By on June 18, 2009

GM is shutting down production of the Pontiac Vibe at the New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc. (NUMMI) plant in California. GM has sold some car or another based on the Corolla ever since they jointly opened the plant with Toyota. GM doesn’t need them to produce another small car, as they’re looking at plants in Michigan, Wisconsin and Tennessee for that. That’s the first dot. And away we go!

Toyota spent $1.3 billion to build and man a new plant in Blue Springs, Mississippi. Originally, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi (TMMS) was set to construct Highlanders. And then the SUV market crashed. As gas prices rose, ToMoCo couldn’t import enough fuel-sipping Priora to satisfy demand. In July 2008, they announced a change in plan. The Hospitality State facility would be converted to Priora production. And then gas prices cratered. As did the entire US new car market, including the Prius. With all excess capacity in other factories, Toyota’s mothballed the half-built Mississippi factory.

Then Toyota released the 2010 Prius. Despite the depressed global new car market worldwide demand for the model is strong. Toyota needs more manufacturing capacity to meet that demand. It’ll take a while to finish the on-off-on Mississippi manufacturing plant. Dot two.

Third dot: The new Prius shares some parts (such as underbody frame) with the Corolla. In fact, they could be built at the same facility. Rumors are flying that Toyota will add the Prius to NUMMI’s repertoire. It makes sense. NUMMI has the capacity to build Priora; all the high-tech parts they’d need will come from Japan to the west coast. Toyota would cut shipping costs considerably by parts close to their west coast port of entry.

Now here’s where it gets interesting.

GM and Toyota still jointly own NUMMI. GM’s historically sold a Toyota-based small car since they started the venture. Will Toyota build another? We’ve href=”http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/toyota-to-gm-need-help-say-the-magic-word/”>reported that Toyota’s President Katsuaki Watanabe said, “If some talk about supporting GM comes up, we would like to consider it earnestly.”

It’s the same party line ToMoCo adopted back in ’05, when GM first acknowledged that it was kinda maybe heading for disaster. In fact, as we reported at the time, GM CEO Rick Wagoner flew to Tokyo and met with Toyota’s CEO. Although the substance of those talks was never revealed, it was widely speculated that Wagoner was exploring the possibility of licensing Toyota’s hybrid technology (if only).

Dot four.

New CAFE regulations are full of loopholes, but Government Motors has to do something to at least appear to be satisfying their high mileage provisions. They need to fulfill the “greener” part of their short-lived “Leaner, Greener, Faster, Smarter” reinvention campaign.

GM’s going to build the Cruze, their own small car, in Lordstown Ohio and Son of Aveo somewhere (where the tax breaks are easy). But their dance card at the hybrid car cotillion is empty. The General’s pulling the plug on their light hybrids (VUE, Aura and Malibu) and put the PHEV drivetrain for the Saturn VUE on hold (the model’s going bye-bye). The Hail Mary plug-in hybrid Volt has been conspicuously absent from the news and press releases lately. So there’s no telling what’s going on there. GM needs hybrid help to appease its new government overlords post haste.

Final dot.

So . . . what are the chances of Toyota building a small hybrid vehicle for GM when they gear-up to start Prius production at NUMMI? Connecting all the dots shows it would fill an important niche for GM, give them sorely-needed green creds and would improve capacity utilization at NUMMI.

“No way” you say? That’s exactly what they said about the idea of GM and Toyota cooperating on anything before NUMMI opened a quarter century ago. Stranger things have happened. Given the state of the auto industry, anything’s possible now.

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70 Comments on “Editorial: Connect the Dots: Could GM Get Their Own Version of the Prius?...”


  • avatar
    BDB

    I had this exact same thought. It sounds like it is very possible. The 2011 Chevy Volt becomes a badge engineered Prius.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Frank’s logic makes complete sense. Interesting.

  • avatar
    maniceightball

    The 2011 Chevy Volt becomes a badge engineered Prius.

    I wouldn’t stop laughing if this were the case. That would just undermine all of the nonsense hype behind the Volt, but it’s definitely something the “new” GM is capable of.

  • avatar
    BDB

    @maniceightball–

    Neither would I, but really, it isn’t a bad move. I’m sure the dealers would love it if (when) gas gets to $4 again!

  • avatar
    paul_y

    Interesting, and coldly logical. GM could do well with a NUMMI Prius-clone– it would be reasonably priced, American (and union) made, and if the sheetmetal is differentiated enough, most people wouldn’t be the wiser (let’s face it, no one here would be fooled, but we collectively are not representative of the car-buying public).

    FWIW, I thought the deal with NUMMI is that GM owned the plant and signed the paychecks of the (UAW) employees, but Toyota managed the place.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    Maybe, my info is that hybrid drive-train tech is going to be in EVERY Toyota model “any minute”. The big selling models will get it (Yaris, Corolla, Hilux/Tacoma) and at the entry level to boot.

