exxon has deep pockets from the profits from the last 6 yrs.
It's about sustainability now and not profitability nowdays.

TomV

November 28, 2008 11:31 PM

And we as US taxpayers are being asked to support this kind of "let's do nothing because doing the right thing might hurt too much" thinking, as well as a bloated unionized workforce that has the same mentality? No way. It may be a painful way to go, but the author's note of "20 years" in which GM has stuck it's head in the sand has allowed the current CEO the pleasure of going down with the ship. And again, government, with the laws noted in this article, also can share the blame with laws that have hamstrung the industry. And again, it's the current lawmakers who get to enjoy watching the ship go down. All the past CEOs and lawmakers who contributed to this mess? Just wish there was a way to tie them to the ship's anchor before the ship goes down so there is no chance they will ever float back up, but instead they will get off scott free. Of course, our current crop of jellyfish (who have no spine) in office will try to present a price tag to the ultimate offenders, namely the public who voted them and their predecessors into office, if a bailout is approved. Maybe there will be some justice served, and if we let it happen, we will deserve it.

Mark Andrew Runnells

November 29, 2008 02:29 AM

To whom it may concern:
Momma always said, "It jest' ain't correct to cuss' any."
All filthy language aside, the trouble presents lopsided idealism on private sectoring. So, if we are a freemarket society in The U.S.A. which U.S. Government Officials allow sovereign states to regulate what the owners of companies will or will not make,(RATIONALIZATION... lose a turn!) why did not U.S. Officials already regulate the big three auto to discontinue brands/makes when needed while at the same time allow them to make passenger level automobiles that took four cylinder engines? While at it, allow any foreign automobiles to offer passenger grade vehicles at the same small size.
Uncle Sam give them all the bail-out, repossess the stated corporate structures and allow them to be free again, once their respective "loans" are paid back. Now, lets take it further? CEO's earnings in refection to cost of living standards? "God damn it, we own you 'til paid in full! Here is your new salary. Don't like the cut? Get into acting. Hollywood may hire yah." My subventionary attack is enough. I snip it off here.

norman ravitch

November 29, 2008 08:45 AM

Saab was the worst car I ever had. It deserves to die.

zal

November 29, 2008 08:46 AM

I commented also before, but let me stress out how important for GM, Ford and Chrysler to bring back Family Values in Safe Cars.
The biggest auto-boom was the 50s-60s.
The reason for this was that the CAR was a family concept. The CAR was an extension of the family.
80% of sales were family cars - SEDANS and STATION-WAGONS.
When the japanese invaded the american auto industry they showed the americans a small car, which obviously wasn't a family car at all. But they did it at the right time, during the oil crisis in mid-70s.
Their advertising and promotion was a lie. Everything was a lie, a brainwashing.
Japanese cars were breaking down exactly like american cars, they were getting rust exactly like american cars, and they looked like crap.
BUT, americans got so brainwashed and convinced that japanese minicars are superior to american cars, that even the car media and the general media accepted these false facts as true.
NOW, American Car Industry should start planning a COUNTER-ATTACK on imports. To employ the same technique of advertising the FACTS. Not lies, BUT TRUTH.
The REAL FAMILY CAR TODAY is a MINIVAN.
MINIVAN is large, spacious, safe, comfortable....what else could be better???

MINIVAN is THE Car for a YOUNG FAMILY TODAY.
This should be the concept.
To hire the best advertising professionals, the best copy writers and create the best super campaign to promote a family car, a MINI-VAN.

I have Pontiac Montana since 2004, it's the second one, leased, and going to get soon a third one.
It's THE BEST.
Chrysler's minivans are also the best.
And so are Ford's.

So, a YOUNG FAMILY is the future of DETROIT.
A SAFEST Car, a MINI-VAN is the future of Detroit.

Let the japanese promote their sedans, eventually they start loosing money and the american market.
SEDANS is an OLD concept, it's a loosing concept of the gone-by era of 50-60s.
We're in 21st century, and no place for sedans for a family in 21st century.
DO NOT FOOL yourself here.

DJ

November 29, 2008 10:59 AM

Why? Government bailouts will never end. Only has to survive until the magic negro takes office, then the big give away begins! Money for all, inept, irrelevant, incompetent losers to the front of the line, then to the back of the line for more passes! Happy Days are here again....

Zenbob

November 29, 2008 11:36 AM

Madness and more madness. Buick is GM's most successful domestic brand, next to Chevrolet. GM cannot cut Cadillac, as this is the flagship line. Pontiac is the "performance upgrade" although the line is bloated with far too many non-descript versions of other GM vehicles. Saturn is successful, but becoming bloated. The real problem is not too many "Brands" it is too many models in each brand, with far too much overlap. Sure, Saab and Saturn should be folded into one another. GMC is an affectation and should be cut. Hummer is senseless. But imagine if each "Brand" only had a maximum of five models to sell. Each with unique Brand ID and style. No overlap. 3 Cadillac Models. 4 Buick models. 4 Pontiac models (make the GTO a real performance car). 5 Chevies + 3 Chevy trucks including an SUV. 4 Saturn models including 1 SUV and 1 Saab luxury sport sedan. This is a total of 26 models -- down from a current estimate of 78. This would not only save GM, it would make advertising and product planning vastly easier, and vastly more recognizable to the US consumer. Incorporate advanced fuel saving technologies across the board, with but the exception of the most performance oriented and luxury "flagships" and that is all that is needed to turn this huge enterprise around.

