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How I would structure GM (Massive Read)

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How I would structure General Motors North America. (Broken down into 5 sections)

DISCLAIMER: I decided to sit down the other day and try to come up with a pretty cohesive plan for the future of GM given the market and their tough financial situation. My plan is probably a little on the heavy side and might need better focus. But keep in mind; although I put A LOT of thought into it, I didn’t directly research anything. So feel free to post whatever you want about the plan; criticisms, acclaims, adjustments, anything. But just remember, I’m an amateur and it’s a work in progress. :D


General Motors: Times are tough right now for GM. The industry is more competitive than ever, the economy is in a trough and the image of the company as a whole continues to be tarnished. Most of you know that I am a very pessimistic person, but for every negative there is a positive, just like every night brings a dawn.

GM, despite all the negativity and tough times, has more of an opportunity to transform itself in the next 5 years than it has enjoyed in the last 30 years. Sure, CAFÉ and high gas prices have changed the automotive landscape indefinitely, but with that change comes opportunity and long-term profitability. First, no longer must GM admit to being a truck company which happens to make cars. As tough as it has been financially, the market corrected this problem that GM has been wrestling with for years. No longer does GM have to take a back seat to competitors in innovation. E-Flex is up and running and WILL reinvent the automobile if GM leverages the technology to it’s fullest potential. No longer are people so ‘brand’ or ‘size’ loyal that they refuse to shop other companies. Gas prices are FORCING people to think outside of the box and find new solutions for their transportation needs that most might not have considered even 2 years ago. So, in the most optimistic terms, one could go as far as saying GM almost has a fresh slate for both itself and it’s divisions. The automobile is being re-invented, the market has been turned upside down and finally the country seems to be waking up to the fact that domestically produced goods might be a good investment after all.

GM should ‘seize the day’ as fast as it can. Management needs to promote the company as one cohesive unit that provides answers to ANY and ALL transportation needs the market has. At it’s peak, GM had a car for everyone and that should still be the case today. No more ‘Detroit; stodgy business men; crappy plastic car’ image. GM needs to leverage alternative fuels and E-Flex to promote itself as a leader in all technology. At the same time, GM needs to inform the consumer that it’s quality AS A WHOLE is on par or better than the asian companies, AND it needs to inform the consumer of what it can offer that the asian companies cannot: STYLE. People need to DESIRE to drive GM vehicles. GM will NEVER win the comparison in logic between their cars and [insert asian brand here] because people are too jaded to see the truth. Therefore, GM must initially infiltrate the buyers through their hearts instead of their minds. This is what made GM great and it is crucial in relation to the company seeing another 100 years in this cutthroat market.

In short: GM needs to promote itself as a global company with American flavor. It needs to cash in on sentimentalism all the while showing the consumer that it’s operations and business practices around the globe are first rate. This company has A LOT to be proud of and it’s okay to show that to the consumer and correct some of the blatantly wrong attitude and perception out there. GM doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel, because people know that they already ‘invented the wheel’. They just need to make a better wheel that is easier to use, better to look at and does a better job.

Chevrolet: Increasingly, Chevrolet IS General Motors and vice versa. Because of that, going forward Chevrolet needs to be GM’s top priority. Chevrolet needs COHESIVE, quality product that sells well around the globe. Does Chevy need strictly generic, FWD small cars? Not entirely, but in order for the division to continue expanding (Which it must do if GM is to survive) global product is vital. The Cruze seems to be a good start from a quality and performance standpoint. However, a little more ‘american flavor’ in the design would be nice. You can’t get much more ‘american’ than Chevrolet, so why not own that identity and celebrate it in the best possible ways. To do so would exhibit pride in the corporation and to a lesser extent, pride in american design and culture. Chevrolets key phrase is EXPANSION.

Pontiac: Pontiac has no global footprint and a rather tarnished image, according to some. But that doesn’t make the division worthless. Brand equity, CAFE and volume/share are all good enough reasons to keep the division alive. I’ll save the more specific arguments for later. Going forward Pontiac will have the most focused line up of any GM division. This is for a number of reasons; 1) To repair the image of the division 2) To compliment Buick and Chevrolet now with less overlap 3) To not soak up too much investment. 4) To cater to a specific base of buyers that want smaller volume. And 5) To make the division easy to phase out IF needed. In order to repair Pontiac, GM must do something that it’s not used to: under promise and over deliver. The key phrase for Pontiac is QUALITY OVER QUANTITY.

