By on September 11, 2009

General Motors is a nationalized automaker. But it can’t stay that way forever. Its federal taskmasters have decreed that GM must return to public ownership before the Congressional mid-term elections in 2010. Makes sense. If GM is still on welfare at election time, GM will be an enormous political liability. A symbol of Big Government gone bad. But GM can’t possibly achieve profitability within that time frame. Even if it had the brains, it doesn’t have the time or money to build what needs building, to fix what needs fixing. The new car market sucks and GM’s product planning, reputation and branding are in tatters. So New GM’s doing the only thing they can do: putting lipstick on the product pig and sending it off to market. This “May The Best Car Win” advertising strategy will backfire. Badly.

You can certainly understand the thought process involved. The campaign is, after all, Bob Lutz’s brainchild. For more than half a decade, the former Car Czar has been claiming there’s nothing wrong with GM’s products (especially the vehicles developed during his watch). Lutz has consistently blamed the so-called “perception gap” for GM’s epic fall from grace. Our products used to suck at some indeterminate point in the past, but they don’t anymore, starting . . . now! Wait . . . NOW! In other words, it’s not the product, stupid. It’s the perception of the product.

I have no idea how Lutz seized on the idea that perception and reality aren’t part of a feedback loop. For someone who never saw combat, he has an extremely cynical view of human nature. Less perplexing: why New GM is allowing Lutz to bet the entire company on Maximum Bob’s belief that carpet-bombing consumers with “enlightenment” will somehow save the day. Again, GM has no choice. They don’t have the time to create the incremental improvements they need to build, market and sell the genuinely competitive products which would generate a profit in the North American market.

Speaking of loops, Lutz would say that my assessment of GM’s competitiveness is just my [biased, GM-hating] opinion. But it’s also the opinion of millions of American consumers over the last three or four decades, who’ve been abandoning GM for other car companies. I mean, ipso facto, right?

In truth, GM’s comparison tests will offer little more than invidious distinctions. To wit: GM’s new ads will pit the Chevy Equinox against the Honda CR-V, and the Buick LaCrosse against the Lexus ES350. And so on. According to Automotive News, “Lutz said in the rare cases when both cars match each other feature for feature and warranty for warranty, the difference will be illustrated in sticker price.” So we’re talking about feature comparisons and price comparisons. What was that about the definition of insanity?

Lest we forget, GM’s been driving down this road for some time. Howie Long’s Chevy ads, focusing on relative mileage and manliness, have done exactly nothing to stem the Bow Tie brand’s sales slide. The ads were arrogant, condescending and, at the end of the proverbial English day, ineffective. So ineffective they always ended in a plug for “the deal.” What’s different this time?

Nothing. GM’s “May the Best Car Win” head-to-head ad campaign completely glosses over the fundamental question that a real bankruptcy forces a company to face: “Well, how did I get here?” With a few not-so-notable exceptions, the products that GM is about to present as class-leading are the same products that ushered the company into [its first] bankruptcy. Discount the idea that customers are to blame or the competitors suddenly got worse, and you’re left with an inescapable conclusion: same as it ever was.

The “May the Best Car Win” campaign also reveals Lutz’s ongoing and misplaced belief in symmetrical warfare. Ironically enough, the larger-than-life fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants suit has convinced his bosses that rational comparisons will finally convince consumers of his paycheck provider’s product superiority. But, Bob, that’s not what sells cars. Brands sell cars.

This is no small point. GM’s fall from grace is not about its products, per se. It’s about the company’s ongoing and abject failure to create compelling brands that sell products (and services) that embody the brands’ promise. Never mind the LaCrosse vs. the ES350. Who would buy a Buick instead of a Lexus? Or a Chevrolet instead of a Honda? The people who would are, and the ones that don’t, won’t. No head-to-head model throwdown is going to change the overall dynamic, and/or the minds of people who vote with their wallet.