    How would you like a $15k stripper Corolla Hybrid?

    The Prius would become an unnecessary extra model.

    Handing GM a rebadge Prius when you consider every Toyota model has hyrbid wouldn’t impact at all. It would be the final vindication of the approach that is the Prius however.

  • avatar
    Ken Elias

    Not a chance of this happening. Think about another product that already comes out of NUMMI that would fit well into the GM product lineup…

  • avatar
    BDB

    Maybe, my info is that hybrid drive-train tech is going to be in EVERY Toyota model “any minute”

    And how much is it going to drive up their prices, exactly? I doubt that.

  • avatar
    maniceightball

    The Prius would become an unnecessary extra model.

    Well, for all the hate for the Prius, it is actually a fairly functional car. I imagine it would stick around, serving the same purpose as e.g. the Mazda5 or the 4-door Focus. Which is to say, it may replace the Matrix.

    Of course, this is a fairly uninformed position on my part. I have no idea how Toyota’s marketing works.

  • avatar

    I just don’t see that happening anytime soon. The Prius is Toyota’s pride and joy, their ace in the hole. It’s not just the drive-train that makes the Prius special, it’s the whole kit and kaboodle.

    They’ve licensed the drive-train to Nissan for the hybrid Altima so maybe they could just give GM the power-train, but I don’t see Toyota allowing them to built anything remotely like the Prius in appearance.

    The Corollas and Prisms and Matrixes and Vibes were all very similar in appearance, but Corollas and Matrixes were nothing special for Toyota.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    And how much is it going to drive up their prices, exactly?

    Isn’t that the challenge in any manufacturing? The technology is mature and Toyota have the components costs/assy under control, so perhaps they are ready to push that tech into volume at lower unit costs.

  • avatar
    BDB

    The technology is mature and Toyota have the components costs/assy under control, so perhaps they are ready to push that tech into volume at lower unit costs.

    I’ll believe it when I see it. Look at the Civic Hybrid and Fusion Hybrid, and how much more expensive they are than their “normal” counterparts.

  • avatar
    qfrog

    GM to revive Geo brand… resume selling Toyota products with peculiar off brand badging using fuel economy as selling point for econoboxmobiles.

    paul_y : “if the sheetmetal is differentiated enough”

    If only GM knew what that meant, or how to do it. I doubt GM is capable just going crazy with the design, and changing something that would actually differentiate their variants. I keep thinking of those Geo Corollas or whatever they were called which iirc were made at NUMMI. How distinguished was the Geo from the Toyota? Somebody among the B&B can probably discern one from the other, that person isn’t me.

  • avatar
    BDB

    You couldn’t tell the difference between a Geo Prizm and Toyota Corolla of similar vintage, but that didn’t stop the Prizm from costing less to buy–whether at the dealership or on the used market. Import snobbery, etc.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    Look at the Civic Hybrid and Fusion Hybrid, and how much more expensive they are than their “normal” counterparts.

    I agree, but years ago people thought an automatic transmission was a luxury and too expensive to implement into every car. Same for power steer, power windows etc etc etc.

    Manufacturers find ways to add value while at the same time lowering costs.

  • avatar
    SunnyvaleCA

    At the moment, the Prius won’t be such a great CAFE booster for GM because of the harmonic mean computation. For example, if GM sells a 55 MPG vehicle and a 25 MPG vehicle the harmonic mean is still only 34.3 MPG (not 40 MPG). We’ll have to wait for the next “dot” to drop: CAFE changed to use an arithmetic mean. Until then I expect a more earnest attempt to make every vehicle qualify for light-truck status.

  • avatar
    charly

    America isn’t the only market were cars are sold, it isn’t even the largest market. So maybe Toyota hybridizing their cars isn’t targeted at the USA.

  • avatar

    PeteMoran
    Maybe, my info is that hybrid drive-train tech is going to be in EVERY Toyota model “any minute”. The big selling models will get it (Yaris, Corolla, Hilux/Tacoma) and at the entry level to boot.

    Toyota has stated that they’ll have a hybrid drivetrain in every model they sell by 2020.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    @ Frank Williams

    Toyota has stated that they’ll have a hybrid drivetrain in every model they sell by 2020.

    Yup. I don’t think that makes my statement inconsistent however. I believe the 2020 number was hybrid “only” drive trains.

  • avatar
    lw

    Makes sense to me. Toyota probably sells the cars to GM at cost, but they make out on the increase parts volume which reduces their overall cost structure for every unit.

    Slap a GM badge on the puppy and it doesn’t steal from the Toyota brand.

  • avatar
    educatordan

    Hope they figure something out between the two companies. Or at the minimum the plant keeps humming along at great enough capacity to at least maintain the current workforce.

