Sign in to follow this  
Guest buickman

GM Marketing

22 posts in this topic

Guest buickman   
Guest buickman

From www.autoextremist.com

by Peter M. DeLorenzo

GM Marketing goes back to the future.

Detroit. Big changes for GM marketing are imminent, as the path they have followed for years and the path that contributed mightily to the company's freefall in the market is going to be abandoned. GM is about to give its moribund divisional structure a serious boost by reconfiguring the individual divisions, giving them more autonomy and giving the divisional leaders serious clout for the first time in years. To understand where GM wants to go with this move, you first have to go back - way back - to GM's "glory days" to understand where it once was and why they need to take a page from the past to help them gain market consideration for their products now.

Back when GM consistently dominated more than 40 percent of the U.S. market, the company was made up of divisions - Cadillac, Chevrolet, Pontiac, Buick, Oldsmobile (and GMC Trucks) - that bristled with independence. These divisions were headed up by strong-willed General Managers who had complete control over everything that went on at that division, from manufacturing to sales. To be in charge of one of GM's divisions was akin to being potentate of a small country, and some of GM's most famous names were rotated through the divisional gigs - guys like Bunkie Knudsen, Ed Cole, John DeLorean, etc. - with the final and premier stop being the divisional General Manager job at Chevrolet, GM's largest division.

I have written many, many columns about how GM operated in its heyday, and it's hard to believe now that it was once a vibrant, exuberant, creative and flat-out exciting company that was in full command of the market - but that's exactly what it was.

Let's take a look at just one division - Pontiac. I have recounted several times in this column how Pontiac was once GM's "maverick" division. But it wasn't always that way. Pontiac was actually a sleepy little division for many, many years - that is until Bunkie Knudsen was given the wheel in 1956 and told to juice up sales - or else. Knudsen grabbed Pontiac by the lapels and decided to build hot cars - and he drafted Pete Estes from Oldsmobile to be his chief engineer and hired an engineer by the name of John Z. DeLorean away from Packard to be his assistant. And those guys went crazy, throwing three two-barrel carburetors on Pontiac V-8s (Tri-Power), racing in NASCAR with Glenn "Fireball" Roberts and unleashing a series of high-performance "wide-track" street cars that put Pontiac on the map and buried its old "reliable but boring" image once and for all. And from that moment on Pontiac officially became GM's "maverick" division - much to the chagrin of other GM General Managers who chafed at the idea that Pontiac was getting all the attention.

Of course, the Pontiac guys relished their newly created "maverick" reputations, all but flying a "skull and crossbones" flag over their headquarters in downtown Pontiac, Michigan. And their comrades at Chevrolet were their favorite target (back then GM basically competed against itself, so these intramural rivalries were intense and sometimes bitter). Even when Knudsen "got the call" for his next big divisional assignment at GM, new General Manager DeLorean (at the time the youngest to hold that post in GM history) continued to pour it on. His engineering team came up with the idea of stuffing a 389 V-8 in the "Plain Jane" Tempest and calling it the "GTO" - but it was an option, not a model. This, of course, conveniently skirted GM's corporate ban on producing overt performance car models, in deference to a silly mandate by the AAA, which was the reigning "No Fun League" at the time and which equated anything to do with performance cars, or performance advertising and imagery - as being akin to the Devil's Work. And they urged the domestic auto manufacturers to voluntarily comply with their suggestion, which they stupidly did, for all of about five minutes.

Sadly, GM complied with the mandate just long enough to screw-up the sensational Corvette Grand Sport program, however, forcing all other development programs (i.e., racing) underground, including the unofficial though deeply official arrangement with Jim Hall and his magnificent Chaparrals. But by then Ford was deep into its "Total Performance" marketing assault that stormed racetracks around the country and around the world, and DeLorean figured that his little GTO "option" was a great way to get around GM's silly anti-racing, anti-performance stance. The Chevy guys immediately ran downtown to headquarters, squealing like little school girls that "those guys" at Pontiac were at it again. But a funny thing happened on the way to crucifying Pontiac for a long list of real and perceived transgressions, because a brilliant marketing campaign orchestrated by Jim Wangers, an exec at Pontiac's ad agency at the time (MacManus John & Adams), made the GTO take off in the market - and all of a sudden the fourteenth floor, after scanning the upward trajectory of the sales numbers, decided to look the other way - and the AAA "ban" became lost in the tire smoke from Pontiac GTOs, Chevy "SS" models, Olds "442s" and big-block Corvettes, etc.

Alas, that entrepreneurial spirit at GM, when General Managers fought for their turf and lived and died for their divisions - with great products resulting more often than not - was snuffed out for a number of reasons. The dawn of the "GM Assembly Division" killed the divisions' individual sense of daring and and stifled manufacturing creativity by removing them from the decision-making process. Bill Mitchell retired, and the corporate weenies confined GM Design (then called "Styling") into a cage and threw away the key, until just recently. Consequently, the confluence of all of these events contributed to GM's long, slow slide into oblivion, and the corporate bureaucrats - most of whom wouldn't know what to do with a GM division if their lives depended on it - ran GM right into the ground, at the exact moment in time that the Asian and German car companies began their inexorable climb up the sales charts. And this all happened before the Brand Management crusade decimated GM's fortuned even further.