How to kill a car company? Brand confusion, models without names (G6 - what the hell is a G6? A European government meeting?) Too many choices for consumers to choose from without excess stress. Make them all expensive and if possible make them ugly (Pontiac Aztek).

Zenbob

Frank P

November 29, 2008 12:59 PM

The brands have become so muddled. They could combine Pontiac into GMC and Buick. That's probably what they're intending to do. Simply put the GMC or Buick name plates on the Pontiacs. The others, Saab and Hummer aren't very big in this country. Probably they could simply stop developing products or spending on them and deal with that in a few years.

dw

November 29, 2008 01:25 PM

not sure that you can afford to kill of a brand, since the last time GM did that that 2 billion dollar figure is on the low side for the costs. about the only way to do that is to starve the brand. and complaining about the cloning of cars is silly, none of the big car companies don't do that (Ex Toyota Camry, Lexus ES350, among lots of others). now combining the dealerships is a start. i also wonder how many other brands actually sell more than 300K units a year? about the only thing that would make more since is to co-ordinate the models of Pontiac/Buick/GMC. Some of the truck like models in these dealerships need to go away (it make little sense to have them if you have GMC). there).

Steven Paul Matsumoto

November 29, 2008 01:26 PM

This recent turmoil among the big 3 is very reminiscent of their arrogance of the mid to late 70's. Even in the face of increasing competion from Japanese auto makers that produced a higher quality product with better fuel economy Detroit believed that the American people will buy what we tell them to buy. Their answer to this competition, big SUV's with worse fuel economy than their passenger car siblings. Let them fail, I'm sure Honda, Toyota and others are waiting in the wings to snatch up their infrastructure at bargin prices.

Cormac

November 29, 2008 01:45 PM

What tragic miss-thinking. These are the classy, emotive brands, and they are just that, brands. Why not rationalize the total product portfolio and attach future best of breed to these brands. Hummer for trucks, Saab for performance cars, and Pontiac for other cars. And while they are about it, collapse all of the overseas manufacturing operations into local assembly lines/distribution companies, and centralize serious manufacturing in the USA, using the absolutely best technology, workforces and production managers,

Additionally GM need to completely rethink design, putting form design centers in California, Italy and Sweden, and away from the manufacturing capability, and the function (engines, transmissions etc.) design centers in Japan, Germany and Detroit.

Now is the time for bold moves, and these should be made by existing car business leaders, not accountants or interfering bankers.

LunarRyder

November 29, 2008 02:44 PM

Cuts should have been made a long time ago. Pontiac, Saab and Hummer still have a youthful attribute why would you get rid of brands like that? GM, ford should only have 3 brands, high, middle, and entry markets.

mjw149

November 29, 2008 04:12 PM

There has never been a product or consumer based reason for all these brands, it was always production. Their union contracts locked them into a certain amount of production each year, because it cost the same to lay people off as to employ them. So they needed to do re-branding to keep the volume up, which only decreases the value of each model, i.e. check the GMC and Chevy dealer for the lowest price on a pickup.

This got so nauseating that they actually lost their subaru partnership after they rebranded an impreza for Saab and barely changed the styling.

I'm not sure why Volkswagen isn't interested in Saab, they tried to take VW upmarket and it didn't work, and the Saab nameplate would be an easier sell for luxury buyers. Though perhaps too much damage has been done.

Omar

November 29, 2008 10:58 PM

Saturn serves as a nice rebadge for some of GM's Opel products from overseas; I don't see that going away. Buick has a nice niche as a step above GM's standard cars but not quite as ostentatious as Cadillac. Pontiac was supposed to be sporty. I can see why GM will have a hard time giving up their brands. From this point of view, it could make more sense to let Chevy die. Maybe bring in Opel to show off their European design cred, who knows.

In any case, to win back American consumers, they need to produce cars that belie the parent company's "General" moniker. If you make good cars, the branding takes care of itself.

hugo sanders

November 30, 2008 07:16 AM

I think that it make no sense for G.M. to have such a great portfolio of brand names. They should better concentrate on af few. Perhaps Olds for the ordinary cars, Buick for the SUV and pick-up trucks and Cadillac for the luxury cars. Chevrolet could be used for the sportscars, like the Corvette.
All other brands could easely disappear.

Barnaby Sonnenschein

November 30, 2008 08:24 PM

It seems like it would make sense for GM to concentrate on building a few really good products, rather than many different not-so-great products that nobody really wants.

Watching Saab loose its Saab-ness over the last 10+ years has been sad. It would be great if someone could buy that company and return it to its roots, and undo the homogenization of the brand.

E S Scofield

December 1, 2008 09:49 AM

Kill the Buick AND/or the Oldsmobile. But the sportiness of the Pontiac has been a selling point since it conception!

Dar

December 1, 2008 09:55 AM

Perhaps one thing GM (and maybe Ford and Chrysler) should do is ask Congress to trump these state franchise laws and allow them to close the brands. That is one of Detroit's problems: they cannot think outside the box...

Nigel Hollis

December 1, 2008 10:52 AM

You are right, Buick would do just fine in China without U.S. sales. A survey conducted by Millward Brown earlier this year found 49% of Chinese car buyers thought Buick was setting the trends for its product category compared to only 15% in the U.S. But then the same survey found that only 40% of younger car buyers even realize that Saturn is an American brand. "A different kind of company, a different kind of car" has become just another nameplate to be sold off.

ef

December 1, 2008 12:49 PM

The problem is not that it has too many brands per se, is that it sells too many kinds of cars and eventually cannibalizes it's own channels for sales.