  • avatar
    Edward Niedermeyer

    Ken Elias: Think about another product that already comes out of NUMMI that would fit well into the GM product lineup…

    Tacoma? Now I’m really confused…

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    “Could GM Get Their Own Version of the Prius?”

    “Get?” Maybe.

    Successfully make, market, and sell? No way.

    And not just because I will NOT buy a socialist product.

    Talk about scary. 500 volts behind or under my back-seat passengers’ asses AND a GM badge in front of them on the dashboard? After experiencing so many electrical problems in my various GM cars over the years, why the hell would I trust ‘em with high voltage?

  • avatar
    maniceightball

    Hm, thread derail: has the NUMMI venture been remotely successful for GM? They were originally supposed to learn how to manage plants in an efficient way, but that failed miserably, right? Or are GM’s plants managed decently and the problem is in their products?

  • avatar
    John Horner

    At some point hybrid technology is likely to go from expensive option to standard equipment on almost everything. Some historical examples:

    Electric self-starter
    Heaters
    Radios
    Power Steering
    Power Brakes
    Tinted Glass
    Automatic Transmission
    Power door locks
    Power windows
    8-track->Cassette->CD->iPod player
    Air conditioning

    We will really know the game is over when Europeans start switching from diesel drivetrains to gas-electric hybrids. The actual manufacturing cost differential between diesel and gas-electric hybrid is probably collapsing.

  • avatar
    npbheights

    Great Idea… a Prius that you have to take to the Chevy Dealership for service. What are they going to do, top off the Toyota Red coolant with Dex-Cool? Sounds like a total disaster. I hope to hell that Toyota does not let this happen.

    On another note, I locked my keys in both my Toyota and my Chevy over the course of the last two weeks. Went to the Toyota Dealership for them to look up the key code and make me a key to get in the car. Grand Total $6.00 plus tax.

    Did the same at the Chevy Dealership and they charged me $4.00 for the key and $20.00 to look up the key code. Over $25.00 OTD for the same thing!!! And they treated me like crap, as well. I was furious that they charged me $20.00 to get a key code from a company that our country has given $20,000,000,000.00 to so far and they had to rip me off personally as well. My Chevy truck will be the Last GM product ever to have my name on the title.

  • avatar
    driver29

    GM has waited too long to try to enter this market. Americans are getting tired of paying top-dollar for second-class automobiles. Instead of copying off of Toyota, why doesn’t GM work on innovation? Isn’t that the whole idea of competition?

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    John Horner: The actual manufacturing cost differential between diesel and gas-electric hybrid is probably collapsing.

    It already did; the differential was already getting close, and Toyota reduced the 2010 Prius’ hybrid components substantially.

  • avatar
    Droid800

    @Maniceightball

    They actually learned a great deal about flexible manufacturing from NUMMI. The problem was that they were too arrogant to actually implement it. (if I recall correctly, the factory that built the first CTS was one of the first to integrate the technology from the ground up)

    @driver29

    That’s the whole point: GM has waited too long, and they’re out of options. The best strategy is to utilize pre-existing relationships to get up to speed, even if it means losing what little of their dignity is left. GM wins by getting the most mature hybrid tech on the market, and Toyota wins by getting all the good PR that they’re helping GM to recover.

  • avatar
    Ken Elias

    Ed N. – Clue #2…

    Shreveport produced 74,300 Colorado’s and Canyon’s in 2008 while NUMMI produced 70,800 Vibes…

    The Vibe is going away. The H3 may go away – heck, it probably should as only 19,200 were built in 2008 in…Shreveport.

  • avatar
    cory02

    Badge-engineer a Prius (maybe even spend a few development dollars and make it a plug in hybrid), call it the Volt, and stop wasting tax dollars. I’m not totally convinced the Volt isn’t on track to end up as vaporware anyway.

  • avatar
    BDB

    Talk about scary. 500 volts behind or under my back-seat passengers’ asses AND a GM badge in front of them on the dashboard? After experiencing so many electrical problems in my various GM cars over the years, why the hell would I trust ‘em with high voltage?

    They made the Corolla that people raved about in terms of reliability for years. Yes, with UAW labor. In the same plant.

    Geo Prizm was the *same car* as the Toyota Corolla, made by the *same workers* in the same plant. How many “electrical problems” where on the Toyota Corolla or Tacoma? It isn’t like putting a bow tie on the front of a Prius is going to magically turn it into the 1983 Cavalier or something.

    I think it goes beyond PR, btw. I really think Toyota does *not* want GM to collapse. Not only for the effect it wold have on suppliers, but on the economy as a whole, which would drive car sales down for everybody.

  • avatar
    grog

    The Corollas and Prisms and Matrixes and Vibes were all very similar in appearance, but Corollas and Matrixes were nothing special for Toyota.