GMC: Gone for now are the days of GMC being the second best selling division at GM, so GMC must focus on profitability. GMC IS the GM truck division, and likewise it is a mid-lux counterpart to Buick in the B/P/GMC channel. For the future, if a customer desires a real truck or luxury truck, they’ll go to GMC, not Cadillac and not Chevrolet. Certain parts of GMC will also fill the role of Hummer after it is sold. The reason for this is simple; GMC already has a great reputation established as a maker of fine, upscale trucks and the market as a whole is moving AWAY from trucks. So, the volume division (Chevy) needs to chase volume and the luxury division (Cadillac) needs a more capable competitor for the new European unibody luxury crossovers. The key phrase for GMC is PROFITABILITY or R.O.I.

Buick: Given it’s success in China, the warm reception here to the Enclave, the potential growth of the mid-lux market at the expense of luxury makers (economy, fuel and transaction prices) and GM’s ability to pump fresh product into the division immediately, I think Buick is prime for expansion. In fact, I think Buick should become the dominant franchise in the B/P/GMC channel. There simply is no sense in this channel trying to sling ‘lesser’ (Thanks to Chevrolet getting all of the big $$$ and a better image) volume Pontiacs at the same market as GM’s afore mentioned volume division. Can my Pontiac line up pull volume? Sure, but not much compared to Chevy. So I would rather this channel focus on PROFIT per car sold. The Chevrolet channel can sell numbers and make money that way, this channel can sell less (Because, they aren’t volume divisions anyway) with higher transaction prices by way of an extended and FRESH Buick line and still make good money. The new Buick will compete (ON A LUXURY, STYLE AND COMFORT LEVEL) with the Lexus ES, Acura and Infiniti. The majority of buyers only care about that (As opposed to drivetrain and performance) anyway. And if Buick isn’t enough, they’ll have a small volume line from Pontiac and exclusive rights to the ONLY GM luxury truck division to complement. The key phrase for Buick: REDEFINE and EXPAND.

Cadillac: Cadillac should be the standard of the world. That means no watering down, no volume chasing and no compromises. As a result, Cadillac needs to develop a more cohesive line up, work very hard to establish a larger global footprint, work even harder to push up transaction prices and resale and deliver the best that money can buy from GM. As of right now, Cadillac doesn’t need to worry about volume, it needs to build excellent vehicles all around the world. Once that focus is met, the volume will come naturally. The key phrase for Cadillac: TAKE IT TO THE NEXT LEVEL.

Saturn: Saturn has the awful job that Oldsmobile couldn’t do. Saturn must sell to those who would never buy a traditional GM vehicle. There is a HUGE portion of the population that would not consider a Pontiac or Chevy, but might give Saturn a try. That’s WHY Saturn has so much potential and that’s WHY Saturn SHOULD NOT BE COMPETING WITH OTHER GM DIVISIONS! Saturn’s problem is that it’s been the most schizophrenic division on the market now for about 10 years. It has no identity, no specific mission and very few customers who aren’t confused by the Ion- to -Sky transformation. Saturn’s new mission is to be GM’s “fashion” division. The same people who think it’s not cool to buy GM (You know, the diehard vocal people) are the same people who rank high on politics, the environment, fashion and technology. Saturn must first create an image for itself as a fashionable technology/green division that is truly unique from anything else GM offers , within parameters of course. (That was the initial goal anyway, right? And they have already started this, in case you haven’t noticed) and then become THE GM offering for this demographic of people by delivering on their promises and reinforcing the image this demographic portrays. The key phrase for Saturn: ESTABLISH YOUR IDENTITY and BECOME THE ANTI-GM.

Saab: With Saabs heritage and the image the Swedish companies enjoy, it has HUGE potential now that the automobile is becoming more technology focused and green. This is another brand, like Saturn, that seems to slip by the “anti-GMers” sentiment that is so popular in our society. But alas, Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will a Saab buyer base. So, for now, Saab needs to establish itself in America AND abroad. The best way to do this is through technology. Saab can, in spirit, become the new Oldsmobile in that it can be the new technology division at GM. At one time, GM tried to pair Oldsmobile and Cadillac and use Olds as a step to Cadillac ownership. Now that Saab is paired with Cadillac in the sales channels it can occupy that exact position, except with it’s own ‘heritage inspired niche” (as inaccurate as that is) and less stigma. Key phrase for Saab: ESTABLISH YOURSELF.