There’s only one way Lutz and Co. can win this “debate”: frame it in the context of a battle of the brands. But first they have to create four tightly-gathered, clearly expressed branding concepts (e.g., Cadillac as the “standard of the world”), then build products and services that realize that promise. Until and unless New GM grasps that nettle, potential customers will see “May the Best Car Win” as bilious bailout braggadocio, while existing customers will see it as an invitation to jump ship.

Never mind. Time’s up. While we await the inevitable, GM has placed the cart before the horse, and invited potential customers to tell them they’ve gone about it the wrong way. Only this time, when they make their choice, when the best car company wins, everyone loses.

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48 Comments on “General Motors Zombie Watch 17: May the Best Automaker Win...”


  • avatar
    shabster

    Yep. Agreed 100%.

    How’s it going to play out over the next two years?

  • avatar
    Bancho

    I’m a bit confused about the whole “may the best car win” idea. With the exception of the 2010 Equinox, what new model are they selling that they didn’t before they barreled their way into bankruptcy?

    I’ll grant that the revised Equinox does look pretty good especially with regard to the old one, and the specs for it are promising. Other than that bright spot what measures have they taken to bolster their lineup? Most of the metal on the lots is the same stuff that helped usher them into the situation they’re in.

    They need to get the DI 2.4 from the Equinox into the Malibu stat. They need to put a bullet in the back of the Aveo’s head as it’s just doing more harm than good at this point. They need to get the Cruze here in a hurry and it better actually be as good as, if not better, than the competition (though in a comparo article I’d read a while back of the Daewoo Lacetti vs. the Kia Forte in Korea, it seems to be about on par with the Kia).

    As it is, their current lineup just doesn’t live up to their bluster (sure, there are a few exceptions, but on the whole it’s not promising).

    edit: The new Lacrosse looks nice enough. I’m still confused as to GMC’s mission other than to cater to people who believe that they’re better built than Chevys.

  • avatar
    SkiD666

    They will pick their comparisons carefully, like:
    Equinox vs CR-V
    LaCrosse vs. ES 350
    SRX vs. RX 350
    V6 Camaro vs. V6 Mustang
    I4 Malibu vs. I4 Camry
    Traverse vs. Pilot
    Hybrid Silverado vs. Hybrid ???

  • avatar
    don1967

    RF’s perception/reality-feedback-loop comment is right on the money.

    My first car was a horrible, defect-ridden GM POS which cost me a fortune in repairs and nearly killed me on a couple of occasions. Despite this, I have repeatedly considered GM at purchase time, but have been consistently won over by better products. Much better products.

    I’ve got two words for Bob Lutz or anyone else who accuses me of blind anti-GM bias: Bite Me!

  • avatar
    troonbop

    Perhaps it’s time to ask ACORN to help out, get them to do a little community organizing and give some creative advice on how to finance a Government Motors purchase. Let’s keep it in the family.

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    GM’s always had great engineers. The fall from grace started as the ratio of engineers to flab (accountants/MBAs/etc) got lower and lower.

    Methinks it’ll not recover.

  • avatar
    Samuel L. Bronkowitz

    // I have no idea how Lutz seized on the idea that perception and reality aren’t part of a feedback loop. //

    Because he’s a coddled executive that lives in a fantasy world. Didn’t we see posts on this site in recent years indicating that the cars sent up for executive review are ringers with every tiny defect fixed? Has Bob Lutz ever gone down to the local Chevy dealer and had some buck-toothed loser with bad breath try the shuck and jive sales pitch on him? Has his Lutz-ness ever gone through the nails-on-the-chalkboard price-negotiating process, replete with “I’ll have to check that with my sales manager?” Has Mr. Maximum ever had to deal with a dealership repair department that attempts to pile on hundreds of dollars of unnecessary repairs every time the vehicle comes in?

    I will never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever buy another GM product.

  • avatar
    iNeon

    GM automobiles aren’t appreciably different than Toyotas, Hondas, Fords or Nissans.

  • avatar

    GM’s fall from grace is not about its products, per se. It’s about the company’s ongoing and abject failure to create compelling brands that sell products (and services) that embody the brands’ promise.