What GM should do is make Pontiac one or two cars that are the "performance" cars - one being a sedan and the other a coupe. There is no Bonnevilles or Gran Prixes anymore.

All trucks should move to the GMC brand. Cadillac ditches the "entry-level" products to get down to a coupe, sedan and maybe the truck. This leaves Chevy with the low-end and practical - Aveo, Impala (again- ditch the sport models) and the mini-van.

Saturn goes to a four-door and a cross-over. Further, Buick goes away and so does Saab and Hummer.

By my quick figure that leaves 13 cars. Not the best answer, but certainly on the right track.

In summary, too many models that compete with each other(and are essentially the same car) and not enough money to develop any of them adequately means no sales for all.DONE!

Now, does someone wanna give me a job over there? :)

a saturn astra owner

December 1, 2008 06:52 PM

We just bought an Astra (Saturn) because it was German engineered (and manufactured in Belgium), and only re-branded by GM (though it does own Opel, Opel is by far a much better brand than anything GM has)... it drives like a VW Jetta... not like a Pontiac that is all over the road... killing Saturn seems like one of the more asinine things GM management could do; but then again, they're really not know for their forward thinking now, are they?

Sheeraz

December 2, 2008 02:09 AM

GM will be MAD IF THEY shut down Pontiac Brand

The cars they have been making in last 4-5 years in Pontiac lineup specially Grand Prix is just AMAZING love that car

crowcowboy

December 3, 2008 03:56 AM

GM needs to overhaul there image pronto!

Eliminating buick would kill the company the chinese market is much to large. (notice how much they like to buy all over the world!) buick could become the life blood of the company in the next few year especially if they create a electric car similar to the chevy volt.

Saturn needs to merge with opel and they need to be under one name turn this into GM's "family model" its would be appealing to college students and the fuel efficiency will be attractive if they use european engineering.

Pontiac needs to cut a few brands they discontnue a few names or cut names in the chevy line so GM doesnt have to many of the same cars that canibalize each other. To discontue this brand would be GM's downfall the 3800 engine that is in most of their models (bonneville, gran prix, old grand ams) are indestructible engines that are easy to work on they are great investments. Keep up the sporty look but decide if they want chevy or pontiac to be their sporty model dont overlap them becasue it will confuse new buyers.

Chevy and GMC needs to be combined i never saw the difference in these companies becasue they both produce trucks and suv's that are the same. Use the chevy name on the big trucks. The mid sized sedans like malibu are nice but it almost seems like the chevy name confuses ppl becasue on one end you have malibus then cobalts, then silverados, then corvettes its just becoming to big. its a great car name it just needs to ax models and make the company work like the foreign models aka toyota and like i said not replicate to many existing models with their other comapnies like pontiac and buick.

my 2 sense

ron holladay

December 3, 2008 01:23 PM

gm know that if they declare bankruptcy no one will buy their cars - the major problem for gm ford and chrysler is that they refused for decades to build quality smaller cars that got good mileage - they became addicted to the pickups and suv's that offered them a $10,000 profit margin if sold at list (although if anyone ever paid list for a truck of suv they were incredibly dumb) - The only three decent unique cars sold by gm are the pontiac g8 (australian), pontiace vibe (Japanese), saturn astra (europe). I only include the vibe becausse its basically an indestructibel toyota corolla - the new malibu is probably one step down from those 3 - gm might survive as chevy, gmc, cadillac but only as a much smaller company

JT

December 3, 2008 02:27 PM

GM doesn't need to be wasting it's time with its other brands. If you really think about it, they only need three.

-Pontiac- For sports cars. The GTO, Firebird, Trans Am, Grand Am, Grand Prix, Solstice, and the G8 sculpted the Pontiac brand with amazing looks and performance that isn't found in other car brands. Pontiac is also my favorite car brand.

-Chevrolet- GMC is exactly the same except with a different grill and name. Besides Chevrolet has the Camaro, Corvette, and other great and affordable vehicles like the upcoming Volt.

-Cadillac- Performance wrapped in luxury. Cadillac has been the king of luxury cars, especially after the XLR and new CTS. Buick? Who owns one of those? Buick only has 3 models...GM shouldn't waste it's time and money keeping the brand alive if it barely sells in the US (from what i've seen).

GM needs to do what they should have done a long time ago and get rid of the following brands:
-Buick (Useless in the United States, if the Chinese love it so much just sell the brand to them)
-GMC (Chevrolet offers the same stuff anyways)
-Hummer (universally useless)
-Saab (I seldom see one. The cars are neither popular nor good looking)
-Saturn (the only cool car they have is the Sky Roadster and its wimpy 260 horsepower)

I can only pray that GM will make the right choice.

John

December 4, 2008 03:00 AM

There's a deal of confusion between brands and products here. The products are pretty much indistinguishable - Saturn Aura, Chevrolet Malibu, Opel Vectra etc (and they have been for a long, long time).

In fact GM has access to a decent range of products - and for the most part, the most appropriate cars for our time start off in their European division. This includes modest minivan-type vehicles like the Zafira. The only reason this small 7-seater isn't sold in North America must be that the price can't be set appropriately given the current pricing structure here. The problem for GM is that they are not building enough of the right cars in their stable and are building far too many fo the wrong ones.

