By on November 8, 2010

Born in 1977, Mr Goodwrench was a marketing brand used to sell GM parts and service at franchised dealers. Now, after 33 years in service to The General, Mr Goodwrench is passing on to join Pontiac, Oldsmobile and HUMMER in GM’s crowded brand graveyard. Automotive News [sub] reports that

GM marketing chief Joel Ewanick wants the vehicle brands, not corporate, to be the stars of GM, and that includes service and repairs
Ewanick has made it clear that he intends to continue the post-bankruptcy trend of shifting emphasis away from GM as a corporate brand and towards GM’s four vehicle brands. As an umbrella brand for service and parts for all of GM’s brands, Mr Goodwrench can be considered the latest victim of GM’s corporate restructuring. But Goodwrench was in failing health before Ewanick’s brandicide spree, and even embodying the brand as the satirist Steven Colbert didn’t convince GM’s US dealers to emphasize the Goodwrench service brand. GM won’t officially comment on Mr Goodwrench’s condition, but the brand is expected to survive in the Canadian market, where it allegedly continues to enjoy consumer cachet.

In order to honor the passing of this past-its-prime symbol of GM’s decidedly mediocre service reputation, we’ve assembled a few Mr Goodwrench ads below the fold.

Once upon a time Mr Goodwrench knew that “it’s not your car, it’s your freedom.” More recently, the reality has become something more along the lines of “it’s not your car, it’s a way to inflate dealership profits.”

In the late 80s, Mr Goodwrench delivered some of its most inspirational (or vomit-inducing, depending on your perspective) advertising based on the very same message. But Reagan-campaign-ad-style shots and a strong tagline wasn’t enough to prevent the hollowing out of Mr Goodwrench’s raison d’brand. After all, by ’89, GM was having its lunch eaten on the issue of reliability, and talking about service merely served to remind consumers of GM’s deficits in this regard.

Which helps explain why “Keep That Great GM Feeling” was never going to last as Mr Goodwrench’s slogan…

This ad had it all… the myth of Mr Goodwrench’s omnipresence, his knowledge of GM cars, and his grimy-handed, blue-collar charm (and anonymity). On the other hand, if your 1986 Chevette ever actually had its engine fully stripped by Goodwrench’s “hands that care,” chances are you’d be lining up for a Toyota or Honda the next time round.

This very decent Canadian ad proves why Goodwrench will probably survive in the great white North. Everyone’s scared of independent service shops, and Mr Goodwrench plays on those fears with “hands of skill.” Meanwhile, back in the US of A…

Er… yeah. Rest in peace, brand buddy.

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13 Comments on “Mr Goodwrench, RIP...”


  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    OK.  So I order an engine from GM Performance, what is it going to say on it?  (Commonly on the valve covers it would say “GM Performance” or “Genuine GM.”)  Are they actually going to start slapping brand labels on them depending on what you’re ordering it for?  Even though it’s a SBC no matter what car its installed in?  Are they going to put Chevy Bowties on it even though I’m dropping it in my B-body Oldsmobile?  I’d rather have it just say “GM Performance” on it.

    • 0 avatar
      PickupMan

      +1 Dan.
      I can imagine the hassle of a different SKU for parts/boxes with the appropriate logo to match the car (Chevrolet, Buick, GMC etc). A logistical waste of money.
      Maybe they’ll steal another 70s idea and go full generic. White box, black block type “Alternator”. That would inspire confidence.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      How bout “Alternator _____________________” and then let the technician fill in the “brand” name when I show up with my 3800 V6 under the hood of my Oldsmobuick.
       
      (BTW guys I know were just talking about “Goodwrench Service” but given that its always been “Genuine GM Goodwrench Service” how far behind can the parts be in dropping the GM moniker?)

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      So are they still genuine GM parts if they are made in China by some third party company? Seriously that’s the direction we’re going here. It’ll be just like buying parts from a FLAPS (friendly local auto parts store) that come in a white box and the difference between the economy and the deluxe replacement alternator is the extra warranty (see how batteries are sold now at the same FLAPS). The retailer simply puts their sticker on the box.
      The problem is that I’ll buy the better part so I don’t have to repeatedly go through inconvenience of replacing the part. If I buy a genuine part or the better NAPA part it is because I don’t want to have to touch it any more often than say every 175K miles. And that either means I touch it once during my ownership or if I really keep the vehicle a long time, maybe twice. I don’t want to do “annual alternator replacement” which is what cheap replacement parts amount to in some cases. And I know this for a fact because I used to work for one of those cheap auto parts retailers.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    I never liked the term “Mr. Goodwrench”, which always had a very schticky feeling to me.
     
    Mr. Goodwrench won’t be missed by me, nor the millions of former-and-never-to-return GM owners, who really thought he – or some guy at the factory – was “Mr. Badwrench”.
     
    It should be good riddance rather than RIP.

    • 0 avatar
      daga

      Agreed.  Also begs the question, why didn’t they go whole hog and kill the fifth brand (not OnStar, but GM) and rename it Chevrolet Motor Company? (Or Chevrolet Holdings, Even Very Yellow)

  • avatar
    supremebrougham

    I’m pretty sure that the Goodwrench campaign is a bit older than that. I’d have to dig around in my closet a bit, but I have some old Motor Magazines that my grandfather gave me years ago, and I remember rather well reading a big writeup in one from either 1975 or 1976 and it was talking about GM’s then-new Mr. Goodwrench program.
     
    Still, it seems that the GM we all knew, the good, the bad and the ugly, is slowly fading away into a distant memory…

  • avatar
    also Tom

    Mr. Deadwrench?

  • avatar
    FleetofWheel

    The Stephen Colbert ads were the worst. At the time, I was not familiar with his other work. In the Good Wrench spots he came off as a spastic, effeminate short man ignorant about cars.
    Quite the opposite of the usual rugged salt-of-the-earth GM/Chevy character.
     
    Perhaps GM was hoping that clueless, blue staters with anxiety about car repairs would identify with the puckish Colbert character.
     

  • avatar
    Vetteman

    I am pretty sure he came out at the end of 1974 or early 1975 as I started work at a Chevrolet dealership in August 1974  and remember it came out soon after I was hired . I remember at the time the Techs at the store did not like the program as people refered to them as a Mr Goodwrench and when we got our full size cardboard  stand up lifesize picture of a dorky looking school teacher like fellow with glasses that bore a strong resemblence to Mr Potato Head  they were not happy at all.   Another example of GM alienating the troops. I agree with the thought that the idea of GM as a brand and an entity should die and  thus Chevrolet could live.   The brands are what customers still have the most affection for not  General Motors.   Most folks hate what General Motors did to the car divisions.  This company desperately needs to be cleansed of its former sins.  Untill then I just don’t know.  There are way too many people who hate this company.

  • avatar
    fiestajunky

    Oh hell ,who cares ? This company is doomed anyway.
    GM is done.They are just as tone deaf to customers as they were before they began all of this shuck and jive brand killing/repositioning/refocusing or whatever they call it this week. The fact is,there is just enough meat left on the carcass of this company to interest Wall Street for as long as it takes to unload on gullible investors. GM still has crushing overhead and debt and a cranky,unionized workforce that trusts management about as much as…Those former Chevette owners up there.This company didn’t die,it was killed by dumb greedy managers and dumb,greedy workers many years ago and its a wonder that they have managed to hang on this long.
    Who cares what happens to the Goodwrench brand ?

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    If they’d killed the Mr. Goodwrench brand sooner, he could have at least a better choice of hearses, including Pontiac, Hummer and Saturn.


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