    I don’t entirely agree. In the case of Buick and Cadillac (and Pontiac, now a moot point), that’s true, but with Chevrolet, its bread-and-butter division, product really has been a problem. Barring the poorly marketed SS, the Cobalt and its J-car predecessors have been profoundly mediocre cars that underline GM’s contempt for the compact market. The Aveo and some of its B-segment predecessors (remember the hideous early-90s Pontiac LeMans?) are even worse. Recall the previous Malibu, that aggressively anonymous fleet special that aspired to Camry-ness through innovative features like four-lug wheels (because all the imports had four lugs, then) and a console shifter, rather than a column lever? There’s a lot of mediocrity there, and it would take — and has taken — aggressive discounts to get buyers to choose them over quantifiably superior competition.

    I will grant that these mediocre products are symptomatic of a larger problem, which is that GM still takes the idea that customers will aspire to move up its brand ladder as an article of faith. The purpose of the Cobalt is not to compete in the C-segment, but to try to keep younger or lower-income buyers in the family until they can be enticed into a proper full-sized (i.e., profitable) vehicle like a Yukon Denali; it’s a placeholder, rather than a serious effort.

    I think the issue is not brand management, which GM has in spades, but a more basic problem: that GM management has never had a very clear idea of what its customers really want or what their priorities are. They’ve been running on the “what’s good for General Motors is good for America” mentality for decades. They don’t have a good idea why anyone might actually buy one of their cars, much less why they might not. Management in a bubble.

  • avatar
    KatiePuckrik

    Firstly, GM being nationalised is a political liability, irrespective of whether it leaves government ownership or not.

    I don’t quite know you can justify to a waitress or other minimum wage earners that their taxes are being used to support the jobs of people who earn more than twice what they earn.

    Secondly, Bob Lutz getting back into the “New” GM fold is just plain bonkers. Lest we forget, Mr Lutz was charged with designing and making cars which would save GM. Needless to say, they didn’t, therefore, he failed at his job, Q.E.D. So why was he allowed to come back? Does he have a batch of new ideas which he kept for post bankruptcy? The guy has to be one of the most overrated car executives ever. His main claim to fame is “having a hand in the BMW 3-series”. I also notice that he always uses these words “having a hand in”. It’s always a bit vague. His other success was the Ford Sierra. Meanwhile, there’s guys like Ferdinand Piech who worked on the team who designed Audi’s quattro system, headed the project of the VW Phaeton (which is a great car, technically) and headed the Buggati Veyron, who don’t get the recognition they deserve (unless you’re orchestrating a “Dallas”-style grab for power at a family company).

    Thirdly, and most importantly, why was there such a fear of losing car makers from the United States? Why was money thrown at it, in order to save it? Many countries get by after having their car industries killed off (UK, Sweden, etc) or simply not having one at all (The Netherlands, Belgium, Australia, etc). Yes, it’ll be hard for people who lose their jobs, but where’s the sympathy for other industries? That’s capitalism, those are the rules (copyright “Saw”). Live by them, die by them.

    P.S. Congratulations to England for qualifying for the World Cup 2010. South Africa, here we come! :O)

  • avatar
    rochskier

    @ RF:

    I have no idea how Lutz seized on the idea that perception and reality aren’t part of a feedback loop. For someone who never saw combat, i reckon he has an extremely cynical view of human nature.

    I would argue that Lutz’ lack of time in combat is a major part of the reason that he has consistently failed to recognize the relationship between perception and reality.

  • avatar
    shabster

    KatiePuckrik,

    Do minimum wage earners actually pay federal income taxes? I doubt it.

    Aside from that technicality, I fully agree with your points.

  • avatar
    KatiePuckrik

    Shabster,

    Over here they do. But even that aside, these people still pay sales tax, tax on petrol, etc.

    The point remains the same.

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    When GM can do car vs. car comparisons and claim the best resale value, the lowest frequency of repair record or the hightest safety ratings, then this would be a good campaign.

    GM needs to understand that the reason we are not buying its cars is NOT because of the percieved lack of rear seat legroom or because the wheelbase is too short. We are not buying them because they are unappealing and because they have a poor reliability and resale reputation.

