In TTAC’s early years, we spilled much digital ink over GM’s bloated brand portfolio, wondering again and again what brands should be cut, which should move upmarket and which should move downmarket. It’s a fun exercise, but one that history has largely passed by. Not only did GM cut Saab, Hummer and Pontiac in its bankruptcy, but Chrysler has more than doubled the potential number of brands to be sold through its distribution channels, shifting the brand-clutter center of gravity towards Auburn Hills. But GM isn’t done struggling with the legacy of the Sloan system, as GM North America boss Mark Reuss tells Automotive News [sub] that GM still has at least one major branding battle on its hands: Chevy versus GMC.
We need to make sure that we drive the differentiation in the product and the price to create that separation that we know we can on GMC and Chevrolet. I don’t think we have the margin opportunity set up quite right with GMC.
Reuss goes on to explain that GM’s two-brand truck strategy is sound, but that if “you don’t do it right, and you’ve got price overlap and identical incentives and go-to-market strategies then you’re going to get dilution.” So, if cutting GMC isn’t on the table, what does Reuss suggest as a way to stop Chevy and GMC trucks from cannibalizing each other?
I think we can do premium Chevrolets, and take GMC and move it even further up
Can they? If so, how? More importantly, with the pickup market at a 30-year-low and likely to decline further even before truck-unfriendly new CAFE laws hit, is it even worth keeping two truck brands? The problem is likely that GM can’t kill GMC without killing Buick as well (as the two brands share a dealer network) or at least radically reshuffling its retail strategy. So GMC will push on upmarket, even as GM eyes short-term production cutbacks and long-term existential threats to its truck business as it knows it. Given that Ford is charging a premium for its (relatievly) economical Ecoboost V6-powered F-150, might GMC’s new ever-more-upmarket mission include fuel economy upgrades over comparable Chevy models? Or is this strictly a more-leather, more electronic gadgets-type move upmarket?