    Actually, here in Flyover Country they are very special for Toyota: they have been the model of choice for former Big 2.8 drivers. People who usta drive whatever POSmobile from the Big 2.8 since they learned to drive moved over to these functional and reliable (and the new Matrix quite frankly is very nice on the inside and a helluva lot quieter than most CUVs I test drove last year) cars in droves. They got tired of their cars breaking down constantly or crapping out at 80K miles.

    You now see tons of people tooling around in Corollas and Matrixes and until this year, Vibes.

    Both cars really symbolize what the Big 2.8 pissed away here in “real” ‘Murka over the last dozen years. As such, they are quite special to Toyota. Maybe not to the enthusiast crowd here…

  • avatar

    I don’t know if this is going to happen. I mean, GM wouldn’t do anything to undermine the Volt. They already have way too much invested into the Volt for it to fail.

    OTOH, once Penske assumes ownership of Saturn and breaks from GM, I can see him going to Toyota and asking for a Saturn-badged Prius, if only for the green cred…

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    Cory02: “I’m not totally convinced the Volt isn’t on track to end up as vaporware anyway.”

    +1, except they’ll keep a few around to shuttle the CEO of Gummint Motors to the Capitol building every now and again.

  • avatar
    BDB

    “They already have way too much invested into the Volt for it to fail.”

    A re-badged Prius wouldn’t be a “failure” to them. At least they could spin it that way convincingly, at least to the government and non-enthusiast consumers.

  • avatar
    superbadd75

    It makes so much sense for both parties, I’d love to see this happen. The down side would be the proof that GM has once again put all of their eggs into a half-assed basket (Volt). It seems to me that the Volt’s bodywork could work with the Prius shape, and it would be a plug-in hybrid, just not in the same configuration that the Hail Mary Volt is designed. An added bonus would be that hybrid buyers generally aren’t “car people” from my experience, and wouldn’t know or care that the Volt (if this happens, of course) isn’t really a GM, giving the company some true green cred. If they did know, then they’d certainly be encouraged by its Toyota roots. I want this to happen.

  • avatar

    “…..their dance card at the hybrid car cotillion is empty.”

    Great line.

  • avatar

    BDB, think of it this way. GM invested $1 billion in the R&D of the Volt, and pitched it to the eco crowd as proof that they changed their ways. If they give up now, the eco crowd will lynch GM and cite this as proof that they didn’t learn their lessons from Who Killed The Electric Car?

    GM made their bed, now they have to sleep in it. I think that’s how the saying goes.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    I really think Toyota does *not* want GM to collapse. Not only for the effect it wold have on suppliers, but on the economy as a whole, which would drive car sales down for everybody.

    My bet is that Toyota doesn’t want whatever vacuum would be created to be filled by the Chinese. Toyota wants to grow organically, and not have to fight off foreign invaders that fight to win, just as Toyota itself did during its early days. Meeting that challenge would substantially raise Toyota’s costs, and they wouldn’t want that sort of exposure.

    Toyota may be also looking at this as JVC did with the VCR. Instead of trying to own the format, as Sony did with Betamax, they’d probably prefer to have every hybrid sold bring a bit of cash their way.

    The op-ed’s thesis here is pretty good. If there is a time for Toyota to move from being the hybrid monopolist to the mother of all hybrids, the time to switch strategies is coming up soon. Since the market is moving in that direction, they may as well profit from it.

  • avatar

    Talk about scary. 500 volts behind or under my back-seat passengers’ asses AND a GM badge in front of them on the dashboard? After experiencing so many electrical problems in my various GM cars over the years, why the hell would I trust ‘em with high voltage?

    The post discusses the possibility of a plant that now produces Corollas, Matrixes and Pontiac Vibes, will start producing Priuses, including models rebadged for GM to replace the departing Vibes in the contract for the jointly operated NUMMI plant.

    You say that a GM badged car is bound to have problems.

    Are you saying that GM’s supposed history of electrical problems is going to infect a car essentially designed and built by Toyota simply by putting a GM badge on the hood?

    Go ahead and tell me that all of the hate towards GM is rational.

  • avatar
    Lokkii

    As I’ve been reading this thread, I’ve been musing about what Chevrolet will call this step-child…

    I’ve decided that “Chevolt” is the best and most obvious answer…. It invokes Chevrolet, Volt, and Chevette too (although that may not be such a good thing :-)

    You couldn’t tell the difference between a Geo Prizm and Toyota Corolla of similar vintage, but that didn’t stop the Prizm from costing less to buy–whether at the dealership or on the used market. Import snobbery, etc. .

    You know, back in the mid 80′s I tried to buy one on exactly that theory. The GM salesman wouldn’t even show me the car. “Son, there ain’t no room to move on them small cars”.

    They should have been a little cheaper than the Corolla, but they weren’t. Interestingly enough, I ended up with an Integra instead – a choice that made me very happy over the years.