    WHen my Honda was in for an overnight warranty repair last year, we were given a Malibu Maxx to drive. Of course, I hated it. I expected to hate it and I did. But I was surprised by how strongly my Wife hated it. My kids hated it too. I wonder if the Honda dealer does this on purpose. Whatever, it worked. I was never so glad to get back into my Honda.

    In case you are wondering, the warranty repair involved a loose part rolling around in the cowl plenum. It turned out to be a walnut put there by a squirrel smarter than I am, because I still don’t know how he did it. What did my Honda dealer do? He did not charge me for the 2 days labor his tech was looking for the noise or for the rental.

  • avatar

    Who would buy a Buick instead of a Lexus? Or a Chevrolet instead of a Honda? The people who would are, and the ones that don’t, won’t. No head-to-head model throwdown is going to change the overall dynamic, and/or the minds of people who vote with their wallet.

    That is the core issue. Even if GM products were every bit as good as Toyota, Honda, etc., those companies aren’t giving owners of their cars motivation to switch, and for most people a car purchase is too big a deal on which to take a chance.

    GM’s problem isn’t just with the vehicles it wants to sell; it’s with the vehicles people already own and with which they are happy and see no reason to try another brand, especially one with a checkered history.

  • avatar
    RetardedSparks

    I have been thinking for a while that one problem is that GM’s bankruptcy was too quick, too easy, too superficial. It did not succeed in changing the people or culture of GM (hell, Lutz quit so he could say he “wasn’t at GM when it went bankrupt” and came back a week after they were out!) and it didn’t succeed in changing the perception of GM by consumers, competitors, etc.

    GM needed a deep, horribly, painful eviscerating bankruptcy in which heads rolled, limbs were hacked off, and blood ran in the streets. The company that emerged from that could have claimed some “transformation.” What they ended up doing was a trip to the beauty parlor. And the same ol’ pig came out with lipstick.

  • avatar
    CyCarConsulting

    Product,product,product, forget it. Until you see the following it doesn’t matter what you are building.
    1.Late night street racing with GM cars
    2.GM cars in major music videos
    3.Kids carrying school books with GM cars on the book saver covers
    4.Tragically hip celebrities scooting through paparazzi in their GM cars.
    5. Bands writing songs again about GM cars

    Get there, that’s where you need to be. It won’t happen with a bunch of old corporate bean counters at the top. Go find Bill Mitchell, Dutch Darrin, Yenko and Baldwin. Find the friggin excitement you drones. Sell the sizzle not the steak.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    I’m looking for the GM comparison against the Honda Cross-clunker thing:

    “Chevy Equinox vs. Honda Cross-clunker: Equinox uglier by far (we even throw in a case of blandness for free).”

  • avatar
    grobby2

    Argentla, very good points. I now have two Ford products in my driveway because after test driving almost every vehicle in their respective classes I beleived these two cars to be the best for the money. GM will rebound when and if they start to make cars that can honestly compete with other car companies. Both the new Equinox and Malibu look like they are headed down the right road. Americans tend to be fair minded people and will give thier time and money to organizations that earn it regardless of who they are.

  • avatar
    jmo

    Is it me or does GM think it needs to be just as good in order to gain market share?

    They don’t need to be just as good as a Honda they need to be much better.

    Frankly, I don’t think they have it in them to be “much better.”

  • avatar
    jmo

    GM will rebound when and if they start to make cars that can honestly compete with other car companies.

    “honestly compete”? No, they need to clearly beat! That needs to be the goal.

  • avatar
    jonny b

    Here’s why GM (and Chrysler) are doomed. Since I got my license my dad has literally forbidden me from ever buying a GM or Chrysler car. 17 years later I’m a grown man with a family of my own who can make his own decisions but the rule is still in place. This is what happens when you make consistently bad cars for over 30 years. My dad isn’t being a snob. He owned a GM car back in the day when all we could afford was a beat up Pontiac Astre Safari. But once he could afford a “proper car” as he would put it (an indestructible 89 Civic) he never looked back. GM workmanship offended the engineer in him, the interiors offended the designer in him, and the cynical marketing offended the entrepreneur in him. This is why they’re bankrupt and why they should’ve gone out of business. So it simply doesn’t matter anymore if GM suddenly figured out how to make a decent car. I’m not allowed to buy one. And something tells me my dad’s not the only one who taught his son to be no one’s fool.