Hummer: SOLD to the highest bidder!!! Sad to see it go, but sometimes you have to cut some roots so the tree will survive. GMC will expand to occupy what is left of the Hummer niche.

Edited by FUTURE_OF_GM
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I can find nothing to disagree with here, there is a clear focus and mission statement for each brand in your outline. It is a concise and focused plan which sets the agenda on the right road.

My only addition would be that it is critical that once such a plan is adopted that GM stick to it firmly. That is something that they have failed to do over and over again.

Well done, FOG!

On to part two...

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I agree, Well Done FOG!

There are parts I don't agree with, but "a plan" is better than "no plan" which is what GM seems to be following.

My biggest concerns are, "Do we really need Pontiac"? and "What is Anti-GM"?

This is not criticism, but thoughts about the Future Of GM and where is it going.

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"What is Anti-GM"?

The way I classify it, there are 4 types of buyers in the market (in relation to GM) It's nothing technical, just my opinion based on observation. (But keep in mind, my background is in exactly that; observation and environment)

1) GM fan and loyalists. That's us, traditionally we will buy or at least consider GM regardless of what is going on with the company.

2) Average buyer. This buyer is not too car savvy because they view a car as an appliance. However, that ambivalence is not a bad thing because since they're not into cars, a lot of them haven't formed the negative feeling for domestic producers that are so common now. These are the people that might like a Honda Accord, but then see a Malibu ad and are interested enough to look into the car despite it being from a domestic producer.

** I think Chevrolet and Pontiac can still appeal to these people if given the right product.

3) Import buyers. These people purchase strictly imports 90% of the time. But it's not because they hate Detroit, it's because imports are all they've ever known. Maybe mom and dad brought them up with imported cars or maybe they, based on something like Consumer Reports only shop imported cars. They know about the stigma Detroit carries, but at the same time they don't necessarily buy into it. But since imports are the status quo purchase now, they're not very likely to buy a traditional domestic brand either.

4) Anti-GMers. These are the people that OPENLY criticize and try to sway others opinions about domestic products. These people have polar relationship with GM fans in that they are exactly what we are not. They buy imports because it's fashionable and conveys good taste and they justify their decisions with excuses like their moms crappy 1972 Vega or GM's 'commitment to destroy the environment through gas guzzling SUVs'

A lot of the buyers in category 3 and 4 have never even been exposed to GM vehicles, and that's the sad part. Saturn (on a volume level) and Saab can appeal to these people whereas Chevrolet an Pontiac cannot. Chevrolet and Pontiac have strong brand identities (for better or worse) and these fashionable people DO NOT want to be associated with that identity. Saturn however, does NOT have a strong brand identity and even when it did, the identity didn't represent tradition and typical Detroit characteristics. Instead it celebrated independence, small business practices and efficiency. That was the door opener, all we have to do is parlay that into something more dynamic. Something that represents a 'lifestyle' and not a company.

I hope that clears it up a bit.

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One thing I would like to see from GM: more innovation.

I didn't know this until I began doing some research for my Cutlass, but apparently, GM had an AutoStick-type transmission before Chrysler Corp. started building them. It was called a "his-and-her dual gate shifter" and it was optional in at least the 1972 A-Body Cutlass, if not all of the other A-Body cars, I am positive of that.


Why did features like this vanish in the late 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s? It wasn't until the half-assed system the last-generation Malibu had (thumb rocker switch on the shifter) that they were starting to build cars with such features again, and after Chrysler had prided itself on "pioneering" this technology with AutoStick in the 1990s. GM was clearly ahead of the curve here and should have stuck with making this technology, and technology like this, at least optional in most of, if not all of, it's models.

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Huh. Funny, I don't fit in any of those categories.

I have an import, but it is not becasue "that's all I've ever known" but rather because imports are (relatively) new to me.

Aside from the unstopable workhorse that is our '89 GMC S15, nearly every GM car our family has owned has been utter garbage.