  • avatar
    BDB

    Don’t you understand, Ronnie? A bow tie has magical qualities! Stick one on your Porsche, even, and it turns into a Chevette!!11! /snark

    “hey should have been a little cheaper than the Corolla, but they weren’t. ”

    Used, they were. Extremely good used buy. Its always good to profit from irrationality.

  • avatar
    MrDot

    I still think it’s a brilliant way of quickly getting a hybrid to market. And it would beat Ford’s Hybrid to death- cheaper, thriftier, and American made. The government would be falling all over themselves crowing about how they turned the company that killed the EV-1 into a green-tech powerhouse.

    It also buys time for the Volt program, which is clearly not ready for prime-time.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Go ahead and tell me that all of the hate towards GM is rational.

    Two new families move into your neighborhood. One of them is a known philanthropist who is widely known for the good that he has done for the world. The other was just released on parole, and is a registered sex offender.

    Only a moron would view these two households as being the same. Only an idiot or a truly Job-like figure would give each of them the same chance.

    If the sex offender wants to make amends, then it’s not enough for him to do the same things as the Good Samaritan. The offender needs to do more, in order to get past his reputation. The extra effort required is part of the price that he has to pay for his crimes.

    A brand is effectively the same thing as reputation. Just as reputations follow people, so brands follow their companies.

    It is unreasonable to expect the average consumer to do a lot of research to know that a Vibe is basically the same as a Matrix. The Vibe carries all of the baggage of the brand attached to it, including all of the other Pontiacs, past and present, that have sucked.

    Detroit Defenders don’t even think that they have poor reputations to worry about, let alone do the heavy lifting that is required to prove their worth. Just so long as there is a failure to take responsibility for their bad reputations, they can never, ever succeed. Let’s hope that Nissan comes in, fires just about everyone at the top, and starts from square one with an attitude to win, not to whine.

  • avatar
    BDB

    Pch101–

    On how many reviews of the Hyundai Genesis do you hear a commenter say “sure its good or w/e, but what about the ’86 Excel!? Total crapbox lolz! can’t trust Hyundai!”.

    Instead you hear (I say this too, btw) “Wow, what a good car. Hyundai has come a long way since the Excel!”

    The Koreans committed sins against quality and reliability in the past that were way, way worse than anything Detroit ever did. Yet they’re forgiven more easily in the automotive press, and by consumers.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    On how many reviews of the Hyundai Genesis do you hear a commenter say “sure its good or w/e, but what about the ‘86 Excel!? Total crapbox lolz! can’t trust Hyundai!”.

    Hyundai provides the blueprint for redeeming a fallen reputation. They don’t spend time whining about how Americans owe them something. Instead, they made conspicuous efforts to improve quality, spread the message that quality was a priority, and offered a warranty and attitude to match.

    Just so long as Detroit feels entitled to make sales, it will fail. They need to earn the business.

    The customer owes them nothing. Zero. Nada. The sooner that Detroit figures that out, the better their odds of recovery will become. But until they acknowledge their own failures instead of blaming everyone else for their mistakes, they will be destined to fail. If bankruptcy wasn’t enough of a wake-up call, I can’t imagine what else can go wrong to help them figure it out.

  • avatar
    Lokkii

    Are you saying that GM’s supposed history of electrical problems is going to infect a car essentially designed and built by Toyota simply by putting a GM badge on the hood?

    Go ahead and tell me that all of the hate towards GM is rational.

    You KNOW….. I would like to tell you that except that the world contains one fascinating and glaring example of the fact that IT CAN HAPPEN.

    The Acura Legend – a car still famous for its quality and it’s evil twin : The Sterling….

    “While dynamic characteristics and performance were broadly similar to the Acura Legend, due to the shared platform, core structure and power units; detail spring and damper changes gave each model its own unique feel….

    Early build quality of the 800 was demonstrably poor as measured by J.D. Power. Customer satisfaction fell quickly and sales dropped from this initial high to less than 2,000 for 1991. The problems were varied with interior trim, electrics and paintwork problems, and corrosion in early models would also mar its reputation. This all contributed to the demise of Rover in the United States: the Sterling fell to the bottom of J.D. Power surveys there, while ironically its twin, the Japanese-built Acura Legend, was already found at the top in its first year”.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sterling_(car)

  • avatar
    BDB

    Pch–

    GM has improved the Chevrolet lineup of cars a lot in the last decade. The crap boxes of the ’90s are gone. The only really awful car in their lineup is the Aveo, which is Korean. Sure, some of them are bland (Cobalt, Impala) but none of them are really, truly awful with the exception of the aforementioned Aveo. The Malibu, for example, has gone from rental car crap to class-leading example.

    Same with Ford. The 2004 Taurus, in six years, has morphed into the 2010 Fusion, a quantum leap in quality.