  • avatar
    RetardedSparks

    jmo:

    Good points. GM thinks it’s problem is that people have too many reasons NOT to buy its products.
    But on top of that, people don’t have enough reasons TO buy it products.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    Regarding “Government Motors”, it must be said that the US is late to the game. Every other nation uses a variety of tax, tariff and regulatory barriers to protect its domestic automakers. The sole execption has been the US. We did less than nothing until it was too late to do anything except to choose between public ownership or liquidation.

    Furthermore, years of hands-off policy coupled with states playing off each other to provide the lowest-tax-base siting has created a competetive imbalance that has hugely benefitted the transplants.

    This is not to excuse the actions of GM management. They are certainly major players in this debacle and are fully deserving of what they get.

    But as I have said before, there are lots of us many, many millions who like American cars. And for us, things are looking up. The product is getting better every year.

  • avatar
    greenb1ood

    Here’s an idea. Embrace mediocrity and price-leader status rather than continuously yelling from the rooftops that you have a different value proposition.

    You don’t.

    So now what? Well, you sell cheap cars to people looking to save a buck. So make the dealership lead the way with the lowest cost oil changes anywhere. Low repair costs (because we know these cheap cars will break). Start selling cars @ Wal-Mart.

    Embrace who you are instead of trying to be who you are not. The cheap-ass, Wal-Mart shoppers will love you for it and the middle class is deteriorating anyways so your target market could actually grow.

  • avatar
    petrolhead85

    Who would buy a Buick instead of a Lexus? Or a Chevrolet instead of a Honda? The people who would are, and the ones that don’t, won’t. No head-to-head model throwdown is going to change the overall dynamic, and/or the minds of people who vote with their wallet.

    This pretty much sums up the problem GM faces. You can also say the exact same thing for Chrysler as well. Unfortunately for GM (and Chrysler), the damage has already been done and I don’t think it can be fixed.

    I’m glad you put up the grahic comparing the Equinox to the Escape, RAV4 and CR-V because I can share a personal anecdote on why this whole head-to-head pissing contest doesn’t mean squat. My aunt and uncle are looking to downsize from their 2006 Murano to a smaller SUV. They’ve narrowed it down to either the CR-V or the VW Tiguan. But the other day they went and looked at the Equinox just to compare. All the facts on the graphic are true (more space, longer wheelbase), because the Equinox is a much bigger vehicle, and the new 2010 is the same size, or slightly larger, than the Murano. GM can brag about spaciousness, legroom and wheelbase all they want, but the fact is that the Equinox is just too damn big for my aunt and uncle to drive around town.

  • avatar
    jwltch

    My biggest issue with GM right now is that they talk about how great their new products are. Well, how are they going to be after 5-8 years of driving? They are pushing design and interiors. How about reliability and repair costs? Yeah, I think some of the new products are compelling. Historically, though, GM hasn’t made products that last without issues with quality becoming evident. Show me a 2010 LaCrosse with 105,000 miles and the repair receipts. Show me the new Equinox after 8 years of driving and hauling stuff around. They want everyone to buy their product and they push how great the new products are. But these new products have NO history. GM’s history has been terrible. I drive a Toyota. Not the most compelling in design and the interior is functional yet a bit boring. But historically, Toyota’s have shown to be terribly reliable. I’m sure that the GM products within the first 60 days aren’t going to be returned. But why would someone switch to GM if they know that historically, GM has an awful track record? If they want people to buy, they need to give them confidence. Introduce a 100,000 mile bumper-to-bumper full $0 deductible warranty. Cover everything. Including fading/warping plastic.

    How is GM making these new cars with great interiors and still making money? They couldn’t make anything when they made cheap crap. What’s changed? Is the bankruptcy debt shed allowing this?