The other problem lies in the brands. We may be sad to see some of them go ( I owned a great '62 Oldsmobile myself) but some of them have to. Most modern cars will carry their physical load quite effectively. The highway is as effectively negotiated in my Yaris as in the Buick I used to own. A brand however is built up to carry the semiotic load of the car. BMW through consistent marketing and good design suggests very effectively ideas around modernity, wealth, power, success (and assholiness). 'Saturn' says pretty much nothing, and that is why that brand should die. Keep the cars, which may be the most coherent and attractive range GM markets in North Anerica, but choose carefully which brand to sell them under.

I know Pontiac has a tough, road-racing image for some, but I really think it's enthusiasts only, lost on most buyers who do not instinctively tack on the magic letters GTO to the name. Mostly it now says cheap, ordinary. Maybe a sports car could be developed under that name even so. But it's hard to make money out of sports cars.

Hummer may have a future as a niche maker of hyper-expensive luxury vehicles, but it's not for a mass car producer in these times.

Buick has become the car our grandparents thought posh. It seems it has a different feel in China - by all means use the name there - not all markets are the same (though what the Chinese actually call that car is another matter - 'Bie ke' I believe). But here it would take a lot of work to bring the Buick brand back to life - and when you already have Chevrolet and Cadillac, why bother?

Cadillac and Chevrolet are to me the strongest brands. Both are euphonius words, strongly American in connotation, suggestive of, indeed almost defining of luxury in the first case, and of a certain kind of independence in the second: the open road, heading west on route 66, music playing on the radio. Cadillac can play Lexus to Chevrolet's Toyota, Audi to their VW. And GM is a good brand for trucks - but why doesn't anyone build a small one?

There is one other option - be bold (foolhardy?)and make Cadillac the mass market brand, and try and attach its glamour to the ordinary car. Like to try to sell a Toyota against a Cadillac? Boy, I bet they could mess that one up though. I see a Rolls-Royce radiator on a Mini.

Come to think of it they tried that at British Leyland - remember the Wolseley Hornet/Riley Elf? Actually all this has been painfully lived through by British Leyland Motor Corporation and its successively smaller successor companies. They ended up attempting to make a mass brand out of one of their mid-luxury brands, Rover. It might have worked twenty years previously, instead of struggling on with the Austin/Morris, names, which had no positive image at all by the 1970s. But it was too little too late.And probably they should have gone with Triumph anyway, which had a good name, a younger image, and a distinctive range of Michelotti-designed cars that at least looked good in the early 70s. Unlike BLMC GM is fortunate in that this crisis has come while it still has sufficient sales to generate the income for new models.

That leaves the Euro-brands. Opel is the Pontiac of Germany (And Vauxhall is just the name Opel goes by in the UK). But Saab has a great image. Almost anyone in Europe would, I think, buy a Saab rather than any other GM brand. The trouble is they would rather buy a BMW, Merc, Audi rather than a Saab. So move the Saab brand down a notch and kill Opel. Sell against Peugeot-Citroen, Ford, Fiat and Renault, not against the posh Germans. A more Euro-inflected Cadillac might do that job. It'll take a bit of work though.

Whatever happens, market share will be lost, and factories and jobs with it, but with a profitable company selling good products with a strong name with the right aura, it can perhaps be grown again.

Robert Mc

December 5, 2008 12:37 AM

It is a sad time. GM has had many unappealing cars for decades and many appealing ones as well. Cadillac's transformation is nearly complete, with only the DTS waiting to die. The CTS and STS are awesome and rear wheel drive. Chevy has the opportunity to reduce it's product lines, while keeping the Corvette, Malibu and Impala. Analyze the profitability of the Cobalt. The Impala has been scheduled to berecreated as a rear drive. If the budget is not there, simply absorb the G8. They can make a lot of money by retaking the Police Car market. The Camaro is very important to sit with the Corvette as a Brand Image Car that can do volume. The Trucks can continue with manufacturing capability reduced as needed. I had a Buick in college and I loved it, but what is the point in the US. If they want to maintain Buick, lose the rebadged cars and develop something at least somewhat unique. GMC, well I have a Yukon, but would be just a s happy with the Tahoe. Saturn is a great Opel outlet, but the sales are low and Opel failed when it was imported and sold through Buick dealerships in the early 70s. Reorganize and come back from the ashes.

Christine

December 8, 2008 12:22 PM

Survival of the fittest... How about our government give foreign manufacturers incentives to buy out our mismanaged domestic mfrs?

Ta

December 9, 2008 12:05 PM

To survive GM needs to eliminate as soon as possible their former ways ..terrible old labor contracts and waste-full duplication of it's brands. The quality of the cars themselves are getting much better.

Buick: Basically a dying car brand for North America Sell & make it in China.
Cadillac: Minimize car line & discontinue SUV duplication with other GM divisions.
Chevrolet: Stop duplication of SUV models with Cadillac, Buick, Pontiac.
Malibu is great!
GMC: Blend it into Chevy Trucks.
Hummer: Make only military models or sell division.
Pontiac: Recalibrate this former great "sport" division & make in only in US/Canada the GTO & Grand Prix GXP. Many people bought Grand Prix's...look around. Don't see many G8's.
Saab: Good car, not handled properly...sell to Volkswagen AG.
Saturn: Rename & fold into Excellent OPEL Brand.

I also pray for all thinking American & Canadian citizen-tax payers that GM can work quickly on some of these points.

tim j

December 15, 2008 06:31 AM

Rebuilding GM

As everyone knows GM is now undergoing a desperate crisis and has come to the American taxpayer hat in hand for a substantial loan. The Democratically controlled congress has asked that GM produce a business plan before considering the release of the funds. I wholeheartedly agree with not throwing good money after bad. I think I want to take a shot at being Rick Wagoner for a day and see what I could come up with.