    I’ve got nothing for Chrysler, though. Still crap as far as their cars go.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    Although nothing but speculation at this point, it would be perfectly logical if GM actually produces the Volt to have a Volt-badged, NUMMI-built, Prius-clone follow closely behind.

    Or, should the whole Volt program collapse without producing a single car for production, plan ‘B’ would be to simply replace it with a Prius-clone.

  • avatar

    Lokkii
    You KNOW….. I would like to tell you that except that the world contains one fascinating and glaring example of the fact that IT CAN HAPPEN.

    The Acura Legend – a car still famous for its quality and it’s evil twin : The Sterling….

    You provide the answer to that later in your post:

    its twin, the Japanese-built Acura Legend, was already found at the top in its first year”

    The Sterling and Legend were built in different countries on different assembly lines by different work forces. The Prius and GM clone (if it happens) would be built in the same factory from the same basic parts and by the same people.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    The only really awful car in their lineup is the Aveo, which is Korean. Sure, some of them are bland (Cobalt, Impala) but none of them are really, truly awful with the exception of the aforementioned Aveo.

    In the example of the sex offender, it’s not enough for him to simply stop molesting kids if he wishes to achieve some sort of redemption. He needs to prove that he is a full-fledged member of the community who acknowledges his crimes and their harm to society. He needs to go the extra mile to prove himself — he needs to outperform everyone else, because of the low point from which he has started.

    For GM to build a second-rate product instead of a third-rate one is just not enough. Consumers will just buy the first-rate product, and ignore the improved-but-not-ready-for-prime-time alternative. No one can fault a consumer for making a better choice with his scarce money.

    GM must outperform the competition if they want an improved reputation. They must exceed expectations, not just kinda, sorta meet them, because reputations cannot be resurrected with half-assed measures.

    Striving to be sorta adequate is the same as trying to lose, on purpose. It’s wrongheaded and arrogant, the mark of a loser.

    It is this attitude of mediocrity that led to bankruptcy. Exactly how much worse is it supposed to get before Detroit figures it out?

  • avatar
    BDB

    For GM to build a second-rate product instead of a third-rate one is just not enough.

    But it WAS good enough for Hyundai, apparently. Again, even though their ’80s cars were 10x worse than the worst ’80s GM crapbox.

    GM must outperform the competition if they want an improved reputation.

    The Malibu and CTS don’t? They are “second rate cars”!?

  • avatar
    Pch101

    But it WAS good enough for Hyundai, apparently.

    Hyundai burned fewer people over a shorter period of time, because it was a smaller company with one bad model. GM had three decades and plenty of models with which to hose people.

    GM has a larger cross to bear. Just deal with it.

    Whining about it doesn’t do any good. Complaining like children doesn’t do anything to sell cars.

    It is not up to the consumer to sort through the sea of GM dreck to find a few decent cars, that still aren’t necessarily better than the competition. They must exceed the competition with every single vehicle.

    Is it “fair”? It doesn’t matter whether it fair. You’ll know that things are fair if they start making money. Companies make money when their customers are happy enough with the results that they pay more than what it costs to make whatever it is that they bought.

    If GM continues to focus on complaining about Americans, instead of trying to please Americans, then GM will fail and they will deserve to fail. Unfortunately, they will be failing this time with my money, so I hope that they figure it out fast.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    Well deduced, Frank

    It would be logical for Chevrolet & Toyota to do this. It will be hard for Toyota to avoid holding something back for its own model though.

    The government could sweeten the pot by guaranteeing to buy 20% of the production. (But would that depress resale values?)

  • avatar
    Lokkii

    @Frank….

    Sir, and you point out the danger in YOUR post

    You provide the answer to that later in your post:

    “…its twin, the Japanese-built Acura Legend,…”

    “The Prius and GM clone (if it happens) would be built in the same factory from the same basic parts and by the same people”

    Yeah… exactly. The current Prius is the Japanese-built.

    Now, you are going to splutter and say that American UAW workers are building Vibes that are just as good as Matrices.

    So? Just as you are trying to argue to the opposite effect (GM quality has gotten better!)

    Past Performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.

    The quality of a post-bankruptcy NUMMI attempting to build a more complex vehicle with disgruntled UAW (no pay increases; can’t strike) work force could get worse.

    This is just as valid as your counter argument.

  • avatar

    lokkii
    Yeah… exactly. The current Prius is the Japanese-built.

    Now, you are going to splutter and say that American UAW workers are building Vibes that are just as good as Matrices.

    No I’m not. Vibes and Matrices come from two different factories in two different countries. There could be supplier variables there that are beyond the scope of this discussion.

    BUT the point being argued is whether a GM-badged hybrid built from Toyota parts in a factory jointly run by Toyota would be of lower quality than a Prius built at the same factory. And, based on the products which have come from that factory with Toyota and GM badges on them, there’s nothing to indicate there would be a difference.