    GM also needs to address resale value. Somehow.

  • avatar
    wsn

    bunkie :
    September 11th, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    Regarding “Government Motors”, it must be said that the US is late to the game. Every other nation uses a variety of tax, tariff and regulatory barriers to protect its domestic automakers. The sole execption has been the US. We did less than nothing until it was too late to do anything except to choose between public ownership or liquidation.

    ———————————————
    Well, the US government may not have “protected” GM as much as some other nations protected theirs. But the US government didn’t favor imports or transplants either. Toyota beats GM on a leveled (actually slightly GM-favored) ground.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    So, I went to that “Best Car Wins” site and took the poll. Curiously enough, when I clicked on “Volvo”, the symbol that was returned was for “Saab.” And when I clicked on “Lexus,” the symbol returned was for “BMW.”

    Maybe I’ve just forgotten how to click?

    The questions, though, were amusingly vague. Almost any automaker could qualify in some way as an answer to each of those questions.

  • avatar
    celebrity208

    RF, is a future (2020) with GM impossible or improbable. What I mean is: if in some freak accident Fritz, Lutz, and the rest of the GM royal court died and were replaced with managers and execs or YOUR choice or The Divine’s could the company gain market share and be profitable based on the plant, employee, history, model, brand, technology, product, etc. equity that exists today? Products in pipeline seem promising but am I just blinded by my desire to not lose my tax-based investment?

  • avatar
    RetardedSparks

    GM can obviously make decent vehicles. Their pickups are good, the Corvette is good, and many agree that the Malibu is good. It’s not like they don’t know which end of a wrench to hold.
    The problem is, to be the company they want to be they need 30 good vehicles, not 3. And “good” has to mean some are better then everything else, and the rest are competitive.
    They don’t have an organization or culture that can do that, consistently, year after year. They also have a dealer network who have been trained to move product by deals and gimmicks, not on the merits of the vehicles.
    As other have said, just to claw their reputation back they will have to beat all comers in every category, for years. Long, steep road.

  • avatar
    Monty

    But it’s not just the products that have to be better. GM could make cars much, much better than competitors, but if it’s customers still have to suffer through the dealer “experience”, GM will not earn conquest sales.

    Frankly, GM could get away with building “just as good as” cars, if the dealer experience were to be vastly improved. Every car manufacturer has to repair cars under warranty, it’s just that some do a much better job of satisfying their customers. The warranty and maintenance experience at GM dealers falls far short of the industry standard IMO. Anytime I have interacted with a GM dealership, whether it be sales, service or maintenance I always leave feeling soiled and dirty. It’s never once been a pleasant experience, ever. Compared to my experiences with two local Toyota dealers and the local Ford dealer it’s like night and day.

    The dealer experience was one of the major reasons that Toyota made me a conquest sale, and then a repeat buyer.

    To sum up, GM can make it’s cars the best in class, give a clear brand mission to every division, market the heck out of every product, but if customers still get treated with the “four-square” treatment at GM dealers, there will never be any repeat conquest sales.

  • avatar
    coach bryant

    sinking, like a………………

  • avatar
    Monty

    Here’s a great idea, courtesy of a GM Fastlane commenter:

    On September 11, 2009 at 12:12 pm Ken Lucas said:

    Marketing campaign idea/slogan: “No more apologies. No more excuses. Simply the best cars and trucks money can buy.”

  • avatar
    coach bryant

    Marketing campaign idea/slogan: “No more apologies. No more excuses. Simply the best cars and trucks money can buy.”

    one problem: it’s a lie.

    ask any reputable mechanic about a jaguar.

    that’s the future of gm and chrysler.

    it’s doom and gloom, i know.

    government management plus union labor equals another failed taxpayer bailout.

    period.

  • avatar
    folkdancer

    Even if GM had something to compare with the car I like, the Prius, and the truck I like, the Ford Transit Connect, I have little desire to ever go back into a GM dealership.

  • avatar
    lw

    I seem to remember Fritz saying that they had to launch all the vehicles flawlessly for this turnaround to work…

    That Buick fixed yet?