In order to identify the solution to a problem, one must articulate point by point what those problems are and how to address them. Here are the major issues which are making GM as is unsustainable:

1. Too many brands, many utilize the same engineering components with inconsistent results. For example the automotive community has widely praised the Chevy Malibu, which is regarded as an excellent family car. Its platform mate, the Pontiac G6, has been received with much less enthusiasm. GM should go from eight to four brands, getting rid of Hummer, Saab, GMC, and Saturn; keeping Chevrolet, Buick, Pontiac and Cadillac. Each of the remaining brands would become distinct in mission and purpose with little overlap.

2. High labor and Legacy costs. This is a sticky issue for many but the fact is that these costs put the General at a $1,500-$3,000.00 per car cost disadvantage versus Honda and Toyota, which use their advantage to market high quality compacts such as the Civic and Corolla. GM on their lower cost cars is forced to compromise on engineering, standard features and build quality in order to make profit. GM taking the steps to reduce the number of brands will call for a reduction in workforce, which in turn will help with the costs. Also this is an area where taxpayer funds might be best used.

3. GM runs a bloated and overpaid management system. Toyota and Honda run far leaner management per number of cars sold than the General and their executives are not paid nearly the salaries of any of the big three, yet their respective companies are very well managed.

4. GM needs a couple of clean burning diesels in its line up. A 2.5L Four cylinder and a 3.5L V-6. Volkswagen, Mercedes and Honda, have proven that diesel engines if engineered properly can be clean and quiet running. The real world mileage advantages can be extraordinary. The Volkswagen, Jetta TDI for example gets over 42 mpg in real world testing.

Here are my ideas to address some of these issues and for a future product mix.

In order to protect itself from its immediate situation GM should go ahead and proceed with Chap 11 and start restructuring. This will allow GM to shed some of it’s over burdensome labor contracts. The government can step in with funds to insure that during this period that all warranty work will be covered in full. GM and Congressional leaders should hold a national televised press conference in prime time to explain to the American public what this entails and to ensure the public that GM is not going out of business and that there is a plan in place to address the company’s problems.

Now the General can begin restructuring itself, eliminating brands and putting its resources where they can gain the best results. Here is where to trim the fat:

Hummer: There is really no need for this brand to continue. The Hummer vehicles of today are nothing more than re-badged Chevrolets. The H2 is just a re-skinned Suburban and the H3 is just a four door body shell over a Colorado pick up truck frame. The ones you see our military use are made by AM General and not GM as is widely believed.

Saab: There is not a reason to really hang on to this low volume maker. Many Saab loyalists gave up on the brand after the GM takeover. Saab lacks the prestige of Jaguar, Mercedes and BMW and does little to add to the bottom line. Sell it.

GMC: This brand is nothing more than pure badge engineering at its worst. There is not a dime’s difference between the GMC’s and Chevrolets mechanically. It is just a different grill and trim.

Saturn: This brand was conceived as Honda/Toyota killer almost two decades ago. Its unique business model, plastic bodied cars and culture of one-price fits all garnered a lot of interest. All of that is now gone and the Saturn cars are just re-badged versions of other GM products. It has two unique entries; the Vue and the Astra, neither of which are at the top of their respective classes.

So under my plan the four remaining players: Chevrolet, Pontiac, Buick and Cadillac would have the following dealer couplings:

Chevrolet-Pontiac

Buick-Cadillac.

I would engineer the brand’s lineups as follows:

Chevrolet: The mission of this brand would be to offer a wide range of family oriented products, this would be volume leader.

Aveo: ($13,000-$17,000) Refine and re-engineer this car in terms of quality and performance. Work with Daewoo (The car’s actual maker) to develop gasoline and hybrid versions of this car; aim for a starting price of 13K for the standard model and equip it to match the Honda Fit. Also a Hybrid version for $16,500.00 with mileage close to 50 mpg would certainly help with CAFE regulations and undercut the Toyota Prius by five grand.

Cobalt: Drop this model. It consistently rates low with most critics and loses money for GM. Other than the Turbo SS, the Cobalt is not a class leader.

Cruze: ($17000-$24,000) Develop this car as an up-market alternative to Civic, Mazda3 and Corolla. Make it slightly larger and roomier than the three aforementioned competitors. Offer coupe, five door hatchback and sedan versions of the car with three different engine choices. The base or “efficiency model” would have a 1.5 turbo 4 cylinder that will get close to 40Mpg. The up-level model would receive 2.4L that puts out 160Hp. Also offer a Hybrid version of the 2.4 and aim for the high 30’s in mpg.

“Cruze” Crossover ($21,000-$27,000) Replace the current Equinox with a crossover that will seat five in standard trim and option it for seven similar to the RAV4. Offer both a 2.4L 4 cylinder as standard and a 3.6L V6 as the up-level engine. Also offer a 2.5L turbo diesel for towing and higher mileage.

Malibu: ($21,000-$28,000) Increase the width by 2-3 inches (That is the biggest complaint people have about this car) Refine the steering feel. Replace the Hybrid with a 2.4L turbo diesel engine. With a six speed auto box this set up will get 35 or more MPG and have plenty of low end torque and drivability. Increase the six cylinder engine to 270Hp to match the Accord and Camry. Find a way to decrease the curb weight. Offer coupe and hatch versions of this car as well and one high performance model with the 3.6 DI V-6 trimmed to 280Hp with more aggressive suspension settings.