    Now, whether there would be a difference between a Prius from NUMMI and one built in Toyota City, Japan is a different matter. But I’d say that Toyota wouldn’t let that happen because they wouldn’t want to run the risk of ruining their sterling (no pun intended) rep in the hybrid universe.

  • avatar
    Luke42

    BDB,
    For GM to build a second-rate product instead of a third-rate one is just not enough.

    But it WAS good enough for Hyundai, apparently. Again, even though their ’80s cars were 10x worse than the worst ’80s GM crapbox.

    I think you’re right about the actual products.

    But, in perception-world, the difference is that my parents didn’t own a Hyundai in the 1980s (when I was a small child). They did own a couple of Volkswagens, a couple of GM cars, a Dodge Omni, and finally started buying Hondas. Their experiences with these vehicles have made a lasting impression on me.

    Since GM has been a dominant player, they’ve got to overcome a lifetime of firsthand experiences from their customer-base. It looks like they’ve got a great start with latest generation of models (CTS, Malibu, etc) but, because of their past dominance, they have a much harder task than Hyundai.

  • avatar

    Used, they were. Extremely good used buy.

    Still are. On Craigslist Prisms still cost a few hundred bucks less than Corollas of similar vintage. Perhaps Stephen Lang can give us his perspective.

    One reason may be that many Prisms/Novas were completely stripper models whereas Corollas may be found in higher trim levels.

    A low mileage (~80,000) Prism is about the best long term transportation deal you’re going to find. Toyota reliability and wide availability of new and used parts.

    BTW, I realize that people not recognizing the Prism is a Corolla is kind of silly since it really is just a rebadging, but it works both ways in terms of “platform ignorance”. There’s misinformation and half-truths. My ex just bought a Chevy HHR and cross-shopped the Pontiac Vibe. When I told her the Vibe would be reliable because it’s basically a Corolla, she said, no, the salesman said it was a different Toyota. So I explained that the Matrix is a Corolla sibling.

    I’m sure that there are some unethical folks selling cars who lie about who makes and designs what. With joint ventures like NUMMI, CAMI, the Daimler-Hyundai-Chrysler. Back in the 1960s there were a bunch of tire companies, but there were far fewer tire manufacturers than tire brands and retailers of some of the lesser known brands like Kelly would insist that the tires were identical to Goodyears or Firestones.

  • avatar
    moedaman

    Pch101, you hit the nail on the head.

    I was talking to a friend of mine a few days ago about this. He works for GM and was whining about there are americans who want an american company to fail and that GM cars are just as good as anyone else’s. I told him the same thing about Hyundai and how they turned things around. I told him that GM needed to put their money where their mouth was and to offer a 10 year/100,000 mile warranty. Needless to say he was at a loss for words. Even he felt that GM couldn’t afford to back that kind of warranty.

  • avatar
    Engineer

    Gotta agree with Pch101.

    I would also point to the brass: every time a GM exec whines about the perception gap I want to puke. It goes along with the other fatal flaw in their thinking, by now a familiar phrase: Mission accomplished!.

    Earth calling GM management: It’s never mission accomplished. Do you think your competitors are standing still?

    Here an approach that would help, IMHO:
    1. Make an ongoing commitment to improving quality. “We are still working to improve the quality of our vehicles.”
    2. Show some ambition: We are going to exceed So-and-So’s quality. The current approach has a “we’ve ticked that box, now can we please move on” feel to it.
    3. As has been pointed out repeatedly: Hyundai did it by putting their money where their mouth is. The customer understands and buys that.
    4. Stop whining like a bunch of losers…

  • avatar
    Andy D

    It would be easy to warranty a GM for 10 yrs-100k miles. Institute a maintenance program that has to be complied with by a service network that doesnt suck. GM needs substance to survive, not BS smoke and mirrors.

  • avatar
    Syke

    OK, for the sake of argument I’ll go along with Pch101, et. al., argument about what GM has to overcome. Now for the next step:

    Equally for the sake of argument/discussion, let’s say that x number of years from now, GM has a decently exciting line of cars with no Aveos, built well, priced very well, and better than anything Toyota, Honda, etc. is putting out (pick your scale at the time).

    Now, WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO GET YOU TO PUBLICLY ADMIT TO THAT, AND START PUBLICLY SAYING WHAT GREAT CARS GM IS BUILDING?

    And that, in my mind, is the final problem.

    There’s a core of very public GM haters (for lack of a better term – even if said hatred comes from a rational reason) who will absolutely refuse to face the above situation, and continue to loudly proclaim that “GM’s building crap that isn’t worth buying, and should go out of business”. No matter how good the product actually is.

    No opinion is ever louder than a negative one, and the person holding that negative opinion always make sure the negativity comes through over everyone/thing else. And their job is made easier because of that past history where most of the product bordered on crap.