The point of this little look back at GM history is that after decades of homogenizing and neutering the divisions to the point that they were about as autonomous as Putin's cabinet, GM is finally rethinking what they've been doing after all these years.

Since they don't honestly believe that they do have "too many models, too many divisions" as I've often said, they are now hell-bent on giving the divisions more autonomy and more hands-on responsibility for marketing and product decisions.

In other words, giving the divisions a real raison d'etre.

Rumors suggest that Brent Dewar will go back to the future himself and take over a revamped and reinvigorated Chevrolet Division. And that Mike Jackson, fresh in from California and currently GM North America's vice president of marketing and advertising, will take over the Buick-Pontiac-GMC division - with the official announcements (and other changes) coming soon.

Will this resurrect GM's hoary divisional structure to fighting trim?

We'll see.

But as long as GM is going to make a go of it, they might as well give the divisions some serious horsepower - literally and figuratively.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest buickman   
Guest buickman

For over seven years I have been preaching, speaking, writing and practically begging GM to change their marketing. Perhaps this is a beginning sign that there is still hope. I was elated to read the story detailing the adjustments being considered and honestly look forward to significant alterations leading to real results. These kind of decisions are what is needed but must be accompanied by accountability for those given the responsibility for selling vehicles. Let's see...

Buickman

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
tama z71    0

For over seven years I have been preaching, speaking, writing and practically begging GM to change their marketing. Perhaps this is a beginning sign that there is still hope. I was elated to read the story detailing the adjustments being considered and honestly look forward to significant alterations leading to real results. These kind of decisions are what is needed but must be accompanied by accountability for those given the responsibility for selling vehicles. Let's see...

Buickman

203877[/snapback]

$h!!

i agree with buickman!

...

$h!!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Petra    0

I agree that GM needs to give their divisions more freedom to set their own courses, be that in regards to marketing or anything else. However, don't lose sight of the fact that the GTO was also a great product, regardless of how much or how little it was marketed.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Cadillacfan    0

This is bang on!  The days of cookie cutter platforms are over.  Equinox/Torrent, Cobalt/Pursuit debacles MUST end.

203950[/snapback]

I highly doubt they'll give each brand their own platforms with the exception of Cadillac. From what I understand, they will still share platforms but will eventually get more freedom over design(interior/exterior), and type of vehicles offered. Though, I doubt that won't happen for a little while, more autonomous marketing decisions is an important first step for this to happen. Even if the brands get product freedom, GM would still have control over preventing brand overlap.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
CARBIZ    1

Yes, of course. The Malibu/G6 is a better example of that. At least it isn't embarassing, like when a customer wonders aloud what the difference is between the Uplander/SV6!

There were good examples in years gone by: the Skylark/Cutlass of the late '60s. Or the Eldorado/Toronado. This is what GM needs to return to.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
rosserman    0

I agree totally. It is good to see that the divisions will have a choice whether or not to use a platform. The death of the Pontiac minivan was long overdue.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
GEESIXER    0

you know, its funny. every time i see the Rally's comercial for the double sided drive thru, i think thats what GM has been passing off for years. EXCEPT GM WAS PLAYING FOR REAL!!!!!!!!!!

that shows you just how stupid the idea has been for the last 20 years.

Edited by GEESIXER

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest YellowJacket894   
Guest YellowJacket894

:o

I'll be damned. Dollinger has a point and I agree with it. (Note to Dollinger: make more posts like this that prove a good idea and people will stop wanting you banned, among other things.)

Goodbye Torrent. Goodbye G5. Goodbye Canyon (although I'll miss you).

I can't wait to see what products will come in the future. This sounds great.

Edited by YellowJacket894

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest buickman   
Guest buickman

I must admit that it is a good feeling to hear the positive comments and hear agreement. Although it is a nice result, it was not a specific goal. Most of you know I call 'em as I see 'em and my motivation has been to raise enough red flags to see some changes. I am not egotistical enough to believe anything I've been saying is reason for this eventuality. I am simply excited to see the kind of direction that I feel will work to everyone's benefit.

Buickman

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest YellowJacket894   
Guest YellowJacket894

I am simply excited to see the kind of direction that I feel will work to everyone's benefit.

Well, this move certainly will.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest YellowJacket894   
Guest YellowJacket894

this does mean far fewer models for each division, except for maybe chevy, from what i can tell

204281[/snapback]

I doubt it. I think this means General Managers for each division can select what they want their division to sell, permitting it fits the brand's image.

Okay, let me explain just how I think this will work.

Say I'm the new General Manager at Pontiac, right? And as soon as I take hold of my position and what power it holds, I decide I want six cars for my divison: a G5 and Vibe replacement, a G6 replacement, a GP replacement, a GTO replacement, a Solstice replacement, and a car to replace the Bonneville.