    I just want this nightmare to end…

  • avatar
    texmln

    GM’s always had great engineers. The fall from grace started as the ratio of engineers to flab (accountants/MBAs/etc) got lower and lower.

    Methinks it’ll not recover.

    I don’t disagree about the flab, just who you think the flab is… Anyone in Corporate America can tell you that MARKETING and HUMAN RESOURCES are the zero-value added departments in any organization… that being said, I do agree that there is a certain critical mass of finance types that leads directly to over-analysis and gridlock… But for sheer stupidity and incompetence you need only implement an affirmative action plan and/or unionize a major chunk of your workforce.

  • avatar
    HEATHROI

    Lest we forget, Mr Lutz was charged with designing and making cars which would save GM. Needless to say, they didn’t, therefore, he failed at his job, Q.E.D. So why was he allowed to come back?

    Is it because nobody else wanted the job?

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    “is a future (2020) with GM impossible or improbable”

    I think the latter. It is theoretically possible to have a respectable GM in a decade. Hyundai rose from worse-than-GM schlock to Shazam! in a decade or so, by having people at all levels honestly invested in building good vehicles. GM’s poisonous corporate culture would be tougher to deal with, though.

  • avatar
    bubbagump

    Well, lemmesee now…GM products that I have driven or owned…

    ’73 Vega ‘woody’ wagon, 4 speed at my high school driver’s ed. (I was the only one willing to do a manual…) and a ’73ish Camaro, meh…

    ’72 Malibu wagon, now that was a dream car for an 18yo with enlistment bonus money from unca sammy, specially with a 454 and a hurst 4 speed shoehorned into it…scared the crap outta me at 80+(the front end would get real light, and I was still in 3rd…)

    ’85 Berlinetta V6 with the starship interior option. If I hadn’t been a dumbass financially I’d still be driving that…

    ’99 Bonneville served me well for 9 yrs and 300k highway miles, recently superseded for an ’07 Accord…

  • avatar
    Durask

    Has Bob Lutz ever gone down to the local Chevy dealer and had some buck-toothed loser with bad breath try the shuck and jive sales pitch on him? Has his Lutz-ness ever gone through the nails-on-the-chalkboard price-negotiating process, replete with “I’ll have to check that with my sales manager?” Has Mr. Maximum ever had to deal with a dealership repair department that attempts to pile on hundreds of dollars of unnecessary repairs every time the vehicle comes in?

    To be fair, how is this different from a Honda or a Toyota dealer? Or, for that matter, a Mercedes dealer. OK, Mercedes dealer will have shiny teeth and minty breath, that’s about the only difference.

  • avatar
    asdfghjkl

    GM has many cars that are not only as good, but are better than the competition.

  • avatar
    Happy_Endings

    is a future (2020) with GM impossible or improbable.

    If they can’t figure how to sell their cars for more than it costs to build them, it’s impossible. They can’t survive selling the cars at a loss.

  • avatar
    cpmanx

    A couple years back I had the slightly unfortunate experience of visiting Chevy and Toyota dealerships back to back. The Chevy employees were a bit clueless but they were earnest and eager to help out. When it was clear that they didn’t have the model I wanted to look at they checked other nearby dealerships, with no weirdness or pressure.

    The Toyota dealership experience, in contrast, was excruciating. First I was ignored, then treated with disdain bordering on hostility. This was before the sales meltdown–perhaps some of that arrogance has evaporated. But I’ve heard similar stories from several friends. I can’t help thinking that part of Toyota’s current weakness is a reflection of their deteriorating dealer network.

    Back to GM–I think their best hope is releasing a few breakthrough products that have a halo effect over the rest of the brand. Heck, the 300 managed to bring a lot of good PR to Chrysler (squandered on the Sebring, alas). The here-and-now problem is that GM’s new products are good efforts, not standouts. The new Equinox, SRX, and Lacrosse should help stabilize those 3 brands but none of them look like breakouts. Without that, the basic brand problems that RF describes here will continue to be a serious drag.