    That’s GM’s biggest worry: Not reorganizing an ossified management, or making perfect automobiles, or turning all dealers into something resembling the mid-90′s Saturn experience. It finally shutting up the permanent negatives, so the rest of the market place isn’t afraid to look at what they’ve made.

  • avatar
    BDB

    Thank you, Syke!

    That is pretty much what I and Ronnie (I suspect) were trying to say.

    Also, it isn’t like I’m some kind of GM–or even Detroit–FanBoi. If I am biased towards anyone, it is towards Ford and Hyundai cause I like the underdogs. But I know good cars when I see them–and GM is making some damn good cars right now. Their lineup consists of the good and the bland, and there is no non-Aveo awful to be seen.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    BUT the point being argued is whether a GM-badged hybrid built from Toyota parts in a factory jointly run by Toyota would be of lower quality than a Prius built at the same factory. And, based on the products which have come from that factory with Toyota and GM badges on them, there’s nothing to indicate there would be a difference.

    That is not quite true, or at least is wasn’t initially. When Toyota was under some pressure to increase the American content of the Corolla, they used some of the domestically sourced parts that GM used in the Nova. Two parts come to mind: Radiator and alternator. The Corolla alternator was switched to a Delco unit, which, much to the dismay of Toyota, had a higher failure rate than the usual Nippendenso that was originally used. After the failures were noted as higher warranty claims, Toyota went back to Densos. I only know this because I subscribe to trade repair publications – I had read some of the articles on the different parts used. Quite telling, actually.

  • avatar
    Sammy Hagar

    Sort of bummed out about the Vibe going away. We purchased one in ’05 for winter use (it’s AWD model) and, with the addition of Wintersport M3′s, has been a stellar snow performer. As some other posters have mentioned, the GM versions of Corolla platforms always came with discounts/incentives…we got ours with that phony “Employee Pricing” schtick. The price we paid out the door for a fully loaded AWD Vibe was equivalent to a 2wd Matrix w/out sunroof, floor mats and splash guards. In the interim 31K miles, the vehicle has required nothing other than oil & filter changes…which I do myself, thank you Mr. Goodwrench. Now that the vehicle is out of warranty, any necessary repairs will be done at the local Toyota dealer.

    Too bad it’s going away…one of the most reliable GM offerings gets the axe. Do those people ever learn? Hopefully NUMMI and the folks that work there won’t have to suffer for GM’s continued incompetence; give ‘em the Prius or something else…they build good cars there.

  • avatar
    Happy_Endings

    Now, WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO GET YOU TO PUBLICLY ADMIT TO THAT, AND START PUBLICLY SAYING WHAT GREAT CARS GM IS BUILDING?

    Let’s start using the correct adjectives to describe their cars, shall we? They aren’t “great”, save for the CTS-V and Corvette. They are largely competitive, save for the Aveo and Cobalt. The Malibu is not ipso facto better than the Camry or Accord. In some areas the Malibu is better. In some areas it is behind the Camry and Accord. The problem is competitive isn’t good enough. Competitive will keep Chevy owners in your stable, but it won’t attract widespread defections from Honda or Toyota, particularly if they’ve had a prior negative experience with the company.

  • avatar
    charly

    Hyundai never had a fallen reputation. They, like the Japanese, started out with a bad reputation. But they were also cheap and new so that compensated it. GM does really have a fallen reputation which consumers are much harder to forgive.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    That’s GM’s biggest worry: Not reorganizing an ossified management, or making perfect automobiles, or turning all dealers into something resembling the mid-90’s Saturn experience. It finally shutting up the permanent negatives, so the rest of the market place isn’t afraid to look at what they’ve made.

    I’m sorry, but that’s just BS. Blaming the unhappy customer is a cop out that has long provided comfort to the faithful, but has failed to generate any sales.

    GM will need to have a decade of consistent successes and no failures in order to overcome its well-earned poor reputation. The fanboys can either deal with it, or else watch their company die. The government bailout money is only going to go so far, and at some point, GM will ultimately succeed or fail based upon its merits.

    Three decades of pissing and moaning has obviously not done GM any good, so continuing that is a waste of time. Another year’s worth will only make it worse. The whine-and-cheese corporate culture is worthy of a pre-school playground at recess, not of a company that wants to win.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Re this rumor: Toyota denies that report as pure speculation, with Mike Goss, external affairs manager with Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, telling Green Car Advisor that it still plans to assemble the Prius at its unfinished plant in Mississippi at some point in the future.

    General Motors also denies that it will license hybrid technology from Toyota. In a webchat session on GM’s Fastlane Blog, Troy Clarke, President of GM North America, said of the rumors:

    “We are not in current discussions with Toyota on licensing their synergy drive. I would point out that we are working like crazy on our own hybrid technology. Also, we are really moving fast on the Volt of which you are well aware.”


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