Impala: A slightly wider Malibu with a couple of more inches of wheelbase would make this outdated car redundant; drop it from the line up.

Transverse: ($28,000-$35,000) leave this intact while finding a way to lower curb weight. Also offer as an alternative a 3.5L Turbo Diesel V6, tuned to reach 30Mpg Hwy.

Camaro: Leave it as planned; this would be Joe Six Pack’s sporty ride.

Corvette: To remove it further from the Camaro, switch to a mid engine set up. Also drop the “Chevrolet” designation and sell as a standalone product.

Volt: This is a great piece of tech, GM most now work hard to make this EREV affordable to the majority of middle class car shoppers.

Trucks: Leave as is. GM trucks have the highest overall rating by CR. Automobile, R&T etc…

SUV’s Eliminate all Truck-Based SUV’s except the Suburban and offer it in two lengths and wheelbases similar to what Ford does with the current expedition. The Transverse is what about 95% of mid to fullsize SUV buyers really need. The ‘Burb is only better for towing and hauling really heavy loads.

Pontiac: Pontiac needs to be reborn as a more sporty division, with different products than Chevrolet. Hence everything in the current line-up except the G8 needs to be fully replaced and here is the mix:

Solstice: Keep this roadster and continue to refine it further. Furthermore the Kappa platform on which it is based can be used to underpin other Pontiac projects.

G5: ($18,500-$24,000) Replace the current Cobalt clone with a compact rear wheel drive 2+2 and rear wheel drive 4-door. Also offer a model with a removable top. The base engine should be a 170HP version of the 2.4L and the up-level engine should be a 260HP turbo version of same. The up-level version will replace the Cobalt SS. The cars should have a taunt Euro feel and aggressive styling. In concept these would be a BMW 1 series for much less.

“Kappa” crossover ($23,000-$25,000): Replace the Toyota Matrix cloned Vibe with a compact crossover based on the Kappa Chassis, offer both G5 engines and optional all wheel drive

G8: ($27,000-$32,000) Beef the V6 up to 300HP and keep the current V8. Also add a low volume 2 door to the line up. In the following year, phase in a hardtop convertible to replace the defunct G6.

Buick: Would serve as GM’s near luxury brand, similar to the Acura TL, Lexus ES 350 and Mercedes C Class.

Lacrosse: ($26,000-$32,000) Move to the Epsilon platform (Malibu) and offer a standard 3.6 with 275HP a six speed auto and standard leather, power everything, etc Offer a 3.5L Diesel as an alternative engine choice for those seeking better gas mileage. Tune the suspension soft in the standard trim and offer a slightly firmer GS version as well.

Rivera: ($27,500-33,000) a low volume 2 door based on the Lacrosse with distinct styling and all the same engine options.

Lucerne: Front Drive + V8 = Second Rate performer-Kill this outdated thing.

Park Avenue ($31,000-$38,000) a full size 4 Door that replaces the Lucerne. This would be a rear wheel drive car (Holden Chassis) with a base 3.6DI engine with 290HP. The up-level model would have a 4.6L V8 with 330HP. Both tuned for a softer ride than the G8. As an alternative engine offer a 3.5L V6 Diesel as a higher gas mileage alternative.

Enclave: Leave as is but offer a 3.5L V6 Turbo-Diesel as an engine alternative to the standard V-6.

Cadillac: This is the flagship division. This is the top end in performance and luxury.

BLS: ($28,000-$35,000) this would be the base Caddy, taking over for the original CTS and would be built on a shortened Sigma Chassis. It would act as a 1 series competitor with rear wheel drive and a 300HP 3.6V6 as the standard engine. Offer both 6 speed manual and automatic transmissions. Tune it with a taunt suspension and equip it similar to the 3.5TL.


CTS: ($35,000-$45,000) this would be a rear wheel drive 5 series/M45/E Class competitor. The base engine would be 3.6L liter V6 tuned to 305HP With an Optional 3.5L V6 Diesel as a higher gas mileage model. The top engine would be a turbo version putting out 350HP. All wheel drive would also be an option. Offer both coupe and sedan variants.

SRX: ($40,000-$47000) this crossover would be based on the CTS above and offer the same engine choices.

DTS: see Buick Lucerne, kill this underperformer.

SLS: (super luxury sedan) ($50,000-$65,000), this would be the true rear wheel drive. flagship luxury sedan for Cadillac and GM and replaces the DTS. The standard engine would be a 5.0L Northstar V-8 with an out put of 400Hp and an 8 speed automatic, to match the specs of the S-Class and LS460. This car would be loaded to the nines with everything. Both a short wheelbase and longer wheelbase executive models would be offered.

CTSV-update to the new larger CTS body, but keep the current ultra high performance engine and suspension.

Escalade, Escalade EXT: Cadillac needs to get out of the truck business.

Well that is my product mix which weeds out the mediocre cars GM currently has and replaces them with cars that exceed the competitors’ offerings at every level. Furthermore my plan also keeps overlap and redundant models to a minimum while satisfying a broad
range of consumers.

Reducing brands means a smaller GM with less employees, but it will insure GM survives as a more flexible and competitive entity which most importantly is profitable. It is my hope that GM survives and has the best cars on the market in every single class. It would do my heart good to see GM cars come out the winner in almost every comparison test in every magazine, and to be able to read across a spread sheet and see the GM car the best in cornering, slalom, acceleration, and gas mileage against every car in its segment and to have the best 5 year reliability to boot. With few brands to mess with it will be easier for GM engineers and designers to achieve this.

