I’ve always had a soft spot for Volvo, that’s probably why I’ve owned two and chose European Delivery on one of them. But Volvo has a problem. It’s not the product. It’s not even the brand positioning. It’s a lack of advertising and visibility. Let’s dive deep into my mind as I pontificate about Volvo’s destiny.
Tag: Death Watch
Gamblers, speculators, automotive industry sadists, and TTAC Best and Brightest™: welcome to the selection of the next candidates for Death Watch, where you get to have a say on which brand we should promote to the Throne of Irrelevancy.
The grim reaper may not be at American Suzuki’s door step after all. We’ve learned ASMC is healthier, at least financially, than we thought. But, in order to be profitable last year, ASMC had to completely cut almost every non-essential (and some essential) function of their business.
While a number of automakers have been complicit (and still are) when it comes to badge engineering, Suzuki in North America has been on the forefront of whoring out or johning platforms since its introduction in the 80s. The ‘Japanese brand that could’ has either slapped the stylized S on Daewoos and Nissans or let GM have their dirty ways with the grilles of small Suzuki cars and SUVs.
Yesterday, a whirlwind of spy shots uncovered what looks to be the SX4 replacement Suzuki will start shipping to lots later this year. So far, observations of the new pint-sized every man rally car look promising, including possible turbo power and a handsome, if unremarkable, interior. But, will it be enough to satiate the appetite of Anglo American tastes? Or does American Suzuki need to focus more on the brand image train?
The General’s downward spiral from its zenith as one of the most powerful and respected companies in America into Chapter 11 was an agonizingly slow affair, requiring decades and a fair number of billion-dollar miscalculations. Today’s question offers many choices: which GM vehicle caused the most damage to the company’s bottom line and/or image? I’m going to present a few examples from my own list, not necessarily in order of severity. (Read More…)
It’s T minus 11 days before Congress does the thumbs-up thumbs-down thing on the artist formerly known as the world’s largest automaker. GM is up shit creek without a paddle. The United Auto Workers aren’t going to agree to parity with the transplant assembly workers, as required. The bondholders aren’t going to exchange debt for equity, as required. The company doesn’t have a clue what to do about its brands or products, as required. There is no way whatsoever for GM to prove to your elected officials that it has a hope in hell of repaying the $13.4b loans already made—never mind the $100b or so needed to keep the ailing American automaker in business for another year. So GM CEO Rick Wagoner is doing the only thing he knows how to do, that he can do: cutting expenses. This time, it’s white collar workers for one simple reason: that’s all that’s left. Bloomberg tells of the $14m per year CEO’s decision to throw his remaining management to the wolves . . .
Post Titanic Tuesday, GM is desperate to do something, anything to move its moribund metal. I speak here not of the pricing blowouts, finance deals and BOGO offers at the sharp end. I refer to the manipulation of dealer relations. Forcing dealers to stock vehicles that no one wants to buy. Back in the day, they used to call this practice “channel stuffing.” These days, they call it “pretending we’re a viable business to our Congressional overlords.” Automotive News [sub] reveals GM’s latest contribution to the genre: the more-than-slightly-ironically named “consensus program.”
The program has two parts. First, GM assigns dealers a sales objective through March 2. Second, GM “recommends” a “consensus number” to dealers—the number of vehicles for the dealer to order. Sweet, eh?
The bonus cash payout ranges up to $1,250 per vehicle depending on the percentage of consensus that the dealer orders and the percentage of the sales objective the dealer sells, dealers familiar with the program say.
At the high end, if a dealer takes 100 percent of the consensus and sells 100 percent of the sales objective, the dealer gets $1,250 per vehicle. At the low end, if a dealer takes less than 75 percent of the consensus and sells 60 percent to 99.9 percent, the bonus is $250 per vehicle.
So, if one dealer declines The General’s “request” to show the automaker’s inventory love during the time of war, that dealer suffers. A nearby competitor (i.e., a nearby GM dealer) who takes additional inventory earns more GM bonus cash. They can charge a lower price for the vehicles he or she doesn’t sell.
The trade calls this manufacturer-sponsored internecine conflict “two tier” pricing, or, to use a more technical term, “the same old shit.”
GM justifies their most recent dealer abuse as an effort to keep their inventory under control.
At the end of January, GM had 801,000 vehicles in inventory, down 103,000 units from January 2008. Cars make up 64 percent of current inventory and trucks the rest. . .
During a sales call today, GM sales chief Mark LaNeve said supply is about 105 days and GM would like to have “a little less inventory.”
“We’d like to run more at a 75- to 90-day rate,” said LaNeve. “We keep trying to get there. We are planning production schedules to get to the 75- to 90-day supply. It’s God’s work. We have to keep after it.”
As far as I know, GM marketing maven Mark LaNeve is not a Jesus freak. I’ve never heard him inject God or, God forbid, morality into a discussion of his work. However, if this is a true come to Jesus moment, rather than simple blasphemy, one wonders why God’s son would instruct the head of GM sales and marketing to bother himself with GM’s inventory levels. As Ken Elias has pointed out, LaNeve would be far better off seeking truth and reconciliation than filling GM dealer lots with unwanted product.
Yes, sixty days’ supply is the generally accepted industry ideal. But this is pre-meltdown math. New vehicle sales sank 37 percent across the board in January. They’re heading south from there. Bottom line: Chrysler and GM aren’t building much of anything—they’re just trying to clear out their existing inventories. The “days supply rate” for today’s car market is about as useful a metric as “rolls of toilet paper” at Graceland during Elvis’ terminal constipation days.
As one of the Apostles would have said (if he’d been Welsh), get your own house in order, boyo. If LaNeve still has a purpose in life, or at least within GM, sorting out the mess that is GM’s branding is it.
Obviously, LaNeve’s not calling the shots in terms of product (who needs product?) or brand culling (who needs eight brands?). Product is Car Czar Bob Lutz’ baliwick. Brand-i-cide is CEO Rick Wagoner’s responsibility. Good luck with that. Even so, LaNeve could, even with the current lineup, help GM at least start to find its way through the wilderness.
He could define GM’s brands.
GM’s marketing maven could/should make the case for whatever brands GM decides to keep. How about a series of ads: “This is what a BLANK is” (one USP per brand, please)? The current models don’t have to actually meet the criteria. Again, nobody’s buying cars. But a tightly-focused coherent example or eight of “the vision thing” would give Americans a reason to support GM. For Joe the Taxpayer, $40b+ of long-term debt is a meaningless abstraction. Cars they understand.
These are the times that try men’s souls. By thy deeds thy shall be known. The times are making it increasingly, inescapably clear that GM is a shell of a company led by lost souls. It’s a perfect time for someone with guts, character, passion and humility to step up and show what they’re made of. Unfortunately, men without these traits continue to pilot GM to its death.