Our '93 Grand Am GT was good for a couple of years, but then it started leaking worse than the levees in New Orleans, In order to get ready for any kind of trip, we would have to wheel out the shopvac to suck the water out of the rear footwells and the trunk. We tried just about everything over the years to get it to stop, but it never did. Eventually, the car started to wear out in other places and we decided that we had finally had enough of it.

And then, we replaced it with an '04 Grand Am GT. No problems there...yet.

My dad had a fantastic '65 Malibu 283 hardtop in white with blue interior. That was actually one of the few decent ones. It still backfired five seconds after you turned it off and when you turned the wheels full-turn to either side the engine would die sometimes.

Then came the '86 Monte Carlo SS. Probably the worst, barring my Skylark. It had been in a front-end collision at one point, and the fenders and hood never fit quite right. Although dad is obsessed with V8s and rear-drive, the SS was appalingly slow. Once it was up to highway speed it was smooth, but getting there it was sonambulistic. You could feel it had some torque, but it always felt like the engine was struggling to pull all of that unweildy girth. And then there was the constant squeaking and rattling and groaning from every single part of the car.

My '77 Skylark is similar. It is technically my car, but only because my dad talked me into it back when I knew nothing about cars. Like the Malibu, it dies when the wheels are turned sharply to one side. It is like the engine isn't producing even enough power to overcome the fiction of the turned wheels against the ground. It also groans, though it is more sound than the Monte. But the engine is caked with oil from a leaking gasket left unattended in the seventies. It was repainted, but the previous owners didn't bother to fix any of the dings - or rust - first. The air conditioning is completely non-functional. The wonderful filler panels - urethane between the body and the bumpers - actually tends to trap dirt and debris between then and the bumpers causing even more rust to eat away at the bumpers. The odd-firing Fireball is so saddled down with emissions equipment that what little power it does make never actually makes it to the rear wheels. And this is all capped by the traditional Buick road-feel (that is to say, none whatsoever).

Our project car, the '76 Ventura, largely has the same issues as the Buick. Except for the air-conditioning, which it doesn't have. It currently has it's Olds 262 V8 yanked and a Chevy 307(?) put in it's place. The rust-riddled fenders are still off, and there are no solid plans on what to do with the body or interior.

The '78 Grand Am is actually pretty rare, and for most purposes is effectively a Pontiac Monte. Strangely, despite being older than our now-gone Monte it is actually more solid and better put together. But like the rest, the engine's power is poor and the steering and suspension worse. The arm-level console is nice, but the once-red interior is now pink and the air-conditioning is thwarted by a massive vacum leak that hisses like a snake hidden in the back of the dash.

Some of these problems are from common wear-and-tear and others are from dumb previous owners, but the point is that most of these are rear-drive, V8, GM, two-door coupes (of which everyone here is so fond) yet instead of being exciting they are sloppy, lethargic, and ham-fisted in nearly every way.

And that's why I'm never terribly enthusiastic about GM cars. Even their most sporty vehicles have some of that old "Riviera spirit". I think the only car that is truly different in that regard is the ZR1, and it should be different for 100 grand. It's just that I've never come across a GM car that has the liveliness, the light-footedness, temprement of some foreign cars. Even the closest the Big 3 have come vehicle-wise in that aspect is with cars (Opel Manta, Mercury Capri, Mercury Cougar) that are designed and made in foreign countries. The worst part is that Bob sLutz should be able to do better, having been around when the Opel GT and BMW 2002ti were made.

That said there are some GM cars that I would love to have:

Just about any of the original GM compacts, especially the Buick Skylark, Olds Jetfire, Corvair Monza, Pontiac Tempest. I'd still want to tighten them up suspension-wise with more precise steering. Actually, I have a Popular Mechanics issue from '63 next to me comparing the "Hot Compacts" I've listed without the Buick and adding a Lark V8 and the Falcon Sprint.

The aforementioned Opels


Wow, is that it?

I guess I'm not an import guy; I'm just picky. =P

And I wrote pages without even touching on what I wanted to talk about.

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Two things Argen:

1. Please read the stickied reminder at the top of the To GM section - the staff has to approve all posts in here before they will be visible. Double posting will just make more work for us.

2. Are you seriously judging GM cars on the basis of 30+ year-old, worn out, examples?

Examples, I might add, that are still around after all that time. Kind of weakens your

postition a bit , doesn't it?