There are other issues that GM should address. Such as being the first to field an affordable Hydrogen car and supporting infrastructure. The Volt is a good start, but gas-hybrids and extended range electrics are stepping stones to the real solution of fuel cell cars.


Clint

December 18, 2008 06:33 PM

They only need two brands:
GMC for trucks and pickups with seats in the cargo areas (sometimes called SUV).

Opel. Opel for the passenger cars. Every Buick, Caddy, Chevy, Pontiac, Saturn dealer should now be Opel. Don't close any dealers, just now all the cars are Opel.

Even if they are bankrupt, having that many Opel dealers would give some good feelings of security, along with the German vibe that comes with the Opel brand.

DJ

December 31, 2008 05:02 AM

Clint - finally some sense. well said. I am afraid hard to pick out the kernels of sense in the diatribes before this though. Good points on wages being too high and inefficiencies with too many models and brands. some very bad points on need for large cars, focus on mpg, the "good ole days", etc.

Mattiene-Arienne Moustakas

January 11, 2009 09:58 PM

I enjoyed the discussion and all the comments. Yet when all the dust is cleared, with bail-outs and with plans to reorganized, even should Chapter 11 eventually be the forced approached, GM will emerge as two quintessentially American brands, sufficient to fill all wants and needs; Chevrolet and Cadillac,
the two historic bookends of GM's history. Each can stretch their price-points toward the middle of the consumer's wallet ability. Chevrolet can produce a top-of-the-line nameplate, up to Buick's price points, afforded Cadillac the opportunity to produce an entry level model to meld the gap. Then both brands can share the same dealers' lots, with corporate impacting corporate-wide ads. The resultant kaleidoscope of offerings at each site would be an auto-Disneyland, replete with all the state-of-the-art theatrics and media muster-able.

jason

January 14, 2009 11:08 PM

This blog has some very interesting opinions written into it. However, I for one want a bail out when the resale value of my 2009 Saturn Vue XR is zero next year. They are going to leave us holding the bag and all of my cars defects will be owned by me. This is truly another example of how big companies are allowed to rape the consumer. Just how I feel along with many people I know. A loyal Saturn customer isn't worth the spit on a city sidewalk to GM.

Tom Jenkins

January 15, 2009 05:36 AM

Essentially this issue with GM and Saab is the same as that with Ford and Volvo. The cars were both quite popular at one time, yet they were bought up and turned into another conformist of the American car status quo. No matter who is to blame or when it happened, the issue is that the cars appear to be the same sedans and SUV's that ford and GM fervently pump out until the cows come home. It would do these manufacturers some good to regain their unique characteristics; perhaps by reinventing, or simply by adopting designs that are reminiscent of their nostalgic legacy. After all, one may suggest that the people who are driving these cars are doing so because they fell in love with them ten years ago. Perhaps their brand loyalty is strong enough to make them blind to the fact that their 2006 Volvo 5 door station wagon is a simply Taurus with a Volvo emblem, rather than that unique boxy fashion statement that they drove throughout their four years at Princeton.

Tim

January 20, 2009 05:10 AM

Actually the Taurus sits on a platform that was developed for Volvo first.

A 2 nameplate solution would be my plan B

I also have never understood brand loyalty in cars, I examine and test drive multiple cars in the class of car I am interested in and pick the best in quality, drivability, aesthtics, performance and projected resale and reliability every time regardless of the badge that is on it.

If everyone shopped that way for the last 20 years the big three would have made cars like the Malibu and the Fusion decades ago and not the crappy 1st gen Taurus, Lumina, Grand Am etc. If you cannot produce a car that can win or finish in the top 3 in every comparison test do not bother.

Sorry for the rant.

TJ

Teleny

February 17, 2009 07:10 PM

GM sold crap to Americans for 20 years and now they want us to finance their rape of us. In the meantime, Americans discovered that they could spend the same money and get better Japanese cars.

GM (and Chrysler and Ford) still believe that they are big players. Noone actually WANTS a GM (or American!) car. Other than Corvette, CTS, and maybe the pontiac roadster, GM cars are what you settle for b/c you can't afford what you really want (BMW, Benz, Lexus or even Toyota). The 300 is played out. The Mustang's platform uses archaic technology. The interior is a hard plastic nightmare!

The American car manufacturers have to realize that they now rank a little below the Koreans on desirability. They don't seem to have grasped that.

Take the G8. Probably a decent car, but WAAAAAY over priced. Why would I spend 35k on that when I can get a BMW 1 for the same money? In 4 years the Pontiac will be worth its weight in dog crap, while the Bimmer holds its value.

Take the Crossfire. Daimler made their cash off that platform. So instead of trying to blow them out as a six cylinder roadster for $22k they try to get SLK lite money for them. Noone was fooled.

Ford. Where do they get their design teams, the school for the blind. All of their cars are lumpen (Taurus) or have that crude hunk of plastic 3bar grill. Americans need to show they are sophisticated and NOT produce crap with 3 plasticy looking bar grills.

pat

March 7, 2009 07:51 PM

GM is messed up right now. We all know that but they could fix their problems very easily. First of all they have to kill off Saturn because all they do is take Pontiacs cars and sell them and rob Pontiac of sales. Knock off Buick because GM has Cadillac already. Kill off Hummer because thats not selling! Saab can just be left alone they are no good. But GM has to keep Pontiac because they are atleast showing some sign off life. The G6 is selling a lot and so is the Vibe. The G8 is an exelent car but its not selling at the moment. And their crown and jewl is the Pontiac Solsitce! that is an exelent car. Chevy is doing better as well and that is their main brand. Keep Cadillac because that is thier flagship brand. GMC can go. GMC is just slightly better versions of Chevys. And what Gm really has to start doing is make ads that show that american cars are just as good as similar imports!