    Obviously this is why GM is betting so heavily on the Volt. Unfortunately, every other company is looking to steal that thunder (Leaf EV, Focus EV, plug-in Prius, etc).

  • avatar
    Canucknucklehead

    Let’s have a look at who Lutz is. He is a 70+ year old white guy. He bailed on the Old GM (TM) and took a big, fat golden parachute. He told us that cars were never the problem, it was that all us dumb consumers were, well, just dumb consumers and that we were all just sheep for buying Hondas and Toyotas. It had nothing to do with product or service. Then the company went bust and stiffed all it’s creditors and shareholders for billions.

    Any what now? Well, more of the same. The reason is simple. No matter how the GM Faithful Autobots want to spin it, GM makes crappy cars and Lutz is yesterday’s man. He is a product of the 1960′s when GM could flog any POS it wanted to on the public with a slick advertising campaign. The whole “perception gap” swindle is just that because the empirical data from practically every rating organisation puts GM in the dumpster in regards to quality and reliability. I seriously doubt Lutz has even driven a Honda or actually paid to repair anything out of his own pocket in the last forty years.

    GM, even the New GM (TM) is so hopelessly moribund it decries description. It is like a bad movie that keeps being played. The New GM (TM) is the came company run by the same people for the same reason, namely generating fat bonus cheques for Lutz and his cohorts.

    I worked for GM and the problem we always had was a lack of a product that could compete head to head with the low end stuff Honda and Toyota had. This continues to be the basic problem and nothing is being done to address it. The Faithful might jump in and tell me the Daewoo Cruz is the new Import Fighter of Salvation but can I go to the Chevy store and buy one? Besides, can a Deawoo compete with a Civic? Even more importantly, can it compete with a next generation Civic? I highly doubt that I and also doubt that anyone at GM has even asked such a fundamental question.

    GM will, in my estimation, be dead in 2012, after billions of taxpayer dollars have been thrown at it, much of which will end up in nice golden parachutes for Lutz and his gang.

  • avatar
    DeadEd

    This comparison campaign strikes me as GM’s latest check-the-boxes advertizing. You know, the one’s that show that the Chevy Bloat-box has every standard (or optional) feature as the Toyota Bland, but gives you one extra mile per gallon. Great. The problem is the execution. I remember back about a decade, when they did one of these with the then new Chevy Malibu. My rental had every feature that the Camry did. But the switchgear in the Malibu looked like it was mold-waste from a plastic model. The engine made more noise than power, and the transmission hunted for gears constantly. Don’t get me started on the ride and handling. In short, the boxes were checked, but the execution didn’t live up to the competition.

    If GM wants me to comparison shop their product, they’re going to have to present a product that will withstand a showroom and test-drive comparison. A check-the-boxes on a sheet of paper comparison isn’t going to cut it. Even then, they’re going to have to undercut the competition significantly on price until their product has earned a reputation for reliability and resale value.

  • avatar
    jmatt

    “May the Best Car Win”.

    NOW they want to start this head to head competition? After screwing their bondholders, destroying their equity, declaring bankruptcy and being handed a $50 billion dollar snack courtesy of the taxpayers?

    This competition was over the day GM went belly-up and applied for welfare.

    GM lost. The UAW lost. The market has spoken and it doesn’t want you.

    And the fact that despite the second chance at life you have been given, that you STILL do not realize that your *reputation* is the thing that is killing you will only make your final bankruptcy even more hilarious.

    The New GM should have run as far away as possible from the old GM. And I mean dumping your logo and all of your brands and car names.

    I mean, seriously, Buick? Is it still 1963? I don’t know a single person that would even consider purchasing a Buick. That the spokesman for the new ad campaign is a white-haired, doddering old man is perfectly apropos. They just don’t get it.

    Nobody realizes it yet, but this auto bailout will be Obama’s VietNam. After the screwing they gave the last set of owners, no investor in his right mind would consider purchasing GM equity or debt. It won’t be sold by 2010 (just 14 short months) and it will be bankrupt again just in time for 2012 the elections.


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