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Argen, obviously by your purchasing history, you would fall into the first group.

Despite being let down by GM, the fact that you're posting on a GM website means that you're still somewhat of a GM enthusiast that at least considers the company.

But I'm no expert. shrugs:

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1. Please read the stickied reminder at the top of the To GM section - the staff has to approve all posts in here before they will be visible. Double posting will just make more work for us.
Sorry about that. However, my computer (as usual) was having problems and I did not do it intentionally.

2. Are you seriously judging GM cars on the basis of 30+ year-old, worn out, examples?

Examples, I might add, that are still around after all that time. Kind of weakens your

postition a bit , doesn't it?

I think you completely missed the point. As I said, I'm into small, light-footed cars that handle well and are sporty. None of those cars I listed would be considered "light-footed" or "sporty", unless you have Hasselhoff/Reynolds taste in cars.

As for them still being around, I will admit it is amazing how long they have limped on. Both the Malibu and the Skylark underwent massive rebuilds, and the Malibu was only twenty years old when it was completely restored from the rust-riddled corpse it was. The Ventura has less than 40k miles on it and was driven by a little old lady to the store once a week. We actually have all the pink inspections slips for that car from '76 until we got it in 2005.

But none of that is relevant to my point. Yes, they've been reliable but they lack any excitement. I have a friend to had an Alfetta, and while it did finally die it gave him seven years of unparalleled excitement. And that's what I want in a car.

Also, I dislike how you use the word "judging" there. When I talk about cars, I do not think like some others that my point of view is the only true and right one. Whenever I make statements, they are meant to convey my feelings and nothing more. Some people might actually like an 80's Cutlass in moss green that belches black smoke, but that person is not me. What I'm trying to get at is that GM doesn't make cars that are better than those by other companies in areas that I consider important.

Argen, obviously by your purchasing history, you would fall into the first group.

Despite being let down by GM, the fact that you're posting on a GM website means that you're still somewhat of a GM enthusiast that at least considers the company.

But I'm no expert. shrugs:

The point is that I'm a car enthusiast.

I don't care if it's a Chevy, a Nissan, or a Volkswagen. If it's a great car, I'll praise it to the heavens. If it's a piece of garbage, I'll condemn it forever.

I like GM, because it is our American company. I also have a fondness for Ford and Chrysler. I can't help but want to root for the home team. I love their glorious past and all three have proved before that they are capable of making reliable, innovative, excellent cars when they put their hearts into it.

Yet, almost every single time they come out with a new vehicle it is just short of being great. So many times I find myself thinking, "Well, I guess that's okay..."

About my car: I bought it, not because it was foreign, but because it was the best car for the conditions under which I was shopping. I was looking for something in the 5k-7k range, and my mom didn't want me having anything older than ten years old. The most common vehicles I was able to find under those conditions were:

1) Grandpa Mobiles - LeSabres and Avalons

2) Trucks - Jimmys, Explorers (go thing I didn't go that way, huh?)

3) Ruined Econoboxes - Dad tried to talk me into a water-logged Protege with it's radio missing

And then I kept running across this thing called the Audi A4, which was suspiciously cheap despite many example having four-wheel drive and turbocharged engines. Although some were in bad shape, their reputation for poor reliability makes the few example in good shape very affordable. Now, if the same car were to have, say a Buick badge on it, then I would still have bought it.

Finally, I'd like to point something out that goes along with what YellowJacket said. I never realised until now, but the Tempest had a four-cylinder. A four-cylinder engine in an American car in the 60's. The last year it even made 166 hp, while the thoroughly modern Ecotec only makes 11 more horsepower more than forty years afterwards. Where was that kind of thing in the seventies? I know it wouldn't have been as powerful, but they could have compensated somehow.

On a similar note, when the gas crisis happened Buick had only V8s. In a panic for more fuel-efficient engines, they dug an old Fireball V6 out of a junkyard, plopped it into an Apollo and it worked so well that they bought the dies back from Kaiser-Jeep. GM has developed some really neat technology in the past, but it tends to end up buried somewhere and when people really need it they don't have it any more. It just underlines that GM is capable of great things and can lead the world, but regularly chooses not to. Which causes my eternal frustration.

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