Alex D.

March 8, 2009 01:32 AM

GM's problem is that it is hurting important and coveted brands. they are selling major portions of their brands and business model to foreign competitors giving them well established dealership networks and entry into well established automotive markets.

Pontiac could be successful at importing the entire Holden line up under the Pontiac Brand.

Saturn could continue importing all of Opel's international vehicles. I would suggest saturn take the opel name and logo, but even minus that suggestion it seems a good fit.

Saturn and Pontiac would lead little to no investment from GM and will be able to import stylish international vehicles imported. cutting R&D Costs and other expensive costs.

Buick can succeed with 4-5 models and has a refreshed line up and purpose. I think they can survive.

I have stated in the past GMC should be merged with Chevrolet, retaining the chevrolet brand name to cut duplicative services.

Vauxhall could be folded into, and renamed Opel.

Daewoo could be folded into either Pontiac or Holden, drastically reducing brands and duplicative services.

I would not condone selling any of their brands or dealership networks to a foreign automaker or private equity group.

The only brand I could see GM selling is SAAB. I would prefer the company completely shutter Hummer rather than give that brand and dealer-network to another automotive group.

GM must be focused on the future and long term. strengthening these international automakers and giving them access to U.S market and dealerships they are putting themselves at a competitive disadvantage in the near future.

TOYOTASUCKS

March 17, 2009 05:55 PM

People it's time to end this take toyota and scion and lexus and honda out no need for imports GM ford and dodge are alot better then toyota scion and lexus. GM should take out saab hummer and saturn.Thats a couple things to help gm. and another thing is people should just stop thinking toyota and honda are good end scion and lexus and then knock toyota and honda out people are so stuiped thinking honda and toyota are good there junk. people are so ignorent thats why this county is in a hole because people bitch about gas prices and think there gona do good with buying a import and they where wrong. the people who bought a toyota or honda are dumb.I would never buy a import. the big the us automakers are way better. Toyota sucks and people need to understand that.

William Madden

April 17, 2009 01:52 PM

TOYOTASUCKS:

Your argument is overwhelming. It's organization, grammar, diction, and spelling are simply stunning. I am selling all my Hondas today, even though I expect them to last (on the basis of personal experience) 200,000+ miles!

CHARLES ANZALONE

April 25, 2009 03:52 AM

THE UAW HELPED CREATE AND SAVE THE MIDDLE CLASS IN AMERICA AND THAT IS FACT, THERE ARE OVER 500 THOUSAND RETIRED AUTO WORKERS THAT HAVE MADE THE MIDDLE CLASS SURVIVE IN AMERICA, IT SEEMS THAT AMERICANS THAT DONT MAKE GOOD MONEY WORKING IN A SWEATY PLANT FOR 30 YEARS ARE JEALOUS, IF IT WANS FOR UNIONS WE WOULD BE A NATION OF WORKING POOR AND THATS A FACT, SOME AMERICANS FEEL THAT GOIGN TO WORK WITH A LUNCH BOX MEANS YOU SHOULD BE LIVING IN A TRAILER. THESE ARE MEN AND WOMEN WHO GO TO WAR AND MAKE THE GOODS WE ENJOYED FOR 100 YEARS, THEY DONT DESIGN THE PRODUCTS , THEY JUST PUT THEM TOGETHER THE WAY THEY ARE TOLD .YOU FLOCK TO WALMART FOR CHEAP GOODS WHILE YOU JOBS ARE FLUSHED DOWN THE TOILET, BUT THATS OK AS LONG AS ITS NOT YOU JOB WARNING!!!! YOURS COULD BE NEXT OH BY THE WAY MOST OF THOSE WELL PAID AUTO WORKERS( THAT DONT ALL MAKE OVER 24 DOLLARS AN HOUR) ARE THE ONES THAT PAY THE TAXES AND PUT THE MONEY BACK INTO THE ECONOMY. FACT!!!MOST AUTO WORKERS AS WELL AS STEEL AND IRON AND AERO SPACE WORKERS PAY THE MOST TAXES ON INCOME ,PROPERTY AND UTILITIES BECAUSE THEY MOSTLY WORK AND LIVE IN THE HIGHEST TAXED STATES IN AMERICA . THEY BUY YOUR CLOTHS , SHOP IN YOU STORES, EAT AT YOUR RESTAURANTS . "GOD BLESS THE LAST OF THE MIDDLE CLASS", YOU BETTER HOPE THEY CAN STILL SPEND IN YOUR COMMUNITY AS MANUFACTURING DIES SO DO CITIES( BUFFALO, CLEVELAND,ALLENTOWN, SYRACUSE, ROCHESTER, DETROIT AND THE LIST CONTINUES TO GROW--BE CAEFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR

Joe Fomenko

May 9, 2009 09:34 AM

GMs biggest problem was aquiring HUMMER and scrapping the SATURN EV1 electric supercar. They were ahead of the game at that point. The rest of the Global companies would be chasing them. Who knows GM could of spread the technology of the EV1 to all of its brands and they wouldn't be in this mess. Say NO to the oil companies and do the RIGHT and logical thing. Get the monkey of off your back. Oil companies are like a bad drug addiction. GM has Over-dosed on gasoline. No hope now.

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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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