I can choose any platform I want from the NG GMX platform bin, and since rear-drive is a priority for my division's image, I choose to use the Kappa II and Zeta platforms only -- no Delta, Epsilion, or Y-Body here (I think we know why the Y-Body is off limits to Pontiac). The G5/Vibe replacement (which I will call Tempest), the G6 replacement (which I will call LeMans), and of course the Solstice are all Kappa II cars. The GP, GTO, and Bonneville are all Zeta cars.

Each car is built to dimentions I have in mind, meaning that, for instance, the Solstice may or may not be the exact same size as the Sky. Each car is also designed to the Pontiac design language, meaning that the GP will not look like the Impala. Powertrains are also different from the other variants on the platform, meaning that I may not want a V6 option in the Bonneville while the smaller Impala will. Also, suspension pieces, etc., will be tuned for my brand's aspirations -- since this is Pontiac, the suspension will prove a nice, firm ride.

Get it? 8)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
FAPTurbo    1,096

I doubt it. I think this means General Managers for each division can select what they want their division to sell, permitting it fits the brand's image.

Okay, let me explain just how I think this will work.

Say I'm the new General Manager at Pontiac, right? And as soon as I take hold of my position and what power it holds, I decide I want six cars for my divison: a G5 and Vibe replacement, a G6 replacement, a GP replacement, a GTO replacement, a Solstice replacement, and a car to replace the Bonneville.

I can choose any platform I want from the NG GMX platform bin, and since rear-drive is a priority for my division's image, I choose to use the Kappa II and Zeta platforms only -- no Delta, Epsilion, or Y-Body here (I think we know why the Y-Body is off limits to Pontiac). The G5/Vibe replacement (which I will call Tempest), the G6 replacement (which I will call LeMans), and of course the Solstice are all Kappa II cars. The GP, GTO, and Bonneville are all Zeta cars.

Each car is built to dimentions I have in mind, meaning that, for instance, the Solstice may or may not be the exact same size as the Sky. Each car is also designed to the Pontiac design language, meaning that the GP will not look like the Impala. Powertrains are also different from the other variants on the platform, meaning that I may not want a V6 option in the Bonneville while the smaller Impala will. Also, suspension pieces, etc., will be tuned for my brand's aspirations -- since this is Pontiac, the suspension will prove a nice, firm ride.

Get it?  8)

204468[/snapback]

Why the does the word, "expensive" come to my mind?...

That's an entusiast's dream right there, RWD down the line and high performance. Only problem is, how expensive will those vehicles be?

You can make very good, fun to drive FWD vehicles, and I think Pontiac can easily allow for those. Yes, they could use some real mean RWD machines, but you have to create affordable fun as well.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
GEESIXER    0

:o

Goodbye Torrent

204058[/snapback]

why in the world would you get rid of the torrent. I understand it doesnt really fit the image, but at least ride it out. it is 10 times a better car then the Equinox. just ride it out until it is time to replace it(and then dont)

thats my idea.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest YellowJacket894   
Guest YellowJacket894

Why the does the word, "expensive" come to my mind?

It shouldn't -- The NG Kappa platform will probably be used for a host of cars costing less than twenty-five grand. And Zeta should start somewhere from there.

And I should note it was just an example I thought of from the top of my head. The idea is most certainly do-able, though, and shouldn't wind up being so costly as one would think.

That's an entusiast's dream right there, RWD down the line and high performance. Only problem is, how expensive will those vehicles be?

See above.

You can make very good, fun to drive FWD vehicles, and I think Pontiac can easily allow for those. Yes, they could use some real mean RWD machines, but you have to create affordable fun as well.

Rear-drive and affordability aren't two concepts that are unheard of. It can be done, espcially if the Cheif, it's General Manager, and GM wants to do something different. I hate to say it, but Pontiac is pretty much treading water at the moment. (That shouldn't be taken as a comment that there is something or that everything is wrong with the current offerings, though -- there isn't. However, they're exactly what we've seen in the Ninties with the heat dial turned down on the exterior designs and with much more attention to detail and quality.) The Solstice is the step in a whole new direction for Pontiac -- the right direction -- and we should see it come full circle.

why in the world would you get rid of the torrent.  I understand it doesnt really fit the image, but at least ride it out.  it is 10 times a better car then the Equinox.  just ride it out until it is time to replace it(and then dont)

thats my idea.

That's probably what will happen.

Well, it's either that or GMC will get a version. Recently, GM registered the name "Terrain," and that name has been pitched for a GMC SUV for a long time now. In any case, a GMC version of the Equinox makes sense and works.

The only division in the combined P-B-G channel that should have an SUV other than GMC is Buick, and they've got that covered with the Enclave. Since Buick wants to beat the living snot out of Lexus models, an RX competitor makes sense.

Edited by YellowJacket894

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Your content will need to be approved by a moderator

Guest
You are commenting as a guest. If you have an account, please sign in.
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoticons maximum are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this